In the United States and across the globe, athletes are highly regarded both in collegiate sports, as well as on professional teams. However, in order for these players to perform to their best ability, they typically need the input and training of a capable coach they can also look up to. Unfortunately, those in positions of power often manipulate those in their care. Such is the case for three former college students who have recently accused the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in a federal class action lawsuit of failing to prevent sexual harassment and abuse by coaches—one of which is a former UT Austin track and field coach.
Former UT track and field coach John Rembao is listed in the lengthy 106-page lawsuit, which describes disturbing allegations of him grooming female high school students into trusting him while giving them school scholarships. Rembao would then allegedly use his power over the scholarship recipients to reprimand them verbally, undermine their self-esteem, after which, he would get them alone and sexually abuse them.
Three women recruited and coached by Rembao in the late 1990s and early 2000s who went on to compete on the U.S. Olympic track and field team filed the suit against him and the NCAA. Rembao coached track and field at the University of Arizona for several years, before moving to a position at UT Austin in 1996. The move was due to a sexual assault allegation after he was caught in the dorm room of one of his former student athletes and now accusers, Erin Aldrich. Other former student-athletes have come forward as well, including Londa Bevins and Jessica Johnson, who both allege sexual misconduct allegations against Rembao from their time at UT. After the women took action with the university and filed a formal complaint against Rembao and, despite his acknowledgment of many of the allegations, the university did not find his actions constituted sexual misconduct.
While much of the federal lawsuit focuses on the alleged trauma inflicted on the three student-athletes by Rembao, the lawsuit also blames the NCAA for refusing to put in place enforceable rules to stop coaches and other athletics employees from abusing their positions and exploiting young athletes.
NCAA, SafeSport, and Sexual Abuse
The U.S. Center for SafeSport, was created and financed along with the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC). The USOPC, which opened in March 2017, has jurisdiction over the investigative, adjudication, and appeals processes for sexual and physical abuse cases for the National Governing Bodies (NGBs) that come under the USOPC umbrella; however this jurisdiction does not extend to the NCAA. By not enforcing SafeSport and NGB sanctions for sexual abuse by coaches or athletes, the NCAA has created a safe haven for predatory abusers.
This NCAA sexual assault lawsuit comes in the wake of allegations and investigations of sexual abuse concerning patients of sports doctors at other universities, including Michigan State, Ohio State, and Minnesota. Additionally, student athlete on athlete assault has been a major issue the NCAA has come under fire for in the past. Critics charge the organization and its member institutions have failed to effectively address the sexual misconduct of both coaches and students. Following another abuse scandal involving Baylor and Oregon State athletes in 2016, the NCAA created a commission to look at campus sexual violence.
In August 2017, the NCAA board of governors approved a proposal by the NCAA Commission to Combat Campus Sexual Violence requiring the school president or chancellor, athletics director, and Title IX coordinator at NCAA schools to, “attest annually that coaches, athletics administrators and student-athletes were educated in sexual violence prevention.” However, athletes’ rights advocates believe that rather than leading, NCAA officials and leadership at member institutions have largely ducked the issue of dealing with athletes and coaches charged, convicted, or sanctioned for sexual misconduct.
Houston Institutional Sexual Abuse Attorneys
Sexual abuse by a trusted individual – such as a coach, priest, or youth leader – can take an incredibly huge toll on victims who once believed their abusers had their best interests at heart. While the aftermath of the abuse can be incredibly taxing for victims, they don’t have to go through it alone. At Raizner Slania LLP, our attorneys are dedicated to seeking the justice abuse survivors are due. If you were the victim of an institution that allowed abuse to occur, we can help. Contact Raizner Slania LLP today to discuss your legal options.