ESPN News Services
NCAA president Mark Emmert says 37 reported sexual assault cases involving Michigan State athletes referenced in a letter sent by an advocacy group in 2010 were “widely reported” and already being investigated by law enforcement and the school.
Emmert made the comments in an email sent Saturday to the NCAA board of governors and other university presidents. Spokeswoman Stacey Osborn provided Emmert’s email to The Associated Press in response to a request for comment about a report by The Athletic, citing a letter sent by the National Coalition Against Violent Athletes to NCAA leaders in 2010.
ESPN’s Outside the Lines published a report Friday that outlined a history of mishandled sexual assault allegations within Michigan State’s athletic department, including abuse committed by former university sports doctor Larry Nassar. The report discovered a “pattern of widespread denial, inaction and information suppression” of sexual assault allegations.
Both MSU president Lou Anna Simon and athletic director Mark Hollis have stepped down in the past week.
The coalition letter, also provided to ESPN and the Associated Press, detailed what the group described as a “growing epidemic” of sexual assaults by male athletes against women and used “recent reports” of sexual violence involving two Michigan State basketball players as an example.
The letter also referenced an “earlier report of similar violence” involving Michigan State basketball players and “37 reports of sexual assault by MSU athletes” that had been reported in the past two years. It did not say where that figure came from.
According to The Athletic, Emmert met with Kathy Redmond, the founder of the National Coalition Against Violent Athletes, and received a letter from her dated Nov. 17, 2010, that detailed the allegations about MSU athletes sexually assaulting women. Also in attendance alongside Emmert and Redmond was legal expert Wendy Murphy, according to the website.
In a follow-up letter to Redmond and Murphy after the November 2010 meeting, Emmert said he was sincere in making “proper NCAA student-athlete conduct a priority” and detailed several examples of NCAA efforts to address sexual assaults on campuses.
“The MSU cases were widely reported in the press and already being investigated by law enforcement and university officials,” Emmert said in the email to the NCAA board on Saturday. “Kathy did not imply that these were unreported cases or that she was acting as a whistleblower to report unknown information to the letter’s recipients.”
Emmert’s email to the board also laid out numerous steps the NCAA has taken to address sexual violence in recent years, including the 2014 publication of the Handbook on Addressing Sexual Assault and Interpersonal Violence.
“Our work to prevent sexual assault on campuses has much further to go,” Emmert wrote to the board. “There can be no room for this scourge anywhere in higher education. The assertion that I and the NCAA are not reporting crimes, however, is blatantly false. We cannot let stories of this kind deter us from our important work.”
The NCAA said on Tuesday that it would be opening an investigation of MSU’s handling of the Nassar case. Nassar, the former Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics doctor, received a 40- to 175-year sentence in state prison for sexually assaulting female athletes.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.