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Hit 'Em Hard, Hit 'Em Often - Good Off-Field Advice for College Athletes?

ITHACA, NY — In April, the NCAA will invite members of the higher education community to a summit in Indianapolis to develop strategies to prevent and intervene in acts of campus violence committed by college athletes.

“Some say this summit is a long time coming,” said Ellen Staurowsky, professor and graduate chair of sport management and media at Ithaca College, in her inaugural column as a commentator for “College Sports Business News.” “Since the early 1990s, researchers have been sounding alarms that the college sport community needs to work together to address a culture that privileges male athletes and tolerates a wide range of socially unacceptable and potentially criminal behavior in order to preserve eligibility to play.”

Staurowsky’s column comes on the heels of a March 8 cover story by “Sports Illustrated” revealing that criminal records have hardly deterred Division I football programs from recruiting blue chip players. After doing background checks on some 2,800 players on the 25 teams SI ranked as 2010’s preseason favorites, the reporters found 7 percent of the players had criminal records. Nearly half the arrests had been for drug and alcohol violations; 25 percent were for assault and sex crimes.

In her column, Staurowsky cited additional cases of violent athletes, including University of Florida wide receiver Chris Rainey, who was arrested and charged with aggravated stalking, and LaMichael James, the University of Oregon’s Heisman Trophy candidate who was arrested in 2010 for strangulation, assault and menacing. In both cases, James and Rainey ended up receiving short suspensions by their respective coaches.

“While convening this summit represents a moment for higher education and college sport officials to create change through the adoption of policies and educational programs, it should be noted that more than a decade has passed since similar efforts were launched with limited effect in the aftermath of the University of Colorado recruiting scandal,” said Staurowsky. “Following allegations that seven women between 1997 and 2001 reported being raped by football players and recruits, investigations of Colorado’s football program revealed that recruits were offered drugs, sex and alcohol as part of their campus visits.”

As NCAA leadership contemplates the issue of violence and college athletes, Staurowsky added, it would do well not to ignore the ways in which athletic departments sexualize women and promote messages that women can routinely be viewed as sex objects to serve the interests of heterosexual male athletes. Using co-eds as “hostesses” during campus visits by recruits, Staurowsky said, is one example of injecting sex appeal into the recruiting process.

“It is a troubling thought that the story of seven women raped at the University of Colorado a decade ago was not sufficient enough to inspire long lasting and meaningful change and serve as the necessary call to make the kind of changes that will foster an atmosphere of respect for women within the nation’s intercollegiate athletic programs,” Staurowsky said. “However, the fact that the NCAA is sponsoring a summit to address this issue may be a sign that the time has come.”

Ellen Staurowsky is internationally recognized as an expert on social justice issues in sport, which include gender equity and Title IX; pay equity and equal employment opportunity; the exploitation of athletes; the faculty role in reforming college sport; representation of women in sport media; and the misappropriation of American Indian imagery in sport. She is coauthor of the book, “College Athletes for Hire: The Evolution and Legacy of the NCAA Amateur Myth” and is currently working on her second book, “Women in Sport: From Liberation to Celebration.”

For more information, and to read Staurowsky’s column, visit:

She can be reached at (607) 274-1730 or