A proposed class action lawsuit has been filed in California against the NCAA and its board of directors over what three plaintiffs, including a former Olympian, allege is the parties’ categorical failure to prevent sexual relationships and abuse between coaches and student-athletes.
According to the sprawling 106-page suit, although the NCAA acknowledges that sexual relationships between coaches and student-athletes have become a real problem—and that such constitute sexual abuse—the governing body has fallen short in its duty to implement and enforce rules that outright prohibit sexual relations between athletic department personnel and student-athletes. The NCAA’s failures in this regard, the plaintiffs say, has created a “national epidemic” that perpetuates what the lawsuit calls “a cycle of sexual abuse similar to that seen in the Catholic Church.”
The complaint alleges that rather than create a system that requires member schools to report coaches who have engaged in inappropriate relationships with student-athletes to the NCAA, the defendants have instead installed a system that “permits the perpetrators to move unchecked among schools.” The lawsuit describes the NCAA’s apparent inaction toward addressing improper relations between athletic department personnel and student-athletes as a prioritization of revenue, alumni donations and tuition over the protection of student-athletes.
The plaintiffs, who each claim there were sexually abused by defendant John Rembao while he was the track and field coach at the University of Texas, aim for their lawsuit to shield future generations of student-athletes from being taken advantage of by athletic department personnel they’ve been led to believe are acting in their best interest.
“By this lawsuit, Plaintiffs come forward and seek to hold the NCAA accountable in two ways: changes to its policies and practices to ensure that it fulfills its obligation to protect student-athletes from sexual abuse by athletic department personnel now and in the future, and compensation for those who have already been subjected to sexual abuse as a result of the NCAA’s failure to do so previously,” the complaint states.
While the NCAA regulates the conduct of coaches in a number of ways, the organization, the lawsuit claims, fails to do so when it comes to the sexual abuse of student-athletes. In fact, the lawsuit, detailing a laundry list of incidents between athletic department personnel and student-athletes dating back to 1993, says the NCAA and its more than 1,000 member colleges and universities took no action on improper relations between coaches and student-athletes for more than 20 years, even after the U.S. Olympic Committee banned coach-athlete sexual relationships. This institutional failure, the plaintiffs say, allowed defendant Rembao to move among schools despite their knowledge that he had engaged in improper relationships with athletes. From the lawsuit:
“John Rembao is just the latest predator in the NCAA who has been publicly outed by several of his victims. Without NCAA rules requiring member institutions to report predators like Rembao to the NCAA, Rembao moved among NCAA schools, preying on female track and field student-athletes. Rembao’s unfettered sexual and emotional abuse physically and emotionally damaged multiple student-athletes, including Plaintiffs.”
The lawsuit seeks to cover a class of student-athletes who participated in NCAA sports at NCAA member institutions from 1992 to the present. Additionally, the case looks to certify a class of student-athletes at NCAA member institutions who were coached by defendant John Rembao.