A new statute in the NCAA Southeastern Conference (SEC) seems to mimic a concern voiced earlier this year by the NFL draft: violent crimes amongst athletes are overwhelmingly prevelent, and they should not be tolerated. The SEC has declared that any student from any institution found linked to serious criminal behavior involving sexual assault, domestic violence, or sexual violence will not be allowed to transfer to an SEC school in order to play for one of their teams. In the past, several athletes facing violent crimes charges have been allowed to transfer to schools within the SEC.
The last decade has seen a significant climb in criminal activity amongst college athletes. Though male athletes constitute a very small percentage of the overall student body of the nation’s top universities, in 2010 they accounted for 1/3 of documented college sexual abuse cases. Furthermore, 1/4 of the athletes from the top 25 NCAA institutions have been connected to known criminal behavior, even though only two of these universities require their athetes to undergo a criminal background check.
The NCAA does not have any requirements for screening the backgrounds of college athletes, and many would prefer to see that decision left to the individual schools themselves. However, the SEC uniting its universities against violent sex crimes does make the code of conduct for athletes across the region more uniform. Any athlete wishing to transfer to one of these schools knows he or she cannot have a violent criminal past related to domestic and sex crimes, and that knowledge will hopefully decrease criminal action.
One might wonder why universities that gain so much attention wouldn’t disallow all criminal behavior from entering their ranks. The answer could have something to do with how many college athletes have criminal records. Banning them from play would limit the amount of talent on the field. Additionally, many college athletes have overcome their pasts and some argue that a criminal record should not define an individual’s promise on a college level. The most serious crimes, and often the most frequently committed against college athletes, are finally being taken seriously, and the SEC’s ruling is a reflection of intolerance for some of the ugliest behaviors.