Mark Emmert defends NCAA in email to colleagues after Michigan State report

NCAA President Mark Emmert wrote an email to the NCAA Board of Governors and other university presidents in response to a report published Friday. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

NCAA president Mark Emmert says a report from The Athletic mischaracterized his knowledge of sexual assault accusations against Michigan State athletes.

The report said in 2010 leadership of the National Coalition Against Violent Athletes sent Emmert information about 37 alleged instances of sexual assault by MSU athletes. Emmert, in an email Saturday to the NCAA Board of Governors that was provided to the Associated Press, acknowledged receiving the letter — which he says “was not addressed to (him) or any individual” — but noted the MSU cases “were widely reported in the press and already being investigated by law enforcement and university officials.”

Emmert said it was not implied that the MSU cases “were unreported” or that the woman who sent the letter, Kathy Redmond, “was acting as a whistleblower to report unknown information to the letter’s recipients.”

The letter Emmert and other NCAA leadership received from the National Coalition Against Violent Athletes was also provided to the AP.

The coalition letter, dated Nov. 17, 2010, and also provided to the AP, 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 previous two years.

The NCAA opened an investigation into Michigan State on Tuesday that stems from the Larry Nassar sexual assault scandal. Nassar, the former MSU and USA Gymnastics physician, was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison for serially molesting young girls and women.

MSU president Lou Anna K. Simon and athletic director Mark Hollis both resigned this week. Hollis’ resignation — framed as a retirement — was announced hours before an ESPN report emerged detailing widespread sexual assaults among MSU athletes, including football and men’s basketball. It also focused on the school’s apparent practice of dealing with accusations within the athletic department.

Emmert said within a month of hearing from Redmond, the founder of the National Coalition Against Violent Athletes, he arranged a meeting with her for a “constructive conversation for an hour and a half.”

From Emmert’s email:

I took her concerns very seriously, found her thoughts and advice constructive, and subsequently asked her to join an upcoming event we were planning, the NCAA’s first Violence Prevention Summit in April 2011.

Following the Violence Prevention Summit, I encouraged and financially supported the research and development of best practices that the Summit called for. This work led to our first Think Tank in 2012 and the 2014 publication of the Handbook on Addressing Sexual Assault and Interpersonal Violence. Additionally, with my encouragement, in 2014 the Board of Governors issued a Statement on Sexual Violence Prevention and Complaint Resolution based on a unanimous vote. This is the first time the NCAA member schools have stated unambiguously their expectations around the handling of sexual violence on campuses. In 2016, we released the Sexual Violence Prevention Tool Kit which has now been widely praised in the higher education and assault prevention community.

Emmert also noted that Redmond never mentioned Nassar in their communications.

“Never in writing or in discussions did she or anyone else mention the heinous actions of Larry Nassar,” Emmert wrote. “As I often have said, even one act of sexual violence is too many. Yet, it is extremely important to know that in no way was I ever notified of Larry Nassar’s abhorrent acts. I only learned of his crimes when they were reported by the media in August 2016.”

You can read Emmert’s full email to colleagues here.