UM 'should be on watch' after Penn State penalties, experts say

2012-07-24T13:15:00Z 2014-10-03T14:28:29Z UM 'should be on watch' after Penn State penalties, experts sayBy GWEN FLORIO of the Missoulian
July 24, 2012 1:15 pm  • 

With crushing NCAA penalties imposed Monday upon Penn State football, attention now turns to the University of Montana, struggling with a sexual assault crisis of its own and under NCAA scrutiny for the past six months.

“The school should be on the watch,” Michael McCann, director of the Sports Law Institute at Vermont Law School, said Monday. “The Penn State sanction is a warning to the school.”

Likewise David Ridpath, an assistant professor of sports management at Ohio University, said sanctions against Penn State portend some action against Montana.

“The NCAA just can’t look only at Penn State if they take this leap,” said Ridpath, author of “Tainted Glory: Marshall University, the NCAA, and One Man’s Fight for Justice.”

The NCAA has not said what brought its investigators to UM. But the school also is under investigation by the U.S. Justice Department for how it handles reports of rape and sexual assault, and the U.S. Department of Education has its own investigation into allegations of harassment by members of the football team.

UM President Royce Engstrom said Monday he hasn’t heard from the NCAA since the organization notified him Jan. 30 of its investigation into unspecified allegations. At that point, the NCAA said such investigations usually take about six months.

“I don’t know how strictly they adhere to those timelines they set for themselves,” Engstrom said. “I think until we hear from the NCAA we are just going to go about improving things the way that I’ve discussed throughout this.”

“This” is a situation revealed in December at UM, with allegations that two female students, possibly drugged, were raped by several male students. UM commissioned an independent review that turned up several other allegations of rape and sexual assault involving students, some of them football players.

At Penn State, an investigation released this month found that famed football coach Joe Paterno, who died in January, concealed allegations about Jerry Sandusky, a former coaching staff member found guilty of sexually abusing 10 boys over 15 years.

While the NCAA stopped short of imposing the “death penalty” that would have shut down Penn State’s football program, the steps it took Monday were devastating.

It fined the university $60 million, imposed a four-year ban on postseason games, cut the number of football scholarships, and vacated all football victories since 1998.

“The situations (at Penn State and UM) are so totally different that it just doesn’t make any sense to compare them,” Engstrom said.


But Katherine Redmond, founder of the National Coalition Against Violent Athletes, called them “very similar cases – just with different victims.”

“They’ve allowed this culture” that elevated football over the concerns of victims, she said of both UM and Penn State. At Penn State, that attitude was concentrated in Paterno, she said, but at Montana, “this was all of the administration and everybody falling into line … wanting to do what was ‘best’ for the team and the athletic department.”

The investigation into Penn State by former FBI director Louis Freeh found that Paterno tried to protect the school’s reputation.

When the alleged gang rapes at UM originally came to light in December, then-Vice President Jim Foley described them as “date rapes” and later, in an email obtained in a joint FOIA request by the Missoulian and the Wall Street Journal, complained about media accounts that didn’t use his preferred term. In another email, he questioned whether a victim who had spoken publicly about her ordeal had violated the Student Code of Conduct.

Engstrom announced last month that Foley had resigned as vice president, although he will retain his university job and nearly $126,000 salary through the end of his contract in June 2013.

And in March, Engstrom fired UM football coach Robin Pflugrad and athletic director Jim O’Day without explanation.

Engstrom pointed out Monday that even before the NCAA and two federal agencies began their investigations at UM, the school revamped its Student Athlete Code of Conduct and mandated sexual assault education for all students.

“All we can do is march forward with what we know are the right things to do,” he said.

Only one UM student faces a criminal charge in connection with the alleged sexual assaults involving students.

Beau Donaldson, a UM Grizzlies running back, awaits trial on a single count of sexual intercourse without consent. In March, a Missoula woman accused Grizzlies quarterback Jordan Johnson of rape, but the Missoula County Attorney’s Office has not decided whether he’ll be charged.

(The County Attorney’s Office, along with the UM Public Safety Office, also are being investigated by the Justice Department for how they handle sexual assault reports.)

A case involving the expulsion of an unnamed student accused of rape is on appeal to the university court.

Meanwhile, interim football coach Mick Delaney dismissed quarterback Gerald Kemp from the team earlier this month for unspecified violations of team rules.

Delaney has said Kemp could be reinstated. Both Kemp’s and Johnson’s names remain on the team roster.

Reporter Gwen Florio can be reached at 523-5268, or @CopsAndCourts on Twitter.

Copyright 2015 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(32) Comments

  1. linuxdood
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    linuxdood - August 02, 2012 6:16 pm
    I fully expect this institution to commission a report that implicates them in this scandal. I also expect the NCAA will use this report to levy an inordinate amount of sanctions against their football program.
  2. Vegasfan
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    Vegasfan - July 30, 2012 12:30 pm
    Must've been a slow news day in Missoula to print a sensationalistic hate piece. By all the accounts I've read, the university has been more than diligent in their responsibility to the students, alumni, and the community. To infer they are covering up more incidents of impropriety, is not only slanderous, but irresponsible. The facts will come out in a court of law, and if the individuals who committed the alleged crimes are found guilty, the appropriate punishment will be meted out. Is this a black eye for the University of Montana? Absolutely. But, at least we can all be assured that those who run the show have left no stone unturned, in dealing with the incidents. BTW, are there actual guidelines either in the NCAA handbook, or at the Department of Education, that spell out how an educational institution is supposed to handle sexual assaults, other than it tarnishes their reputations in a world that has gone PC mad? As for Ms. Redmond's assertion that the Penn State and U of M cases are similar, this is just someone who is trying to keep her money-depleted organization afloat, by throwing blood in shark-infested waters.
  3. INOSH_2
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    INOSH_2 - July 27, 2012 12:53 pm
  4. INOSH_2
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    INOSH_2 - July 27, 2012 12:52 pm
    That's the point and the problem. Police can't charge people with a crime, if they're refusing to investigate whether the crime even happened.
  5. mtmike
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    mtmike - July 26, 2012 12:31 am
    Not really, skippy, please link some actual evidence of confirmed wrong doing save the Donaldson situation and that is not yet settled.

    I applaud Fred for caliing bs on a Fed overreach that was on a fishing expidition to support a "War on Women" campaign tactic by Holder. I'd call bs if it was an R AG because I have no doubt that tribe would do the same if it would be to their advantage.
  6. MontanaNative1ed7
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    MontanaNative1ed7 - July 25, 2012 10:16 pm
    Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg pledged Wednesday to continue refusing all requests for information from the U.S. Department of Justice as it investigates how his office prosecutes reports of sexual assault.

    June 28, 2012
  7. eswain
    Report Abuse
    eswain - July 25, 2012 4:29 pm
    your r so misinformed! you need to find some facts not hear say from he=women men haters which is driving this with NOTHING (facts)to back them up like i said only one FORMER PLAYER is charged with anything
  8. Lew
    Report Abuse
    Lew - July 25, 2012 11:17 am
    Why don't you supply us with what Van is withholding. Enlighten us.
  9. detonate
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    detonate - July 25, 2012 6:42 am
    The U.M. has certainly had some sexual conduct that will certainly meet the law. Penn State was enabling boys to be raped for decades'. Just not seeing this the same as Gwen "the Missoulian Enquirer" rag reporter. The city of Missoula has a much larger problem in general with sexual and attempted attacks....even this week. This will all play out eventually.
  10. MontanaNative1ed7
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    MontanaNative1ed7 - July 25, 2012 6:03 am
    Football teams are not held by different standards of justice. Might is not right. Just because a football player is still playing football does not prove innocence. How many victim's can still keep focusing on there studies? Chances are the victims are too freaked out to keep studying. A University is supposed to protect a students sense of wellbeing so that a student might study. It is required by law. We do have laws in this country. That is what the Penn State example shows us. There is law and justice even for football teams.

    All is not well in the town of Missoula. Our local king Van V is obstructing democracy by hiding information that should be released. A system of checks and balances is a good thing in a democracy. That is unless you are a village king who wants to isolate himself from the rest of the country. Van V is wasting my tax dollars by not doing his job.

  11. Pistol
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    Pistol - July 24, 2012 7:23 pm
    Kemp's issue is about NCAA possible violation, not a legal issue. Anytime an organization like NCAA investigates alleged violations you can be certain they will find something to validate there jobs.
  12. mtmike
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    mtmike - July 24, 2012 6:12 pm
    The bulk of this story is an editorial masquerading as a "news story". Don't you know the difference?
  13. pf1979
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    pf1979 - July 24, 2012 6:09 pm
    Finding people to say what you want...FACTS.
  14. pf1979
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    pf1979 - July 24, 2012 2:02 pm
    -> Hey let's figure out some way to say something about the Griz given the current NCAA sanctions on Penn state.

    -> Good idea, but, there's nothing really there.

    -> I know, let's go find some people with a motive to say there is.

    -> GREAT IDEA!

    -> PRINT IT!

  15. MT_Mama
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    MT_Mama - July 24, 2012 1:58 pm
    There's no reason to slam the paper or any reporter for repeating facts. Remember, every single day someone is picking up the Missoulian for the first time -- visitors, tourists, new residents of the area -- and they don't have all you naysayers' VAST knowledge.
  16. montanamuralist
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    montanamuralist - July 24, 2012 12:53 pm
    Still all is speculation. No one has the real facts and you can not accuse ( and I am not standing up for football players) students of crimes and misdeeds without evidence. I noticed the University council did find Johnson guilty of whatever....That is not the same as a court of law. He should be booted from the team if he did rape someone and be prosecuted of course. However the County Attorney seems to be still sitting on that case and I suspect it is for a lack of evidence. Which does not speak highly for the council at the University. Can they convict someone of heresay?? Good plan for a civil suit. I think alot of this is members of my own political persuasion on the left over reacting and wanting to "get" football and facts??? Well don't worry about facts. That is what the righties do and it is disgusting no matter who is doing it...lets see what the facts are ......something no one seems to have as yet!!
  17. animalfries
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    animalfries - July 24, 2012 11:10 am
    Gwen, What's with the last few sentences? Is Gerald Kemp now accused of sexual assault?

    Kind of like saying the wilma burned down this morning...MEANWHILE, Gwen Florio was seen walking around with a lighter.
    Report Abuse
    MTHOCKEYNUT - July 24, 2012 10:52 am
    There go the statues.
  19. Mazola
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    Mazola - July 24, 2012 10:25 am
    cut and paste....cut and paste....Gwen's back from vacay cuttin' and pastin' apples and oranges Gwen...Why is this called a story?
  20. walter12
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    walter12 - July 24, 2012 8:33 am
    It appears that there are some hard core leftists in this town that are heck bent on destroying UM and its football program. There is alot of money that is going to be lost for this town when and they have accomplished their mission in the destruction of the UM football. And by God, this creature Holder and his leftist thugs will be gone after November's election.
  21. Lyle
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    Lyle - July 24, 2012 8:02 am
    Both Penn State and U of M put athletics above the law!
  22. Pistol
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    Pistol - July 24, 2012 7:55 am
    What a stretch to compare the two. Two people far out on the fringe have opinions, wow. Most obvious is that Pflugrad was fired for contacting civil authorities with out approval of upper administration. At Penn State the coach was/is alleged to cover up information he had received. Another similarity is the fact in both cases the schools hired investigators to look into allegations, and because of these investigations it allowed others to knee jerk react.
  23. ynot
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    ynot - July 24, 2012 7:22 am
    Innuendo, speculation, blah blah blah. What information do you all have to add to this? Don't you think they're reporting everything they can? Or how about, do you think there's more devastating information that they're withholding? Who do you people think you are, the Queens of Sheeba? It's the media's job to report, and FYI this is important stuff. I'm sure you'd rather bury your heads in the sand until the NCAA hands down sweeping fines and penalties that TRULY cripples our football team, but I for one am paying attention and hoping we can change for the better. But this town seems to be full of idiots. Boycott your own bulls*it.
  24. idiot state
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    idiot state - July 24, 2012 7:20 am
    NOT JUST THE UM that needs investigating-that whole drug infested gang banging crime ridden town could use a thorough investigation. That feel-good left leaning filthy little town that covers up its crimes and presents a false facade to the world. MISSOULA
  25. Roger
    Report Abuse
    Roger - July 24, 2012 7:04 am
    Or NBC or CBS - NBC's coverage of the Trayvon Martin self-defense shooting case was a travesty. But you're right about Missoulian employees not understanding correlation and causation.
  26. Not4Nothin
    Report Abuse
    Not4Nothin - July 24, 2012 7:02 am
    All the sport-doods who comment about the level of journalism displayed by several of the reporters at the Missoulian better have a good appetite. The time to eat crow is approaching.
    The DOJ and the NCAA are gonna get 'cha!
  27. wowwowwubzzy
    Report Abuse
    wowwowwubzzy - July 24, 2012 6:37 am
    Wait a minute! I think what the author is saying is "coverup is coverup", putting athletics before individuals. Absolutely Penn State is to the extreme but if it were your daughter, sister, or girlfriend who was assaulted in the MT situations, perhaps you would change your attitude. This is not about Florio or Devlin; it is about athletes who think they are Walking Gods. I believe Engstrom has already come to that conclusion when he said "you're fired". Good for him; and I wish the program continued success after it gets back under control.
  28. montanamuralist
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    montanamuralist - July 24, 2012 6:04 am
    The comparison of Penn State and UM's situation and actions are ridiculous. There was no cover up here. If there was UM was quick to expose it. All the allegations ( from my understanding of the timeline) occurred less than a year ago. The reason there is only one charge and another is languishing in the County Attorney's office is that you have to have clear evidence beyond a reasonable doubt to prosecute any criminal case and personal feelings can not enter into the equation. We do not have the facts in the Johnson case and that is winding its way through the legal system. I do feel confident it will be a stretch for the NCAA to say we were in a cover up here. Anyone at UM who appeared to try to minimize the situation has been removed. The Missoulian would be well served to focus on both sides of the issues here rather than just sensation and sales. The jury is still out and I would appreciate you not being in Nancy Grace mode.
  29. mtmike
    Report Abuse
    mtmike - July 23, 2012 11:01 pm
    What a piece of hysterical trash. If Gwen's tiny brain can't see the difference between the two situations, then their no hope for her...oh wait.
  30. What the
    Report Abuse
    What the - July 23, 2012 10:43 pm
    Not quite sure how the connection is made with NCAA and UM since it doesn't appear it has said what it is investigating. Correlation versus causation used to be something students learned in high school. Apparently that doesn't matter when you're writing a story for the newspaper. If I missed the factual article about what the NCAA is investigating then I apologize. But if I didn't then apparently there is no quality control at the Missoulian, and it wants to be the Montana version of Fox News.
  31. Banner Thomas
    Report Abuse
    Banner Thomas - July 23, 2012 9:54 pm
    I do enjoy how Gwen Florio and Sherry Devlin have been able to spin this "scandal" which consists of 1 arrest and 1 pending accusation. There were dozens of innocent children raped at Penn State and it was covered up and kept quiet for over a decade. At the UM there are a few rumors, 1 arrest, 1 accusation - a fast response and vast media and public disclosure.

    Where are the similarities? Oh yeah... in the paper sales. Keep it up.
  32. sportscaster
    Report Abuse
    sportscaster - July 23, 2012 9:08 pm
    Gwen Florio couldn't wait to get back in action, could she? More innuendo, more speculation, and still with only one charge pending in court and a whole pile of unverified allegations. Readers should be sick of this garbage. Anyone who compared Penn State to the University of Montana or any other school with sexual assault allegations in guilty of making a mountain out of a mole hill. Patently ridiculous, Missoulian, but at least you're consistent.
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