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At least three University of Montana football players allegedly were involved in a sexual assault, reportedly aided by a date-rape drug, of two women on campus last weekend, a source with direct knowledge of the case told the Missoulian.

The Grizzlies flew to Huntsville, Texas, on Thursday for the Football Championship Subdivision semifinal game with Sam Houston State University.

As of late Thursday afternoon, no police report had been filed in the case; however, one woman spoke with Missoula Police Department detectives during the day, the source said. The Missoulian agreed to keep that source's identity private.

Neither UM Vice President Jim Foley nor athletic director Jim O'Day, who are in Huntsville, responded to telephone and text messages or emails seeking comment Thursday evening.

On Wednesday, Foley refused comment on whether student athletes were involved, or whether all of the Grizzlies would suit up for Friday night's football game. He also declined to say whether the alleged assailants were still on campus.

He did, however, announce that UM has hired an independent investigator, retired state Supreme Court Justice Diane Barz, to look into the allegations. Under Montana law, attorneys are qualified as investigators, said Ray Murray of Missoula, a member of the Montana Board of Private Security Officers and Investigators.

"If they've interviewed both sides, they don't need a private investigator," Katherine Redmond, founder of the Colorado-based National Coalition Against Violent Athletes said Thursday.

Independent investigators, she said, can be a double-edged sword. "It could be something that tries to drag up dirt on the victim in the guise of it looking like they're trying to get to the bottom of things," said Redmond. "Really, what they're trying to do is stall a little and do a nice public relations move so it seems like they did due diligence."

Foley said that Barz's probe would follow regulations in UM's student code of conduct and from the federal Office of Civil Rights, with its Title IX provisions.

Redmond said that "if you have guys who have used date-rape drugs on campus, they're now a threat to the female population. That's a violation of Title IX, pure and simple."

Title IX bans gender-based discrimination in educational programs and institutions receiving federal money.

Specific provisions of Title IX state that schools should not wait for a criminal investigation to conclude before beginning their own review in such cases.

Schools also must tell alleged victims that they have the right to file a criminal complaint, and "if a complainant wants to file a police report, the school should not tell the complainant that it is working toward a solution and instruct, or ask, the complainant to wait to file a report."

It stresses that "a school should not delay conducting its own investigation or taking steps to protect the complainant because it wants to see whether the alleged perpetrator will be found guilty of a crime."

Foley said Barz has until year's end to complete her report. Friday is the last day of fall semester classes.

Reporter Gwen Florio can be reached at 523-5268, gwen.florio@missoulian.com.

 

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