Ron Wyden, Jeff Merkley co-sign letter to NCAA urging uniform sexual assault policy

The two United States Senators from Oregon and six colleagues on Tuesday sent a letter to an NCAA commission that recommended “a strong, uniform policy” for prospective student-athletes who have “serious misconduct violations” in their past.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., co-signed the letter to the NCAA Commission to Combat Sexual Violence, along with Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Sen. Bob Casey, D-Penn., Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., Sen. Kristen Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.

“As many of the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA’s) member colleges and conferences continue to change their policies to address prospective student-athletes with serious misconduct violations, we urge the commission to make recommendations that enable the NCAA to create a strong, uniform policy that addresses all prospective student-athletes,” the senators wrote.

While Indiana University adopted a policy in April banning student-athletes convicted of a felony involving “sexual violence” and requiring mandatory criminal background reviews for every prospective student-athlete, the NCAA does not have a uniform policy on the issue.

The letter specifically cited the Indiana policy as an example for the NCAA.

In June, The Seattle Times reported that the leaders of three student groups at Washington State University sent a letter to school president Kirk Schulz and athletic director Bill Moos asking the school to implement a policy similar to Indiana.

Recently, multiple cases involving student-athletes who had been convicted of sexual crimes as minors garnered national attention.

Last week, Youngstown State bowed to public pressure and said Ma’lik Richmond would not play with the team in 2017. As a high school student in Ohio, Richmond was one of two teens convicted of sexually assaulting a minor in the Steubenville High School rape case. He transferred to the university last year and walked onto the football team with the blessing of coach Bo Pelini.

In a statement, the university said school rules do not restrict students from participating in extracurricular activities if they are in good academic standing. Richmond will lose a year of athletic eligibility

In June, Oregon State pitcher Luke Heimlich removed himself from competition in the College World Series after a report by The Oregonian/OregonLive detailed his felony child molestation conviction from 2012.

Although the Pac-12 has banned the transfer of student-athletes who are not allowed back to their previous institution because of past misconduct, the conference defers to its member schools for bringing in student-athletes from high school with past misconduct.

Oregon State does not currently restrict participation by student-athletes who have prior felony convictions. OSU President Ed Ray said the school would review its policies in the wake of the Heimlich situation. 

Heimlich plans to return to the Oregon State baseball team in 2018.