By the time that the nation became aware of the forcible rape allegation levied by a female student against three Oregon basketball players, the outcome had all-but been decided.
The players — sophomores Dominic Artis, Damyean Dotson and Brandon Austin — had been suspended from team activities, and most believe that a dismissal from the program is inevitable. The District Attorney, barring new evidence coming to light, will not be charging any of the three players, meaning that the punishment the players face is getting the boot from school without having to deal with any legal ramifications for their actions.
The only question that remained centered around when Oregon know about the allegations. The alleged crime was committed on March 8th. The police report was filed by the alleged victim on March 13th. Artis and Dotson played postseason games on the 12th, 13th, 20th and 22nd.
The university seemingly cleared that up on Tuesday night. They released a statement saying that they were made aware of the allegations when contacted by the alleged victim’s father on March 9th, but that no action was taken because the Eugene Police Department had asked them not to interfere with the investigation. The EPD confirmed as much that night, but on Wednesday, a spokesperson clarified their statement to John Canzano, a columnist with The Oregonian.
The EPD wanted Oregon to hold off on their own internal investigation.
They didn’t care if the Ducks decided to suspended Artis and Dotson. Austin was already ineligible to play as he was sitting out a transfer year.
“Police are not going to be concerned about who participates in a sporting event,” the Eugene PD’s spokesperson Melinda McLaughlin told Canzano.
As Steve Dunin of The Oregonian notes in this terrific column, the White House Task Force recently released a report on sexual assaults on campus. In that report was this sentence:
“A criminal investigation does not relieve a school of its independent obligation to conduct its own investigation — nor may a school wait for a criminal case to conclude to proceed.”
That raises a couple of new question that Oregon needs to answer:
- Who, specifically, knew about the allegations and when did they know about them? Was Dana Altman made aware on March 9th?
- What was known about the allegations? Was Oregon simply made aware that an accusation was being investigated, or were they told details about what happened?
- Who made the decision to allow Artis and Dotson to play in Oregon’s four postseason games?
- How would a suspension for an undisclosed violation of team rules — something that seemingly happens daily at the high-major level — adversely affect the EPD’s investigation?
There may be valid explanations for the way Oregon handled this situation. Maybe they took the EPD’s advice not to begin their own process of investigating to mean they shouldn’t suspended the players, either. Maybe they didn’t realize just how vicious the accusations actually were. Maybe they simply made the decision that, until charges were filed or the investigation was completed, they would assume the innocence of their athletes.
And maybe they simply cared less about the allegation than they did about winning in the postseason and the potential bonus money that came along with it.
We don’t know, because to date, Oregon has simply released a pair of statements on the matter. They haven’t opened the Athletic Director up to take questions. Altman hasn’t even spoken publicly since the police report was made public Monday night.
Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com hits the nail on the head: It’s time for Oregon to start talking and start explaining, because the longer they wait, the worse it’s going to look for them.