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Tuesday, April 23, 2024
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DOJ Finds UMBC Failed to Protect Athletes From Sexual Assault for Years

  • UMBC violated Title IX, ignoring sexual assault allegations against its swimming and diving coach, per the DOJ.
  • The university knew about the allegations for about five years.
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

On Monday, the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice released a damning letter to the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, finding the school violated Title IX from 2015 to ’20. Following an investigation that involved interviews with 70 people and the review of roughly 200,000 pages of documents, the DOJ found that former men’s and women’s swimming and diving coach Chad Cradock committed sexual assault and discrimination against his athletes, and that the university knew about the allegations for years but did not act to protect its students.

“UMBC takes full responsibility for the breakdown in Title IX enforcement,” says Kacey Hammel, the chief of staff to the UMBC president, in a statement to Front Office Sports. “We deeply regret the pain this caused for students who were directly impacted by the misconduct. The university is working to strengthen our Title IX policies and processes, and we are committed to doing all we can to ensure the safety and well-being of all students.”

Allegations of misconduct and the university’s inadequate response have been public for years, but the DOJ’s affirmations that both happened, and insistence that the university commit to reforms, are new.

Per the DOJ, Cradock, who stopped coaching at UMBC in 2020 and died by suicide in ’21, committed “unwanted sexual touching” of male athletes and “sex discrimination” against female athletes, which included “degrading” comments about their bodies. He created a “hostile environment based on sex” that included “invasive questions” about athletes’ sexual relationships, the DOJ said. Cradock made “significant efforts” to secure mental-health services for male athletes, according to documentation uncovered by the DOJ investigation, but did “little, if anything” when made aware of multiple female athletes’ disordered eating and mental health needs.

“Going there felt like prison,” said one female athlete. 

The university’s failure to respond for the roughly five years it knew about the allegations “enabled” his behavior to continue, the DOJ said.

School president Valerie Sheares Ashby, who was not at UMBC when the sexual assaults and misconduct took place, said in a letter to the community that an agreement with the DOJ is forthcoming that will outline changes for how the university responds to reports of wrongdoing. Sheares Ashby also detailed ways the university has already acted to amend its processes. She cited a new role she created in 2022 around equity and diversity as well as the Title IX work that person has done, including providing trainings to students, faculty, and staff; updating policies; and building a team to further improve the school’s ability to respond to complaints. 

The DOJ outlined in its letter that it acknowledges the school’s “commitment to provide financial relief to certain student-athletes, subject to its state-mandated approval process.” Neither the DOJ nor UMBC addressed FOS questions about what those payments might look like.

“As UMBC has acknowledged, the University is working cooperatively with the Department toward a resolution. Details of that resolution will be announced when it is final,” read a DOJ statement to FOS.

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