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Saturday, June 22, 2024

Ward to the Wise: Nassar scandal must inspire schools around country to be more proactive

With the fallout of the Larry Nassar scandal affecting Michigan State, schools in the Big Ten Conference and NCAA in general, schools all over the country are now being held under increased scrutiny in terms of how they choose to respond to misconduct scandals involving their coaches.

Nassar’s conviction resulted in MSU’s president and director of athletics both stepping down amidst pressure from the school community, mainly because they allowed Nassar’s abuse to go on for so long, allowing him to harm many more victims.

The NCAA and the U.S. Department of Education have also opened inquiries into MSU’s handling of the scandal, and these inquiries’ results will hopefully set a precedent on how schools and conferences respond to scandals surrounding abuse of athletes by people in power around their programs.

Within a week and a half of Nassar’s conviction, there has been one scandal involving head coaches of Division I programs and sexual misconduct allegations.

How this school chooses to handle allegations should be watched closely.

At the University of Montana, women’s soccer coach Mark Plakorus was fired in late January after it was discovered that he was trying to solicit prostitutes on his work phone. In addition, the Missoulian reports that the messages were discovered after some of Plakorus’ former players reported that he was texting them “excessively, and at inappropriate times.”

The Missoulian also reports that other evidence, such as Plakorus’ Tinder account — which contained evidence that he had been preying on women the same age as his players — had been reported to UM’s athletic director, although it never became an official investigation. The fact that evidence had been presented and was overlooked put Plakorus’ team and the entire University of Montana community at a higher risk for being victimized by the former coach. Montana is a member of the Big Sky Conference, and as of publication, that conference has not sanctioned the school or released any kind of statement in relation to Plakorus’ firing.

While Montana's scandal appears on the surface to be small potatoes compared to Nassar, it is still imperative that substantive action is taken in order to make athletes feel safe and comfortable in their competitive environments. Coaches like Plakorus, who prey on their athletes as well as non-athlete students in the same age bracket, should not be allowed to continue to be on the sidelines because they present a clear and present danger to the safety of their school communities.

While we wait for the results of the NCAA and DOE investigations regarding Michigan State, it is just as important to make sure that other athletics employees committing sexual misconduct around the country are investigated and held accountable — if athletic departments fail to act, they are failing their entire community.

UPDATE May 5, 2018 3:01 p.m.: This article previously included false information taken from an inaccurate source about a university swimming coach. The Daily Cardinal regrets this error.

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