It Didn’t Just Happen

Sexual harassment, sexual assaults, inappropriate touching and much more of that type of behavior is dominating the news.  You can’t look at a newspaper or turn on a news cast without another woman coming out to point a finger at an accuser.


These women are called courageous for bringing to light these wrongs. Sometimes they are called liars, but almost always, where there was smoke, there’s fire.  I have worked with college women my entire career.  College women have many experiences before they even leave the college campus.


I was just a couple of years into my career coaching women’s basketball when I overheard a couple of my players talking.  In the late 1980’s, the term date-rape was fairly new.  


One of my freshmen was talking to a couple of upperclassmen.  She told how she had been date-raped earlier in the school year.  She was very naïve about sexual assaults.  I could tell she assumed that date-rape happened to every woman in college.


The upperclassmen did a great job of educating the freshmen that she didn’t have to put up with men that demanded sex.  I felt pretty helpless on how I could help this young player.  Last year, her daughter started college.  I would love to see how she educated her daughter about date-rapes.


I have coached some great athletes.  I have been very lucky to have women of great character.  My former players are award winning teachers and coaches.  I have one that has an office overlooking San Francisco Bay.  


One is teaching on a Navajo Reservation. Another had a chance to become the first woman firefighter in a large city.  There are lawyers, doctors and physical therapists.  That’s just scratching the surface.  I have been very lucky.


However, one thing that makes me the proudest is a couple of my players that were sexually harassed and had the courage to put a stop to it.  They didn’t wait to report it.  These women tried to prevent harassment happening to other college women.


Both these players were harassed by the same predator.  I’m not going to use names, but I will mention that the man has passed away.  He was a counselor at an elementary school.  He set up what looked like a great program that mirrored the Big Brothers-Big  Sisters programs of today.


He would take girls from the elementary school and pair them with college women.  One of my players volunteered to be part of the program.  From the outside, it looked like he was making a great effort to help young girls find good role models.


My player found the counselor taking great interest in her and her Little Sister. He would invite them to his house for dinner.  Instead of a meal a kid might enjoy, he would set it up like a romantic dinner.


Sometimes he would show up at the player’s resident hall.  He would bring her presents of liquor.  He would try to invite himself into the room, but my player was strong and never let the counselor get close.


Finally, the player brought the problem to me.  I really was shocked that the counselor was trying to seduce my player.  He was much older.   While my player was in great condition, the counselor was anything but in shape.


I took the problem to his principal.  I knew the principal and he took what I was saying seriously.  I’m not sure what action he took.  I do know I never had that player in the program again.


The second player had a much more serious encounter with the same counselor.  This was several years later. The counselor was now a professor at the college’s Education Department.


This time, the second player was in one of his classes.  The professor had already began a series of harassments.  I found out by accident.  The team was playing at Chadron State College, an eight-hour drive from campus.


We were eating pre-game meal in a Pizza Hut.  An older couple walked in and saw the college logos.  They announced their son was an education professor at the college.  The second player was sitting at my table.  I could feel her tense up.


It took a while, but she finally told me the story.  It had started with a classroom stunt when he made my player stand up to model her jeans.  She stood up and he mentioned to the class how certain body parts looked in the jeans.


She told me at the end of the semester, the students had to come to his office for a one on one evaluation.  Her evaluation was after 5 pm when no one else was in the building.  The player was almost in tears when she told me how he tried to kiss her, but she fought her way out.


The player didn’t just ignore it.  She had filed a report with the president of the college.  Now I’m going to mention a name.  The president was Dr. Fred Brown.   He respected women and loved women’s basketball.


I was told by the Director of Admissions that Dr. Brown expected me to stop by his office once a week to talk basketball. He would invite me into his office, shut the door and never took a call when we talked.


When the team got back to campus, I went to see Dr. Brown.  I told him I knew about the report my player had filed.  I thought it was important he know about the incidences with my first player.


Dr. Brown never once questioned the player’s version of events.  He took it very serious.  The professor was pulled out of the classroom.  At the end of the term, he was terminated by Dr. Brown.


There are three courageous people in this story; my players who spoke up and Dr. Fred Brown.  College presidents are often the scapegoat of what goes wrong on a campus, especially when it comes to sexual harassment.  Dr. Brown took decisive action.  He was a man ahead of his time.

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