Old Main

Old Main on the University of Arizona campus.

The prevalence of sexual misconduct and domestic violence in the UA’s athletic department is more clear now following the release of public records by the university and statements made in court by one of its attorneys.

Athletes make up just 1.1 percent of the student population at the UA, but occupy a much larger share of Title IX complaints. However, the limited amount of information available makes it difficult to fully grasp the severity of sexual misconduct problems in the UA athletic department.

Eighty UA students were investigated for code of conduct violations involving sexual misconduct in a five-year span, between the 2012-13 school year and the 2016-17 school year, according to information released by the university through a public records request.

Of those 80 students, 39 were found “responsible” and sanctioned. The office that oversees such complaints says “responsible” parties are “more likely than not” to have committed the alleged violations.

The UA would not say how many of the students were athletes, nor how many total complaints were filed on campus during that span.

However, an attorney for the university said in court last month that there were 13 allegations of sexual misconduct and three allegations of domestic violence made against people involved in the UA athletic department during a six-year span that began on Jan. 1, 2012. Of those 16 allegations, 15 were made against athletes. One was made against a department employee. The attorney did not say how many were judged “responsible.”

Title IX is a federal law ensuring gender equity on campus by protecting students from sexual assault, harassment and domestic and dating violence. The UA’s Title IX policies and procedures have come under fire in the wake of two high-profile cases — one involving a Wildcats football player, and the other involving a longtime assistant track and field coach. Both are currently serving prison sentences for domestic violence.

UA president Robert C. Robbins hired a prominent California attorney to review and modify the university’s policies on gender equity last spring. Earlier this month, the university named a former South Tucson judge as its full-time Title IX director.

Arizona numbers are indicative of a national trend, according to ESPN. Athletes in Power 5 conferences are nearly three times more likely to be implicated in sexual misconduct violations than nonathletes, according to ESPN; 6.3 percent of all complaints made on Power 5 conference campuses included an athlete as the person accused of wrongdoing.

The UA declined to comment on the courtroom revelation. The UA hasn’t released any details on specific cases, and said the information shared by the attorneys stems from a “legal dispute about information provided in response to a judicial order,” university spokesman Chris Sigurdson wrote in an email.

“(The information) should not be relied on as a public disclosure,” Sigurdson said. “In any case, we are still prohibited from discussing individual student conduct cases because of the federal requirements for student confidentiality.”

Statistics, interpretations vary

ESPN’s lengthy investigation into sexual misconduct in college athletics, released last week, came with multiple charts and even more footnotes. Finding an apples-to-apples comparison across campuses — or even conferences — was nearly impossible.

ESPN requested Title IX reports from all Power 5 conference schools covering a six-year span starting in 2012. It asked for allegations of sexual assault, domestic violence, sexual exploitation, sexual coercion, stalking or retaliation.

Many of the schools declined to provide the information, and others — like the UA — provided limited or different information.

Michigan self-reported 1,039 complaints campuswide during the six-year span. Washington State reported 417, and Arizona State listed 297. The UA responded with a chart showing 87 students campuswide had been implicated in code of conduct violations involving sexual misconduct, and that 46 were found “responsible.”

It did not provide the number of students implicated in domestic and dating violence reports. The UA declined requests from both the Star and ESPN for that information.

There’s another reason why the UA’s self-reported numbers appear low, according to an expert: Not all complaints lead to code of conduct violations. Some complaints simply don’t rise to the level of a conduct violation, even if the information provided is true. Some complaining students are also discouraged from moving forward with the reporting process, said Alexandra Tracy-Ramirez, an attorney who used to work as a Title IX investigator at the UA.

Complainants “may feel intimidated or for whatever other reason don’t want to continue to provide more information,” Tracy-Ramirez said. “From that point on, maybe there isn’t a conduct charge — but that doesn’t mean that there wasn’t a legitimate basis for the complaint to be brought in the first place. It just means it doesn’t result in a conduct charge.”

The UA offers an alternative dispute resolution process in which students can seek mediation rather than face charges, Tracy-Ramirez said. Those complaints would also not be included in the data the UA provided to the Star and ESPN .

“None of this is to say that they’re hiding things,” Tracy-Ramirez said. “That number may be accurate, given the very limited piece of information they’ve provided, but there’s a whole lot more information they could have provided and for whatever reason chose not to.”

Tracy-Ramirez said she believes UA officials when they say they don’t know how many athletes are the subject of Title IX complaints. But there’s no reason the school can’t track student demographics, Tracy-Ramirez said, noting that more data could lead to better outcomes.

“I’m hopeful that things are changing and I hate to say this, but if people don’t want to do the right thing for the right reason, then we have to give them other reasons to do the right thing,” Tracy-Ramirez said.

“If that is a fear of bad publicity, if that’s a fear of lawsuits or federal oversight — whatever it is, if we can appeal to that, then there’s a better chance that we’ll see some better outcomes for people.”

Legal issues abound

The UA is embroiled in three separate lawsuits that allege violence by athletes or athletic department employees and a lack of response by UA officials.

Last year, former Wildcats football player Orlando Bradford was sentenced to five years in prison after he admitted to choking two ex-girlfriends. The UA fired football coach Rich Rodriguez in January after his assistant filed a claim with the school alleging years of sexual harassment. And in March, former UA assistant track coach Craig Carter was convicted of aggravated assault in connection with a 2015 attack on a student-athlete with whom Carter was involved in a sexual relationship. Carter, like Bradford, is in prison.

A UA attorney revealed the number of Wildcat athletes accused of Title IX violations involving sexual harassment, sexual assault and domestic violence during a hearing for one of two federal lawsuits the university is facing. The suit was filed by Bradford’s ex-girlfriend, who says the UA knew about his violent past and did little to protect her. Athletic department officials received notice months before Bradford’s September 2016 arrest that he was a danger to women, according to campus police reports, but failed to take steps to prevent him from hurting anyone else.

During an Oct. 15 hearing, attorneys for one of Bradford’s victims broke down those Title IX numbers by complaint type. UA attorneys said at the hearing that eight members of the football program — not including Bradford — were named in Title IX complaints during a six-year span starting Jan. 1, 2012. One was accused of domestic violence, four were accused of sexual assault and three were accused of sexual harassment in the Title IX complaints, the attorney said in court.

Additionally, the UA’s attorneys acknowledged for the first time that two football players were expelled from school and a third was suspended following an allegation of gang rape.

At the end of the hearing, the judge ordered that the UA produce all police reports connected with the 16 investigations along with any documents not in the investigative files that “address the issues of what, if any, broader response there might be by the football program, the athletic department and the university to these types of complaints.”

Sigurdson, the UA spokesman, declined to comment on the university lawyers’ comments in court.

— Caitlin Schmidt

Contact reporter Caitlin Schmidt at cschmidt@tucson.com or 573-4191. Twitter: @caitlincschmidt.

I'm a watchdog reporter covering local government, the University of Arizona and sports investigations.