Slippery Rock U to adopt ‘Tracy Rule’

Slippery Rock University is located in Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania. [Courtesy/Slippery Rock University]

Slippery Rock U to adopt ‘Tracy Rule’

The university will ban athletes found responsible for sexual assault after a USA TODAY NETWORK investigation.

A university that recruited a football player found responsible for rape by his former college vowed to ban such athletes in response to a USA TODAY Network investigation that identified the recruit among dozens of others across the country.

Slippery Rock University, an NCAA Division II public school in northwest Pennsylvania, will adopt the Tracy Rule, it said last week in a statement to the USA TODAY Network.

The Tracy Rule, named for Brenda Tracy, a survivor of rape by college athletes, outlines specific procedures for vetting prospective athletes’ backgrounds and disqualifies those administratively or criminally disciplined for sexual and violent misconduct.

“Slippery Rock University is currently reviewing its application for all transfer applicants with legal counsel to develop a question that asks about disciplinary history, including pending charges, at all former colleges,” the statement said. 

“In addition, SRU will be implementing Tracy’s Rule. We are currently reviewing the public materials available on the UTSA website for adaptation at SRU. We are planning a training for coaches early next semester.”

The announcement came less than two weeks after a USA TODAY Network investigation identified at least 33 athletes since 2014 who have transferred to NCAA schools and continued their playing careers after being found responsible for sexual offenses — including the one on Slippery Rock’s current roster. 

Eric Glover-Williams joined the Slippery Rock football team in 2018 after being suspended from Ohio State University in 2016 for “non-consensual sexual intercourse,” disciplinary records obtained by the USA TODAY Network show. The defensive back enrolled in 2017 at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College before transferring to Slippery Rock the following year and playing two seasons.

Ohio State Buckeyes cornerback Eric Glover-Williams (19) against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the 2016 Fiesta Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium. [Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports]

Glover-Williams declined to comment through a Slippery Rock spokesperson.

Slippery Rock head football coach Shawn Lutz in a previous statement issued in November blamed Ohio State coaches for failing to disclose Glover-Williams’ conduct, instead advertising him as a “positive addition to our program.”

“Our coaching staff spoke directly with members of the OSU staff,” Lutz said. “No issues of sexual misconduct or violent misconduct were disclosed.”

Glover-Williams apparently did not go into specifics with Lutz either. 
“Whatever happened at Ohio State, happened at Ohio State,” Lutz told The Canton Repository in February. “All I know is, when I get the chance to meet the young man, if he says he’s going to do right, I hold him to that.”

Legendary college football coach Urban Meyer was Glover-Williams’ coach at the time of the discipline.

Urban Meyer walks onto the stage prior to the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft in Downtown Nashville. [Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports]

Meyer abruptly retired from Ohio State a year ago amid health issues and a university investigation into his handling of another abuse claim against someone on his team — assistant coach Zach Smith, who had been accused of domestic violence. OSU ultimately fired Smith and suspended Meyer for three games.

Slippery Rock knew that Glover-Williams had been involved in a student conduct case and violated team rules but didn’t know that he’d been found responsible for rape, Lutz said. The university assumed Glover-Williams’ conduct wasn’t serious, Lutz said, because Ohio State said he “was allowed to remain a student at OSU and a member of the football team as the issue was resolved.”

“When we asked for more information, we were told the incident in question was not a legal issue and that Eric was never charged or held responsible for any wrongdoing,” Lutz said. “No additional information was provided.”

Ohio State said in a statement that it has “no record of an inquiry from Slippery Rock University regarding Eric Glover-Williams, and Slippery Rock refuses to say who in Ohio State Athletics they had ‘extensive conversations’ with.”

OSU went on to say that, “In its statement, Slippery Rock acknowledged that it was informed of a student conduct case but did not inquire further. The typical practice is to formally inquire about the student conduct case through the school’s office of student conduct.”

When contacted by recruiters from the University of Toledo about Glover-Williams, for example, the statement said OSU provided full information about the sexual misconduct. 

Ohio State also added, “We support stronger transfer mechanisms that would help institutions collect important background information without compromising the legal rights of the students involved.”

The Tracy Rule

The Tracy Rule was designed to eliminate confusion about past problematic behavior. It requires athletes to self-disclose disciplinary proceedings into their conduct. And it requires the Title IX coordinator at each prospective transfer-athlete’s previous colleges to sign a form stating if the athlete was involved in any investigations for offenses such has sexual assault and domestic violence.

Athletes who’ve been found responsible for violent offenses in the past are disqualified from playing sports at that school under the Tracy Rule. They can appeal to a university review panel, which can request an advisory opinion from a committee comprised of at least one victim’s advocate, counselor or other employee who is trauma-informed. 

“I’m happy to hear that Slippery Rock University is adopting the Tracy Rule,” said Tracy, who heads the nonprofit organization, Set The Expectation, dedicated to combating sexual and physical violence in athletic programs. “I hope other institutions and the NCAA will follow their lead.”

Tracy noted, though, that the policy is only as good as the people enforcing it. 

“We must continue to hold all institutions accountable and demand transparency,” she said. “Our campus students deserve nothing less.”

Brenda Tracy on the field as the University of Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles defeat the University of Texas at San Antonio Roadrunners in November at the Alamodome. [Courtesy/Jeff Huehn]

The NCAA imposes no penalties on athletes found to have committed sexual, violent or criminal offenses. Even when suspended or expelled from school, NCAA rules enable them to transfer schools and continue their playing careers with little or no interruption.

A handful of individual schools and conferences have adopted serious-misconduct policies barring from competition athletes convicted or found responsible by their schools for certain violent offenses. But their definitions of culpability vary, and most rely on the honor system — not actual record checks — to verify recruits. Some problematic athletes have slipped through the cracks, the USA TODAY Network investigation found.

The Tracy Rule is the only existing serious-misconduct policy that requires Title IX record checks. The University of Texas at San Antonio became the first school to adopt the Tracy Rule in September. 

“UTSA is proud to be a leader in adopting the Tracy Rule and to know our efforts have been well received by colleagues around the nation,” said athletic director Lisa Campos in a statement. “We believe the Tracy Rule should be a part of every university’s culture and it is a very positive sign that other institutions are inquiring about adopting it at their schools. UTSA welcomes the opportunity to serve as a resource to those universities.”

Glover-Williams has played both the 2018 and 2019 seasons for Slippery Rock, recording 71 tackles in 24 games. 

NCAA athletes are permitted to play four seasons of their sport. Having played 20 games at Ohio State during the 2015 and 2016 seasons, his eligibility is now expired. 

Lutz told The Canton Repository in February that he believes Glover-Williams has the potential to play professionally. 

“If you’re good enough,” Lutz said, “the NFL will find you.”