Ex-Ravens RB Ray Rice part of Big 12 forum on campus violence

DALLAS -- Former NFL running back Ray Rice, whose playing career was derailed when a video surfaced of him punching his then-fiancée in an Atlantic City elevator, spoke out about sexual assault while on a Big 12 panel about campus violence Wednesday.

Rice called the problem affecting universities throughout the country an "epidemic."

"It has to start at the high school level," he said as part of a "Campus Violence -- Finding Solutions" forum. "It's happening on college campuses, but it's happening in these high schools at the high school parties. And it's not being talked about because these are kids in high school. So when he gets to these big-time universities it becomes an epidemic."

Rice said teams as a whole must be responsible.

"If someone witnessed a rape, that team has to be unified not just in the locker room," he said. "It's society, too. You can't just say, 'That's my teammate having a good time.' Because a lot of guys forget who they are once they're out of the locker room.

"If you take that locker room mentality and stick it together, then I think you'll have a lot more positive outcomes. If you see someone else doing something wrong you can police it and stop it. That goes a long way."

In his own case, which happened in 2014 and led to his eventual suspension by the NFL and release by the Baltimore Ravens, Rice said Wednesday he "failed miserably" and was "so concerned with being the man rather than being a man."

"It doesn't make you less of a man to ask for help," he said.

"It sounds simple, but there are so many athletes out there that feel that because they're big and strong and in the prime of their lives, that they have all the answers, and they're too afraid to ask for help. That's where I was in life."

Rice said the elevator incident with his now-wife was a "self-check," and that he regrets the way he treated her while in the NFL, confessing he "wasn't reciprocating" the sacrifices she made.

"There are rules for life as a man, and the No. 1 rule is never put your hands on a woman," said the former Ravens All-Pro, who still is hoping for another chance in the NFL. "I'm not here to make any excuses. But I did a total reflection and got the help I needed to get. I definitely feel like a better individual today for having gone through everything I went through."

Rice, who recently has been counseling high school football players, was joined on stage Wednesday by Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, Iowa State president Steven Leath and sexual assault survivor Brenda Tracy, who has become a vocal activist against sexual assault. This year, Tracy has spoken to several college football teams, including Nebraska and Oklahoma.

"We have to get straight on this idea that somehow alcohol causes someone to commit rape. That is not true," Tracy said. "The only thing that causes rape is a rapist."