Mark Emmert hosts safety summit

INDIANAPOLIS -- NCAA president Mark Emmert wants to make America's campuses safer and believes athletes can be part of the solution.

At the NCAA's first violence prevention summit, Emmert told more than 100 people Friday that he is committed to changing the culture of violence, particularly against women.

"Some of the data suggests it is more prevalent among students than athletes and some of the data suggests it isn't, but it is a societal phenomenon," Emmert told The Associated Press. "This is a task that never ends. We have a new generation that comes to campus every year and we have new challenges every year. This is not a one-and-done problem."

Adele Rapport, an attorney with the U.S. Department of Education, said one out of five undergraduate women experience an attempted or completed sexual assault in college, compared with 1 in 16 undergrad men.

Emmert insists the NCAA understands the depths of the problem. The NCAA's executive committee discussed remedies for gender violence at its quarterly meeting in August.

Three months later, Emmert met with representatives from the National Coalition Against Violent Athletes. Kathy Redmond, president and founder of the group, offered to help Emmert build an NCAA program.

On Friday, Emmert delivered on the promise to raise awareness by hosting a seven-hour program in Indianapolis that included speakers ranging from former Syracuse quarterback Don McPherson to Chris Kilmartin, a psychology professor at the University of Mary Washington.

Redmond, who attended Friday's forum, called it a move in the right direction and McPherson didn't mince words.

"The role of men is not just to prevent the violence that happens today, but to raise the next generation of boys to be nonviolent," McPherson said. "We hear people say the majority of men are not violent, but the majority of men are also silent."

One panelist cited a recent Sports Illustrated story that revealed only two of 25 top college football programs did background checks on recruits. The article also showed of the nearly 2,400 players Sport Illustrated looked into, 7 percent had "been in trouble with the law either before or after entering college."

Emmert has called those numbers unacceptable. Kilmartin suggested schools should be doing background checks on recruits just like they do when hiring employees.

Several recent incidents involving athletes have increased the profile of campus violence.

Last year, Virginia women's lacrosse player Yeardley Love was slain and a former lacrosse player was charged with the murder. Last month, a Middle Tennessee State basketball player was killed, her roommate accused of the slaying.

The biggest obstacle to creating nonviolent campuses, panelists agreed, is the role alcohol and drugs play.

"It's a community problem that needs a community solution," said Sally Linowski, director of the center for alcohol and drug abuse prevention at Massachusetts-Amherst. "I can promise you that if you have college kids partying on campus, high schools are partying with them."

Emmert said he wants the NCAA -- and athletes -- to help lead the push against all forms of violence, especially gender violence.

"We need to stop that, we need to find a way to not let those kinds of things go on in this world," Emmert said. "It [violence] haunts our campuses, it haunts society and it's something we wrestle with every day. I don't know of one campus that has not struggled to confront this problem. What we can't do is pretend this isn't a problem, what we can't do is sweep it under the rug."