One of the nation's most important and prestigious youth sports organizations finds itself mired in a child sex abuse scandal while concern and national shame over the Jerry Sandusky affair at Penn State rages on.
As first reported by ESPN, Robert "Bobby" Dodd, the former president of the Amateur Athletic Union, has been accused of molesting two former basketball players when they were still competing for AAU programs. According to ESPN's "Outside the Lines," two young basketball players are alleging they were abused by Dodd in Memphis in 1984. Now 43, Ralph West spoke to ESPN to admit that he was sexually assaulted that year in Memphis and in four other states.
The accusations made by West and a second, unidentified man have led to investigations both by the AAU and the Memphis Police Department, which could file charges against Dodd if it finds enough proof to prosecute. CNN has reported that the AAU sent Memphis police the identity of a third alleged accuser, though that information has not been corroborated elsewhere.
"The Memphis Police Department takes allegations of child sexual abuse very seriously," Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong told the Associated Press. "Although this case has its challenges due to the amount of time that has passed, it will be thoroughly examined; and if the investigation reveals the law was violated, the person responsible will be held accountable."
Similarly, the AAU insisted it was taking serious steps to address the past incidents involving Dodd, who stepped down on Friday officially citing colon cancer as a justification (the organization claims that his resignation was officially submitted on Nov. 29), despite the questionable timing of such an announcement.
"The AAU has recently been made aware of some serious allegations about President Robert W. 'Bobby' Dodd, dating back several decades," AAU Acting President Louis Stout said in a statement. "The AAU has opened an independent investigation into these matters and also has contacted local law enforcement in Memphis, where the activities allegedly occurred. We will actively cooperate with any and all authorities to determine the facts and the truth."
Regardless of what the investigations overturn, the sex abuse scandal could hardly have come at a worse time for the AAU, both in terms of national perceptions about figures of power in sports and the AAU's larger public image, which has grown murkier in recent years. While the allegations are nearly 30 years old -- and both accusers claim that they never went to police after the prior incidents and only recently admitted that they occurred to their families -- Dodd's alleged acts bear an eerie similarity to the sexual acts being alleged of former Syracuse assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine, whose own case has been overshadowed by the charges against Sandusky in Pennsylvania.
Meanwhile, the AAU has insisted it's internal investigation will be thorough and will include all of the organization's screening processes to discover where a child abuser might be able to slip through the cracks and gain access to children in the AAU system. Stout also insisted that any findings from the internal investigation will go toward making immediate enhancements in all of the organization's safety procedures.
"We are going to enhance any of our policies, procedures and practices — as recommended by this expert review — to ensure the safety of all of the young people in our programs," Stout said in a second statement on Saturday.