NCAA argues in court filing that it has no legal obligation to protect athletes from sexual abuse

The NCAA is arguing that it doesn’t have a legal obligation of protection in response to a lawsuit by three former college athletes who say they were sexually abused by a longtime track and field coach.

Former Arizona and Texas athlete Erin Aldrich and former Texas athletes Londa Bevins and Jessica Johnson say that John Rembao sexually abused and harassed them during their college careers. They’ve sued the NCAA, saying the collegiate governing body has failed to establish rules that punish coaches for sexual misconduct.

The plaintiffs argue that if a coach can get punished for recruiting violations or inappropriate payments to players and recruits, he or she can also get punished by the NCAA for sexually abusing or harassing athletes.

The case is in a United States District Court in California. And the NCAA argued in a May 22 court filing that the women’s complaint is “flawed” because it “does not owe a related legally cognizable duty” to them. It also, quite curiously, says that Rembao’s alleged abuse was “outside the scope of his employment.”

From the Orange County Register:

But NCAA attorneys argue “this case is about what the NCAA’s legal duty is to take action with respect to sexual abuse on campuses nationwide and, more specifically, what the NCAA’s legal responsibility is for the alleged sexual abuse (all outside California) by one track coach twenty years ago. The NCAA respectfully submits the Complaint is flawed as a matter of law and that all claims against the NCAA and its Board be dismissed and/or stricken.”

Specifically the NCAA argues are that “The direct negligence-based claims should be dismissed because the NCAA does not owe a related legally cognizable duty to Plaintiffs. The contract-based claims fail because there is no enforceable contract between Plaintiffs and the NCAA, nor were Plaintiffs third-party beneficiaries of any contract between the NCAA and its members. Finally, the indirect claims that allege the NCAA is vicariously liable for Rembao’s conduct are deficient because Rembao was not the NCAA’s agent and even if he was, the alleged abuse was outside the scope of his employment.”

The NCAA has famously argued for its amateurism concept by staunchly saying that players are not employees. It continually emphasizes how athletes are students first and that college athletics is an extra-curricular activity despite the hours upon hours athletes devote to their sports each week.

The scope argument is similar to an argument that North Carolina successfully pulled off against the NCAA in its famous academic fraud case. The NCAA infamously didn’t punish North Carolina for a widespread academic fraud scheme involving athletes after the school argued that since the sham classes were available to all students and not just athletes, punishment for the fraud was outside the NCAA’s scope.

Rembao is currently suspended by the U.S. Center for SafeSport because of the allegations. He denies wrongdoing.


Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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