Eastern’s Anticipated Football Team & Sexual Assault Concerns: A deeper dive into the selection process of Eastern’s future football coach, Title IX procedures, and student concerns.

According to a 2018 study, the amount of reported sexual assaults with 17- to 24-year-old victims during football games increased by 41 percent on home game days and by 15 percent on away game days. Given that these studies only recorded the number of reported sexual assaults, research indicates that nearly 80 percent of sexual assaults remain unreported. However, the universities used for this study contain a larger population in comparison to Eastern and consist of different regulations and values. 

As Eastern University prepares to welcome its first football team in the upcoming years, such studies and other factors have raised concerns amongst Eastern students regarding the preventative measures and resources available. Dr. Jackie Irving, Vice Provost for Student Development and Title IX Coordinator; Eric McNelley, Athletic Director; and the Student Government Association (SGA) provided insights on Eastern University’s anticipated football team and concerns related to sexual assault. 

Student leaders within the Student Government Association have acknowledged the statistics linking football game days and increased sexual assault cases. “There needs to be a clear institutional stance on sexual assault that holds perpetrators accountable, doesn’t victim blame,” SGA explained. 

Eric McNelley shared how the entire athletic department, including the athletic staff, graduate assistants, and student athletes, complete Title IX training and standard intervention annually. McNelley has a personal understanding of the impacts of sexual violence and is very passionate about this issue. Speaking of the anticipated football team, “My goal is that I do not want anyone to feel fear. We are so driven to get this right for the community,” McNelley shared. 

In addition to this, McNelley discussed the selection process for aspiring Eastern football coaches. First, McNelley initially evaluates the applicants from a football coaching perspective. In other words, the applicants are assessed on whether they have the skills and knowledge to be a successful football coach. 

 Second, the applicants that pass this evaluation participate in a second round of interviews with panelists such as Dr. Jackie Irving, Ashlee Williams, two student representatives, and several others. “We had 13 people represented on the panel – none of which have any idea of what it takes to coach a sport,” McNelley explained. In having so many diverse voices on the decision-making panel, McNelley shared his aim, as well as the entire committee’s aim, to find an aspiring football coach that will enhance the entire Eastern community. 

“All of [the applicants] talked about character and the care for the community, so I can’t wait until students get to talk to whoever they choose because I think they’ve done a really good job of vetting the coaches,” Dr. Irving emphasized. 

As student enrollment is predicted to increase, Dr. Irving explained that Eastern will be hiring a Title IX deputy, as well as other services for students. “When you increase enrollment, you have to increase services,” Dr. Irving stated. The “It’s On Us” campaign will also continue to promote educational resources and opportunities to nurture an environment of consent. 

Dr. Jackie Irving, Eric McNelley, and Student Government Association are available to address any concerns or questions that students may contain. “Anyone that would like to come speak to me, my door is always open,” McNelley explained. Students who would prefer to talk to a female athletic director regarding their concerns are always welcome to reach out to Heidi Birtwistle. “The goal is to make sure that we are doing what we need to do to support students academically, socially, emotionally, developmentally, and spiritually,” Dr. Irving stated. 

Sources: American Economic Journal, Brennan Center for Justice

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