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Sports Heroes, Social Villains : Aberrant Sexual Conduct by Star Athletes Is Called Result of Lifelong Coddling


The most recent and perhaps the most blatant example of complicity came to light last week. A Florida State Board of Regents committee report sharply criticized administrators at the University of South Florida for their handling of multiple sexual assault complaints against a basketball player.

The report reveals that school officials took no action against Marvin Taylor--the basketball team's starting point guard--for more than 1 1/2 years, despite complaints filed by six women.

The 60-page report charges that the school's vice president of student affairs gave special handling to Taylor's case. Even though she reported the alleged incident immediately, the alleged rape victim was never interviewed by anyone at the school. The first official to ask for her version of the events was the investigator appointed by the board of regents, nearly two years later.

Taylor was accused of raping an acquaintance in 1989. By the next year, four more women lodged complaints of sexual assault or harassment against Taylor. In another case that wasn't handled by campus authorities, Taylor was prosecuted in Tampa criminal court for battery after he knocked a woman down and kicked her in the stomach.

During this period, the South Florida vice president responsible for both intercollegiate athletics and student discipline took personal control of Taylor's case. The school official, who is a member of the Green Jackets athletic booster club, repeatedly ignored the school's written discipline procedures, according to the board of regents report.

After Taylor's conviction in the battery case, another school official overturned a school hearing officer's recommendation that the basketball player be suspended from school for one year. Taylor was placed in a program for first offenders, even though court records showed he was on probation for a burglary conviction in another state.

Finally, the report said, the alleged rape victim was treated unfairly by the school and offered none of the help and support that was afforded Taylor. The school vice president told the media that the alleged victim had recanted her story, which he later acknowledged that she never did. The same official also removed all records of the women's complaints from Taylor's file.

The board of regents' investigation also showed that the woman and others had been continually harassed into withdrawing their complaints against Taylor. At least one of the women reported the harassment to school authorities, who took no action. The parents of another woman took their daughter out of school rather than face continued harassment.

Last February, with his eligibility nearly over, Taylor was finally kicked off the team for a curfew violation.

Dan Walbolt, the South Florida vice president criticized in the report, resigned Friday.

Florida's top school official called the case unbelievable.


What is the solution? Will the sports system continue to turn out seeming sociopaths unequipped to deal with a complex world? Will the "indiscretions" of athletes be tolerated by a society that looks the other way? Or will parents and others responsible for the welfare of young athletes do what Tom House suggests and "make them take out the garbage?"

Not all athletes are the spoiled products of coddling and special privileges. House cites Ranger pitcher Nolan Ryan, who--even when he showed amazing athletic aptitude at a young age--was never treated differently by his parents. And he always had to take out the garbage.

"The problem is that (society) says, 'Little Johnny, you can be as weird as you want to be, as long as you're a Heisman Trophy winner.' It starts with Johnny taking the trash out. That's when Johnny's family doesn't make him take the trash out, they serve him special meals. His friends revere him for his athletic ability, they don't expect him to be social. He isn't held up to the same standards.

"This will continue until such time that the aberration costs more than he brings in to the community. It's all economic."

A Case Study

A partial list of athletes who have been charged with rape or other sexual offenses. Names have been omitted if charges were dropped before trial.

* Nov. 30 1991--A San Francisco Giant is arrested, accused of forcible rape, rape with a foreign object, false imprisonment and battery. The woman later told police she did not want to pursue the case.

* Sept. 9, 1991--Mike Tyson is indicted, accused of rape and three related counts by a grand jury after a four-week investigation into charges made by a beauty pageant contestant. Tyson is currently on trial in Indianapolis.

* Aug. 5, 1991--Former Compton College basketball star Roy Williams is ordered to stand trial in the murder of a Compton woman and the rape and murder of a second, and the kidnaping, rape and attempted murder of a third. Williams is also awaiting trial accused of a rape in Cleveland.

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