The University of Illinois athletic department is drafting a policy that would prohibit student-athletes with a history of sexual assault or domestic violence from competing for the Illini.
Athletic director Josh Whitman told the Chicago Tribune that the policy will be similar to one implemented by Big Ten Conference rival Indiana in April. The Illinois version, which is likely to include an appeal process, could be in place by the start of the 2017-18 academic year.
Illinois has a history of taking the topic seriously. In May 2016, it dismissed Kendrick Nunn from the basketball team after Nunn pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor battery charge. The NCAA and Big Ten, meanwhile, have been reluctant to implement blanket policy.
Unlike the Southeastern Conference, which in 2015 passed a rule that prohibits accepting a transfer who was dismissed from a previous school for sexual or domestic violence, the Big Ten leaves policy-making to its member schools. "The conference office a) doesn't have the facts, and b) grinding a policy together in a way that could be easily implemented across 14 institutions and 2,500 incoming students annually would be sort of a heavier lift than what they felt we could do well," said Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, as reported by the Tribune.
Indiana athletic director Fred Glass announced in April that the Hoosiers would not accept "any prospective student-athlete — whether a transfer student, incoming freshman or other status — who has been convicted of or pleaded guilty or no contest to a felony involving sexual violence."
While applauding the forward-thinking approach at Illinois, Tribune writer Shannon Ryan writes that such policy shouldn't be limited to athletes. "Is a university any safer because it banned a football player who has been violent toward women but admitted a chemistry major or band member with the same history? Several high-profile cases have involved fraternities, so why are those organizations not as scrutinized?" she writes.