Last Friday night, the Syracuse men’s basketball team was routed by Oklahoma, losing 84-71 – in no small measure because of the shooting collapse of Syracuse’s star guard Eric Devendorf, who finished the game with only 8 points.
Why should readers of a Gender and Sexuality Law blog care about the Syracuse men’s basketball team? Well, the Syracuse team got as far as they did because Devendorf escaped any meaningful punishment from the University after he punched Kimberly Smith, an SU junior, in the face last November. In fact, almost the entire men’s basketball team was involved in this attack – they surrounded her car, kicked and dented the car, yelled at her, and when she got out Devendorf punched her. She asked the Syracuse Police to initiate criminal proceedings against him but they preferred to refer the case over to SU’s Office of Judicial Affairs – a student-run group that weighs minor cases on campus. At the hearing on the incident, 6′ 4″ Devendorf claimed that he had been defending himself when he hit Smith.
The Office of Judical Affairs recommended that in light of the fact that Devendorf was already on probation for hitting another student the previous spring, Devendorf be suspended for the remainder of the year - meaning that he couldn’t play, go to classes or set foot on campus for the remainder of the academic year. This might have been the end of his NCAA and professional basketball career. Devendorf appealed the ruling, and the punishment was reduced to 40 hours of community service, and he would be allowed to return to school in the spring ’09 semester. He did all this, missed 2 games and all was forgiven. Syracuse was ranked third in the Southern regional conference when the bracket was announced and they did well until they ran into the Sooners last Friday night. While the Orangemen were winning TV commentators highlighted Devendorf’s athletic ability and coolness under pressure – he was a team leader and a charismatic player.
Devendorf’s lenient treatment from the Syracuse Police and the University’s disciplinary board is, of course, not unusual for a top collegiate athlete who gets into trouble. Examples abound of charges of sexual misconduct or violence being swept under the rug when taking them seriously might jeopardize a college or university’s athletic program.
I was involved in an incident here at Columbia several years back when a female student accused several members of the Columbia Men’s Basketball team of sexual assault. … Read remainder of post here
- Katherine Franke, cross posted from Gender and Sexuality Law Blog