(Editor’s note: Big Sky Conference media release)
OGDEN, Utah – The Big Sky Conference has announced the adoption of a Serious Misconduct Rule for all of its member and affiliate institutions. The Serious Misconduct Rule prevents individuals with a history of convicted violence to receive athletic-related financial aid or participate in practice or competition.
“The Serious Misconduct Rule aligns with the Big Sky’s mission to provide a quality collegiate experience for our student-athletes while focusing on their safety,” said Big Sky Commissioner Andrea Williams. “This rule sets the tone and expectations the Conference has for its institutions. The Big Sky is taking ownership and accountability for the culture we create and reputation we project on campus, within our community and in our conference. We are most proud that this step supports the commitment that our Student-Athlete Advisory Committee has already taken to address and end violence on campus.”
In the past year, individuals from the league office and its member institutions, including the Title IX office, general counsel, university president, faculty athletic representative, student affairs, athletic administrators and student-athletes came together to create the Serious Misconduct Rule.
“Helping our students live respectful lives in all their social relationships has been a frequent topic of discussion among the presidents of the Big Sky universities,” said Southern Utah President Scott Wyatt. “With this new policy, we are setting a standard and sending a message: Behavior we have defined as ‘serious misconduct’ is entirely unacceptable. We will hold ourselves and our students accountable.”
As violence on campus is an increasing issue and concern as it relates to college culture, the Big Sky hopes that its approach to this growing epidemic empowers the NCAA, other institutions and conferences to take similar action. The Conference believes this rule is the right step to take to help create a safe environment for all students.
“The Big Sky Student-Athlete Advisory Committee believes in the Serious Misconduct Rule because we know that sports and the opportunity to be a student-athlete is a privilege, not a right,” said Big Sky SAAC President and Northern Colorado Football Student-Athlete Justice Littrell. “Athletes who take part in actions that jeopardize this privilege should not be allowed to continue on in college. We are taking a stand as student-athletes against this violence.”
Serious Misconduct Rule: A current or prospective student-athlete who has been convicted of or pled guilty or no contest to a felony or misdemeanor involving Serious Misconduct, or has been subject to official University or athletic department disciplinary action at any time during enrollment at any collegiate institution (excluding limited discipline applied by a sports team or temporary disciplinary action during an investigation) due to Serious Misconduct shall not be eligible for athletically-related financial aid, practice or competition at a Big Sky member institution. For purposes of this provision, “serious misconduct” is defined as any act of sexual violence, domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, sexual exploitation, or any assault that employs the use of a deadly weapon or causes serious bodily injury.
The rule is effective for all prospective student-athletes beginning with the December 19, 2019 signing period. For all other student-athletes, the rule will go into effect beginning with the 2019-20 academic year. In unique and compelling cases, an institution may request a waiver of the Serious Misconduct Rule. If a waiver is requested, an institutional panel of individuals outside of the athletic department will review and determine if the request warrants approval.
The Serious Misconduct Rule is another step that the Big Sky has taken to help positively shape the student-athlete experience. The Big Sky has hosted a health and wellness symposium over the last five years with topics that addressed mental health needs of student-athletes, stress management, mentoring those that have alcohol and drug issues, bystander intervention, and sexual assault prevention on campuses.