MISSOULA – The Big Sky Conference introduced a serious misconduct rule in June. The rule restricts financial aid and participation for current or future student-athletes who are convicted of or plead guilty to specified crimes including dating violence, stalking, and sexual assault.
The rule goes into effect in 2019, but Grizzly football players at the University of Montana dedicated the first game to supporting the victims of sexual assault.
In 1998, Brenda Tracy was drugged and gang-raped by four men, two of whom were football players for Oregon State University. Since then, she has traveled the country encouraging coaches and teams to sign a pledge to acknowledge that they should be held accountable for their behavior.
In the Hall of Champions at UM, the records set by players in the past are celebrated and Tracy said her movement is about more than that. It’s about setting the expectation that violence, sexism, and sexual assault will never be tolerated in our communities.
“All of our athletes know that their eligibility is attached to their grades. And because of this, they know what classes they need to take, they know what grades they need to make to remain eligible,” Tracy said. “And all the people around them know what they need to do to stay eligible. Well, what if maybe their behavior mattered. And maybe what if I do this behavior then I’m going to get kicked off the team, or I’m going to lose my eligibility.”
Tracy spoke to UM athletes last semester and now the department has decided they want to get behind this movement.
“The pledge is not a contract. It’s not a binding contract. But it’s an accountability tool. It’s okay for a church to stand in front of the room and a paper that says I’m drawing a line in the sand and setting an expectation for you. I’m attaching your eligibility to behavior, which is really important,” said Tracy.
By signing, players acknowledge being apart of a team is a privilege, not a right, and that as leaders in the community they are held to a higher standard.
Assistant Sports Information Director for Football and Men’s Basketball Eric Taber said the decision to stand with the “set the expectation” movement is one they are proud to make.
“It’s not something that starts at the beginning of the game and ends with the final whistle. It’s something that we as a department and as a university believe in year-round and want to promote year-round,” said Taber. “We believe it so much that even like when we go on the road to North Dakota, we’re going to partner with them when they do their set the expectation game to wear stickers on our helmets to show solidarity for it even when we’re in Grand Forks.”
Members of the community can support this movement by wearing teal and purple to the Griz games.