April 18, 2006 — -- A year before Duke University's lacrosse team became the center of scandal, administrators and the school's athletic director were warned that the players had demonstrated "boorish" behavior.
According to news reports, 15 of the team's 47 players have court records for drunken and disorderly behavior. Two were arrested today on charges of raping and kidnapping a 27-year-old woman at an off-campus party.
The alleged incident may be part of a larger problem, experts said, of athletes whose attitude includes a sense of entitlement that manifests itself in crude and even lawless behavior.
Indeed, Duke University announced it had appointed a committee to investigate "the extent to which the cumulative behavior of many [players] over a number of years signifies a deeper problem."
One study of sexual assault cases found that while male student athletes make up 3.3 percent of the college population, they committed 19 percent of the sexual assaults. The Benedict-Crosset Study of sexual assaults at 30 major Division I universities over a three-year period in the 1990s concludes that "male college student athletes, compared to the rest of the male population, are responsible for a significantly higher percentage of sexual assaults reported to judicial affairs on the campuses of Division I institutions."
"There is a mentality among athletes that 'we can get away with this, that no one is going to challenge us because we are student athletes,'" said Richard Lapchick, professor at the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida.
In recent years there have been allegations made against rugby players that included improper sexual conduct and rape at San Diego State, against basketball players at South Dakota State, and against football players at Penn State, the Coast Guard Academy, the Naval Academy, the University of Oklahoma and the University of Colorado.
If the athletes carry an entitled attitude it, could be partly due to the way they are treated long before they ever arrive on a university campus.