From left: Tabitha Smith (UVA Wise associate vice chancellor for diversity, equity and inclusion and Title IX officer), Brenda Tracy, Donna Henry (UVA Wise Chancellor) and Kendall Rainey (UVA Wise athletics director). Courtesy of UVA Wise.

The University of Virginia’s College at Wise on Wednesday became the second school in the nation to implement the Tracy Rule, which has been called the most comprehensive serious misconduct policy in collegiate athletics. 

Brenda Tracy, creator of the rule, was present at a signing of the school’s adoption of this “zero-tolerance” policy. 

“I hope that other schools in the conference and other schools in the country will follow suit,” Tracy said in a phone interview after the signing. “To have another school that has the courage to step forward and do this is really important.”

Donna Henry, chancellor of the university, said that much of the support for adopting this rule came from within the athletic department itself, and that the school is already getting some recognition from other members of the conference. 

Tracy accused four men of gang rape in 1998. Two of the men were Oregon State football players. Eventually, she was convinced to drop charges and her experience failing to get acknowledgement from football programs inspired her to create the Tracy Rule. 

“I’ve been to dozens of campuses, I’ve talked about this issue with administrators all over the country at all different divisions,” Tracy said. “And it’s always ‘yeah it’s a good idea,’ and ‘yeah, we’ll look at it.’ And then nobody ever does anything.”

The Tracy Rule exceeds the current NCAA requirements, as well as the expanded NCAA Sexual Violence Policy that will take effect in the 2022-2023 school year. 

Tabitha Smith, Title IX coordinator and vice chancellor of diversity, equity and inclusion at UVA Wise, said the Tracy Rule “matched the values and mission” of the school. 

“Our athletic department and coaches were like, ‘yeah, this makes sense,’” Smith said. “It already met the spirit of what we do at Wise.”

UVA Wise was ready to take the plunge and be an example for other schools who have not yet adopted this policy, Smith said. So far, only the University of Texas at San Antonio has adopted the Tracy Rule, which it did in 2019. 

“When you’re exceeding a standard, it can be a little nerve-wracking,” Smith said. “You’re waiting for other people to test the waters. I’m proud of us for being the institution that is testing the waters.”

The school’s athletics department and its office for diversity, equity and inclusion has been working with Tracy for several months to adopt this policy. Today, at the signing, it was made official.

Because the expanded NCAA policy will take effect next school year, adopting the Tracy Rule and exceeding those requirements was a “natural next step” for UVA Wise, said athletics director Kendall Rainey. 

Rainey said the rule resonated strongly with the “philosophy of prevention” at the school. 

The anticipated NCAA policy requires institutions to annually collect information on all incoming, current and transfer student-athletes regarding “whether their conduct has resulted in an investigation, discipline through a Title IX proceeding or a criminal conviction” for sexual or other acts of violence, according to the policy. 

It also requires that schools take “reasonable steps to confirm the information” provided by these student-athletes. 

Tracy said that this is not enough. 

“You could be a school and find out that a player has a violent history, but the NCAA is not going to tell you what to do with them,” she said. “There’s been a lot of violent athletes that have just been existing and transferring around and it’s not being addressed.”

So, the Tracy Rule goes further and has a special emphasis on transfer student-athletes.

The rule bans any current or prospective student-athlete from playing sports if they have been convicted of, pleaded guilty to, or pleaded no contest to a felony or misdemeanor crime involving serious misconduct, as defined by the policy. 

Student-athletes will also be prohibited from playing if they have been disciplined by a college, university or previous athletic department. 

“Additionally, each prospective student-athlete, who is transferring to UVA Wise from another collegiate institution, is required to have their previous institution’s Title IX Coordinator complete an additional form,” according to the UVA Wise policy. 

This form will state whether the prospective student-athlete has been found “responsible” or “not responsible” for serious misconduct at their previous institution. 

UVA Wise has about 2,000 students, 300 of which are athletes, according to Senta Scarborough, director of communications. 

The Tracy Rule applies to both male and female athletes. After the signing, Tracy talked to the male athletes from the university, Scarborough said. 

“We handle the admission of athletes different than we do nonathletes,” Tracy said. “So, there have to be mechanisms in place to hold athletic departments and conferences accountable for who they’re recruiting and who they’re keeping on our campuses.”

And now that two schools have adopted this rule and know how to implement it, Tracy said “there’s really no excuse for other schools.”

According to Smith, UVA Wise didn’t have a reason not to adopt the rule. 

“We didn’t look back or think twice about it matching with our values,” she said. 

Brenda Tracy (center, in “Set the Expectation” shirt) with members of the women’s basketball team at UVA Wise. Courtesy of UVA Wise.

Grace Mamon

Grace Mamon is a senior journalism and English student at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. She is the co-editor-in-chief of the university's independent student-run newspaper, the...