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Seven women from three schools sue NCAA, claim organization didn't protect them from alleged sexual assaults

USA TODAY SPORTS logo USA TODAY SPORTS 4/30/2020 Tom Schad, USA TODAY

Seven women filed a lawsuit against the NCAA on Wednesday, claiming that the organization failed to adequately protect them from alleged sexual assaults committed by male student-athletes at three of its member institutions.

The lawsuit, which was filed in a U.S. District Court in Michigan, details allegations of sexual assault at Michigan State, Nebraska and an unnamed America East Conference school. Three of the plaintiffs were student-athletes at the time of the alleged incidents, according to the lawsuit. 

The plaintiffs, three of whom are not identified by name, allege the NCAA failed to "adopt ... and reasonably enforce" rules that would minimize the risk of sexual assault for female students and student-athletes by male student-athletes, among other claims.

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They accuse the organization — as well as other named defendants, including the NCAA Division I council and NCAA president Mark Emmert — of negligence, fraud and breach of contract and seek unspecified damages.

"Defendants have repeatedly and persistently failed to take any meaningful action to mitigate the severe issue of sexual misconduct perpetrated by male student-athletes against women at their member institutions," the lawsuit claims.

Spokespeople for the NCAA and Michigan State did not immediately respond to requests for comment from USA TODAY Sports on Thursday morning.

Nebraska spokesperson Deb Fiddelke said the university received a copy of the lawsuit Wednesday but "cannot comment on pending litigation."

The seven plaintiffs allege that the NCAA and its related entities had an obligation to supervise and monitor their member institutions, and provide "reasonable and appropriate rules" to minimize risks for female student-athletes, but failed to do so.

Four of the seven plaintiffs — Capri Davis, Sheridan Thomas and two women identified as Jane Doe — claim they were sexually assaulted by male student-athletes at Nebraska.

Davis, a former Nebraska volleyball player, claims that she and another unnamed plaintiff were groped by two Nebraska football players at a party last spring, then threatened several months later for reporting the incident to the university's Title IX office. The lawsuit alleges she later experienced depression and anxiety, left the volleyball team and later transferred to the University of Texas, believing she did not receive adequate communication or resources from the university throughout the process.

Two of the other plaintiffs outline alleged instances of sexual assault at Michigan State, including Emma Roedel, a former track athlete at the school who claims she was raped by a male track athlete in 2017.

According to the lawsuit, Roedel reported the incident to a coach, who referred it to police but also cautioned Roedel against pressing criminal charges.

"(The coach) told Roedel that if she pursued any claims against (the male track athlete), no one would like her, and that because Roedel is 'pretty,' she would become a 'distraction,'" the lawsuit claims.

Another plaintiff, Bailey Kowalski, alleges in the lawsuit that she was raped by three Michigan State basketball players in 2015. Kowalski previously filed a separate lawsuit against the university.

The seventh plaintiff is not named in the lawsuit but identified as a member of the swimming team at an America East Conference school. The lawsuit alleges that she was raped by a men's basketball athlete in September.

The lawsuit comes less than six months after a USA TODAY Network investigation found that male college athletes can continue playing sports even after being found responsible for sexual assault, often by transferring to another school.

Contact Tom Schad at tschad@usatoday.com or on Twitter @Tom_Schad.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Seven women from three schools sue NCAA, claim organization didn't protect them from alleged sexual assaults

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