SUU president: New Big Sky Conference rule sends message on ‘serious misconduct’

Composite image. File photo from Southern Utah University vs. University of Utah football game used for illustrative purposes only, September 2016 | Photo courtesy SUU Athletics, St. George News / Cedar City News
ST. GEORGE — The Big Sky Conference, which includes two Utah colleges, has adopted a rule that would ban student-athletes with convictions for violent crimes from participating in sports or receiving athletic scholarships at league schools.

According to a report from The Associated Press, Commissioner Andrea Williams said the rule sets the expectations the conference has for its institutions and their campus culture. It goes into effect for the 2019-20 school year and will apply to athletes signing letters of intent beginning next December.

The rule would ban athletic participation for current or prospective student-athletes who have been convicted or have pleaded guilty or “no contest” to violations including sexual violence, domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, sexual exploitation or any assault with a deadly weapon or that causes injury.

In a press release from the Big Sky Conference, Southern Utah University President Scott Wyatt referred to the rule as “setting a standard and sending a message.” He said:

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. 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.

Bryson Lester, SUU director of strategic communication, told St. George News that the university did not have any student-athletes affected by the new rule.

“Student-athletes go through beginning of year meetings with administrators and coaches,” Lester said, “and we will ensure at that time they are all aware of exactly what the new Big Sky standards are.”

The rule was developed over the past year with input from the league and campus officials and student-athletes.

In addition to Southern Utah University, the Big Sky Conference includes Weber State University in Ogden, plus member schools in Idaho, Arizona, Montana, California, Colorado, Washington and Oregon.

The Associated Press contributed to the report.

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