May 13, 2007
In the pursuit of a story on pregnancy and female student-athletes, Julie Foudy from ESPN’s Outside the Lines interviewed Clemson University’s Director of Student-Athlete Performance (Dr. Loreto Jackson) on Clemson’s policies. In requesting the interview, an ESPN representative explained: “our intent is to examine the varying degrees of guidance (on pregnancy) provided by individual institutions”.
Outside the Lines promotes itself as a program that “examines topical issues off the playing field”, and it claims to accomplish this through analysis and investigation, including “interviews and opinions from leading authorities on the issue at hand”. Based upon this, the serious subject matter of pregnancy in female student-athletes, and the fact that ESPN had allegedly interviewed several Clemson student-athletes, the Clemson Athletic Department agreed to the request for an interview with an administrator. The request from the show’s producer (Lindsay Rovegno) to Tim Bourret, Clemson Sports Information Director, was to discuss “policies on pregnancy at Clemson.”
Never was it discussed that pregnancy and athletic scholarships would be the focus of the show. Nor was it revealed to the Athletic Department that ESPN had obtained a copy of a document, allegedly signed by several female student-athletes, that allegedly led to their seeking abortions rather than complete their unplanned pregnancies.
This information was revealed during the course of the interview. The documents were not produced for review, and a balanced discourse on their validity / intention/etc. was not therefore possible.
ESPN contacted all Clemson student-athletes directly without going through the Clemson University Athletic Department.
In correspondence before the interview, Ms. Rovegno claimed that the reason for interviewing a Clemson athletic administrator was to fulfill her need to “pursue balance in our story” – a goal clearly not accomplished since all parties were unable to knowledgeably discuss the information ESPN had available to them. A truthful discussion on the real topic being explored would have led to a more “balanced story”. Dealing with serious issues head-on is what leads to results.
Clemson University Athletic Department is disappointed with the manner in which this interview was conducted and with the tactics used by Ms. Foudy (whom we have understood to be a strong supporter of women athletes’ rights). The way the interview was handled did not lend itself to a thorough and honest discussion of this critically important issue.
A serious discourse on the issue of pregnancy in female athletes and the policies of The Clemson University Athletic Department would have revealed the following: The Clemson University Athletic Department abides by the rules of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in regards to the renewal, reduction, and cancellation of athletic scholarships for student-athletes. It is our opinion that pregnancy would not be a valid reason for the Clemson University Athletic Department to cancel a student-athlete’s scholarship during the period of the award. Student-athletes have the right to appeal any reduction or cancellation of their athletic scholarship. An appeals committee comprised of non-athletic personnel and students reviews all athletic aid appeals. (After the interview, a review was conducted of team rules – past and present). It was found that in the past, a team rule, in one sport stated: “Pregnancy resulting in the inability to compete and positively contribute to the program’s success will result in the modification of your grant-in-aid money. Please consult the coaching staff immediately to discuss”. This team rule is no longer in effect, and it is not in the team rulebook. In fact, prior to the issue being investigated during the ESPN interview this rule had already been deleted – effective Fall 2006. According to the coach who incorporated this statement into the team rules, her intent was to influence the student-athlete to make safe and responsible choices regarding sexual activity, NOT, as the show apparently may imply, encourage abortions. Under the current administration, and with the new (Fall 2005) Total Athlete Care and Performance Program in place, team rules regarding student-athlete welfare are now reviewed by the Director of Student-Athlete Performance before implementation. Clemson University Athletic Department provides all student-athletes with a Total Athlete Care and Performance Program designed to provide services, access to resources, confidential advice and targeted programs to assist the student-athlete in achieving success as a person, student, and athlete. With regards to sexual health the following is available: (a) educational programs on sexual responsibility; (b) information provided by the sports medicine staff on campus resources for sexual health and women’s health issues; (c) confidential advice provided by the Director of Student-Athlete Performance on qualified neutral counseling; and options for the student-athlete regarding individuals with whom they should consult; (d) campus resources through the Student Health Center, Sullivan Wellness Center and the Counseling and Psychological Services Program. The Total Athlete Care and Performance Program is promoted to the student-athlete in a variety of ways: through team meetings, one-on-one contact, and the departmental Student-Athlete Handbook.
Since the interview with Ms. Foudy, the Director of Student-Athlete Performance has: Met with the coaches and the team that had the rule regarding pregnancy in the past. The Senior Woman’s Administrator also met at this time. Rules on scholarship and pregnancy were reviewed, and it was emphasized that the pregnancy rule should never have been in the rulebook, and was no longer. Developed a strategy to inform all female student-athletes on policies regarding athletic scholarships – with particular reference to pregnancy. Emphasized, once again, the role of the Director of Student-Athlete Performance and the Total Athlete Care and Performance Program. Drafted material regarding facts on athletic scholarships to be included in the upcoming (2007-2008) and subsequent Student-Athlete Handbooks.
The Total Athlete Care and Performance Program was implemented precisely to address these critical issues that affect a student-athlete’s welfare and performance. It is evident that The Clemson University Athletic Department does care for and supports their student-athletes, and is actively working to ensure that misunderstandings on policy do not occur.
November 12, 2018