Retired general's review clears athletic department

Updated: July 23, 2004, 9:12 PM ET
Associated Press

AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- A review led by a retired general has cleared the Air Force Academy's athletic department of giving athletes special treatment to maintain winning records.

"I thought we would uncover some problems but we didn't," Gen. Michael Ryan said Friday.

A review of the athletic department was ordered as part of a top-to-bottom examination of the academy after female cadets reported being punished for reporting sexual assaults. Questions had arisen about the handling of discipline in cases involving athletes.

Critics also questioned why the athletic department, rather than the academy, handled some discipline of athletes.

Ryan told the academy's oversight board, called the Board of Visitors, that some changes should be made. Most notably, he said, the practice of excusing some athletes from interviews with selection officers should end. The interviews are part of the admissions process to the academy.

Nevertheless, Ryan said, "the Air Force Academy's admissions process does not give undue emphasis to recruiting." He said 16 percent of the academy's cadets were recruited as athletes.

He said there was no statistically significant difference in the academic success of athletes compared with non-athletes, and they do about as well in their Air Force careers, too.

Last year's football team had a grade point average of 2.7, a high rate for an academy with such stringent standards, said Lt. Gen. John Rosa, academy superintendent.

"They want to win as much as any other team but they want to do it the right way," said Brig. Gen. Johnny Weida, cadet commandant.

No mention was made during the meeting of four cadets, including two athletes, who face charges involving illegal steroids. Rosa told reporters there was no hint of any athletic department involvement in the cases.

"Our investigation did not show widespread use," he added.

During a news conference, former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore, who chairs the Board of Visitors, credited Rosa's administration for dealing openly with the steroid problem and sexual assaults.

Ryan's commission also recommended returning the athletic director to independent status, reporting directly to Rosa. Earlier this year the athletic director was put under the control of Weida, Rosa's No. 2. Ryan said Weida was too busy to handle athletics. The Air Force Secretary will make the final decision on the recommendation.

Earlier, Rosa's staff released the first survey of academy staff since the school's sex scandal erupted a year ago. The survey found strong support for the presence of female cadets, but also a reluctance to report sexual assaults.

The survey of 1,846 staff, military and civilian, or 58 percent of staff, found that 17 sexual assaults had occurred but only eight were reported. No information was made on the anonymous reports.

Rosa pointed out that the reporting percentage was three times higher than the national average of 16 percent but not good enough. Surveys of cadets have found a similar reluctance to report sexual assaults.

The survey of staff found that 95.6 percent believed women were effective members of the academy. Eighty-two percent said they strongly supported changes made to end a climate that contributed to sexual assault.

Eighty-two percent also said they believed cadets were cynical about the changes.

Rosa said a Defense Department survey of attitudes of cadets at all three military academies will be distributed to commanders soon.

Rosa was brought in as superintendent in an ouster of top commanders after female cadets complained they had been punished for reporting sexual assaults. Investigators said there were 143 sexual assaults between 1993-2003.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press