WISE, Va. (WJHL) – In 2019, The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) became the first higher-education institution to adopt the Tracy Rule.
“The Tracy Rule is a policy that basically states that anyone found responsible for gender-based violence, such as sexual assault, stalking, that kind of thing, whether through a school process or criminal court of law, is ineligible to play sports or to receive athletic financial aid,” explained Brenda Tracy, a sexual assault survivor and namesake of the rule.
On Wednesday, UVA’s College at Wise followed in UTSA’s footsteps, becoming the first NCAA Division II school to implement the rule.
“We want to create a campus that’s safe for all students and student-athletes,” UVA Wise chancellor Donna Henry said.
“Currently, gender-based violence is not an NCAA violation,” Tracy said. “So, bad grades is a violation, but not gender-based violence.”
As the founder of a non-profit organization, Set The Example, devoted to ending sexual and interpersonal violence, Tracy has been working for years to transform the conversation around the accountability of student-athletes.
“If you have a history of violence, you trigger the Tracy Rule and then you must go through a waiver process to be able to play sports,” she said.
Highland Cavalier Athletic Director Kendall Rainey noted UTSA’s commitment to the rule a few years ago and says the college has been working to institute its own version since.
“It resonated with just what we were trying to do from a prevention standpoint and a programming standpoint at UVA Wise,” she said.
“For us it creates a safe environment and it tells students in advance of coming to the college what our expectations are and what we hold them to,” Henry said. “So, in my mind, that gets us the best student-athletes who are coming here.”
Tracy has visited more than 100 colleges and universities across the country in an effort to have them sign and adopt the Tracy Rule.
“If it was up to athletes at many, many, many colleges…the policy would be everywhere,” she said. “It’s actually administrators that I have issues with.”
But Tracy’s experience with UVA Wise throughout the entire process has been different.
“I was fully prepared to answer all the questions and do all this stuff, and I haven’t had to do any of that,” she said. “So, it’s been just a really enjoyable experience for me.”
“Kudos to UVA Wise, not even just athletics, but from the chancellor down,” Tracy continued. “There’s been complete buy-in from everyone on this campus, and that’s as it should be.”
Rainey said that buy-in has started at the base level, with the many coaches of the college.
“They have been extremely supportive and really I think it’s their philosophy,” she said. “We’re here where we are because it’s their philosophy. They’ve been recruiting in this manner for some time, so I think it just formalizes the policy a lot of what our coaches have already been doing in the recruiting process.”
Now, with a second NCAA institution on board, Tracy hopes the need for this rule, or something comparable, becomes even more apparent with other schools.
“Because we should know who we’re bringing onto our campuses,” she said. “We can’t make decisions if we’re not first informed.”