Notre Dame's 1974 Football Gang-Rape Scandal Revisited

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Notre Dame's 1974 Football Gang-Rape Scandal Revisited Empty Notre Dame's 1974 Football Gang-Rape Scandal Revisited

Post by Earl on Thu May 28, 2015 10:41 pm

Robert Sam Anson is a 1967 Notre Dame graduate who became a prominent journalist.  He wrote an article entitled "That Championship Season" that was published in September of 1974 (unless I'm mistaken) and exposed the Notre Dame administration's coverup of a rape scandal involving six members of the football team.  The article was published in New Times, a now defunct bi-weekly magazine that specialized in investigative reporting.  I highly recommend this article for reading, but it may no longer be available anywhere.  I suspect public libraries no longer carry past issues of the magazine.

However, I recently found an article that features some of Anson's recollections of his relationship with Theodore Hesburgh.  It was compiled by someone other than Anson.  I've posted a link to the entire article below:

I've also copied and pasted his recollections of the football rape scandal below, as follows:

In late July 1974, I chanced on an AP story reporting that Notre Dame had suspended six members of the football team "for at least one year," following an accusation by an unnamed 18-year-old South Bend girl that they'd gang-raped her in a university dorm.

Apart from the fact that all the players denied the allegation, and that criminal charges had yet to be brought against any of them -- and didn't seem likely, given the he-said, she-said nature of the case -- details of the incident were sketchy. This struck me as odd. Even a hint of scandal involving Notre Dame's football team, which had defeated Alabama for the National Championship the previous New Years -- was hot news ordinarily. There was also a racial angle: the accused were black, their accuser white. Nonetheless, the story was buried deep in the sports columns, and the leading media outlets were ignoring it altogether.

My wonderment increased as I ferreted out additional details. For one, virtually all of the principals -- including the county prosecutor, the young woman's attorney and the South Bend Tribune reporter on the story -- were Notre Dame graduates. For another, Notre Dame spokesmen weren't saying boo, save that the accused players had been suspended for "a serious violation of university regulations."

The implication was that the penalty had been imposed by the university official tasked with investigating the case, Dean of Students John Macheca. Turned out, though, that Macheca, a former National Security Agency intelligence analyst who'd resigned over Vietnam, had wanted the players expelled. But in the interests of "compassion," he'd been overridden by Fr. Hesburgh.

Meanwhile, Coach Ara Parseghian was attributing the loss of four projected starters and two key backups to the decline of female morality brought on by watching soap operas. As for the alleged victim, a university administrator told me, "You know the type. A queen of the slums with a mattress tied to her back."

There was plenty that didn't smell right. New Times, a well-regarded investigative biweekly and my then-employer, agreed, and I hopped a flight to South Bend.

I'd worried en route about getting key medical and law enforcement sources to open up. All you had to do, it developed, was ask. I learned a lot with this tactic, including that the prosecutor's office had looked into the young woman's background and found it spotless, and that medical personnel who'd treated her immediately after the incident had no doubt that she'd been sexually assaulted, or that the trauma caused required several weeks psychiatric hospitalization.

I also managed to secure the young woman's name, home address and telephone number. She wasn't available, but her parents were. I debated calling, decided against it, and one midevening simply drove out to the house, a meticulously kept suburban split-level miles from the nearest slum.

I rang the bell, and a middle-aged man with the physique of a onetime tight end -- an engineer at Bendix, I was subsequently informed -- opened the door. I hadn't planned what to say; the words just tumbled out: "I'm a reporter from New York. There are 7,000 men at the university who think your daughter's a whore, and I don't believe it."

His face reddened and fists balled. I thought he was going to slug me. Then tears welled in his eyes. "I need to talk to my wife," he said.

He opened the door 20 minutes or so later, invited me in. His wife joined us and we sat down in the living room. There was a moment's awkward silence. Finally, I said, "Just tell me what you think I need to know."

By the time we finished it was nearly 11:00. All that remained was getting the other side of the story. I picked up the phone in the Morris Inn room where I was staying and dialed a number I knew by heart. Fr. Hesburgh was not pleased to hear from me.

"We're going to sue you, and we're going to get big damages," he said, after I'd given him the highlights. "If need be, we can produce dozens of eyewitnesses."

I resisted inquiring how "dozens" could "eyewitness" an event that supposedly never took place. Instead, I said, "Father, the parents told me that no one from the university ever contacted their daughter."

"I didn't have to talk to the girl," Hesburgh said. "I talked to the boys."

At which point, I hung up.

Anson wrote the story, including quotes from Hesburgh. "Notre Dame never sued, and no eyewitness ever came forward. But it was years before Fr. Hesburgh and I talked again.

I should point out that Anson's article states that the 18-year-old girl finally declined to press charges because she had been receiving death threats from Notre Dame fans.  They were scum.

Hesburgh also was scum.  There's no denying he staged a coverup.

This is one of the reasons why I will never become a sports fan.

"You beat a woman and drag her down a flight of stairs, pulling her hair out by the roots? You're the fourth guy taken in the NFL draft. You kill people while driving drunk? That guy's welcome. Players caught in hotel rooms with illegal drugs and prostitutes? We know they're welcome. Players accused of rape and pay the woman to go away? You lie to police, trying to cover up a murder? We're comfortable with that.  You love another man? Well, now you've gone too far!" -- Dale Hansen, Dallas sports anchor for ABC local affiliate WFAA

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