18 years ago, Brenda Tracy's world changed for the worst. As she later told John Canzano of the Oregonian in 2014:
She detailed how she reported to police that she was sexually assaulted in 1998 by four men, three of them college football players. She said she was gang raped, sodomized, robbed, and then, re-victimized -- her word -- when a college football coach suspended two of the players for one game and was quoted as saying his players had made, "a bad choice."
That coach's name? Mike Riley.
Since then, Tracy has had to live with the memories of that night every day. The feeling of being repeatedly violated in the most intimate ways. And that the only punishment those players received was a one game suspension.
There are reasons why that happened. Tracy didn't want to endure the legal process, and when the charges were dropped, Riley didn't have much to act on. But those words, "a bad choice" haunted her for years.
In November 2014, Riley told the Oregonian that he'd like to talk to Tracy and maybe even talk to his team. But things changed a few weeks later as Riley left Oregon State for Nebraska. The story didn't end there. Wednesday, Tracy and Riley sat down and cleared the air...and then, more importantly, Tracy addressed the Nebraska football team, sharing her experience.
Afterwards, Mike Riley released this statement through the athletic department:
As part of our ongoing educational efforts, I invited Brenda Tracy to Lincoln, to share her experiences with the young men in our program. Brenda has suffered immeasurable pain and has shown the strength and willingness to share her story. Her story today was powerful and I know that it left an indelible imprint on our student-athletes, staff, and myself.
"Sexual assault and harassment are serious issues on campuses across America. We try to recruit young men of character with core values, and once they are here, we educate them on making good decisions and treating all people with the utmost of respect.
"Prior to speaking with the team, Brenda and I had a chance to meet at length. I expressed my sincere gratitude for her willingness to come and I offered my support in her efforts to impact others around the country. Out of respect to Brenda, I will not share details of our conversation but I hope to have the opportunity to continue our dialogue.
"This has been an important day for me and for our football program and we must keep the focus on the victims, and on preventing inexcusable acts in the future."
Photo of Brenda Tracy, Mike Riley and the Nebraska football program today: pic.twitter.com/S6mWo61B4i— Nicole Auerbach (@NicoleAuerbach) June 23, 2016
Tracy then went on to say this on Twitter this evening about Mike Riley:
Earlier on Wednesday, Tracy sat down with former Husker Damon Benning and Mike Schaefer of 247 Sports on KOZN (1620 AM) radio in Omaha to talk about her story:
Sexual assault is a major problem on college campuses. At Baylor, repeated assaults by football players led to the dismissal of Art Briles and the resignation of many school officials. Are coaches and administrators getting the message now? Maybe. But even more important is that the message gets out to the athletes, especially young men who find themselves as local celebrities and in an environment where they can find themselves in the wrong situation.
Tracy's message was a powerful one. She was graphic in her explanation, by necessity. Male athletes don't share the same perspective as females. There is "yes"... but sometimes "no" gets interpreted as something completely different, especially when alcohol enters into the mix.
That's why what Mike Riley did Wednesday was so important, as a powerful message was sent to Nebraska football players. If it prevents just one person from being victimized, it was well worth it.