BY Bob Sherwin 09:18PM 01/11/2011

Romar: ‘We take this very seriously’

Player unidentified as yet, but Romar says all will travel to next game while police check rape allegation by 16-year-old

UW coach Lorenzo Romar has to deal with another distraction on his team. (Drew Sellers/Sports Press Northwest)

As the Washington Huskies prepare for a game at Stanford Thursday night, they are dealing with the distraction of a police investigation involving a teammate.

As long as the player’s identity isn’t revealed, all 13 players can fall under public suspicion.

“Publicly, maybe it could be,” said UW Coach Lorenzo Romar, asked if the situation is unfair for the rest of his players. “(But) I don’t know.”

Since it is an active Seattle Police Department sexual assault investigation and no arrests have been made nor charges brought, SPD policy is to redact all names involved. Further, the alleged victim is a 16-year-old girl, so the department is being especially protective. A source familiar with the investigation said police are interviewing witnesses.

Yet it was the university’s response to the investigation that may have complicated matters. In an effort to provide more transparency with media and public, the university issued a statement Monday night that created intense  media interest.

The statement read: “The department of intercollegiate athletics has learned of a police investigation based on allegations surrounding a current UW student-athlete. At this time, the university does not have a comment on the matter.”

Several local outlets ran a story on the incident, all without naming the player. The UW statement also was picked up by The Associated Press and was a headline on several national sports websites, including ESPN.com. A widespread policy followed by most news organizations is to avoid publishing stories on police investigations until an arrest is made, but the university’s acknowledgment of the investigation apparently made the story publishable.

The incident allegedly occurred late Saturday night after the Huskies’ victory over Oregon State. KIRO TV, which first obtained the redacted police report, referred to the player as “prominent” in its story on its website and evening news broadcast.

Allegedly, the 16-year-old, who corresponded with the player on Facebook, met at an apartment near Garfield High school. She claimed the the sexual assault occurred at the apartment.

After the incident, she called her mother and uncle from a nearby intersection and was taken to Harborview Medical Center, where she was examined and interviewed by police.

“We have been informed that this is an investigation about an allegation in regards to one of our student/athletes,” said Romar to open his weekly press conference Tuesday afternoon. “I want you to know it’s something that we take very seriously at this point. I want to repeat that. It’s very serious.

“However, there is not nearly enough information at this point for us to determine what’s going to be done here. Right now we have to give it a little more time to decide what’s going to become of it.”

In an unusual move, practice was closed to the media. Romar confirmed that the player under investigation would practice with the team and was expected to make the trip to the Bay Area Wednesday.

“With our group, there are things that you battle all the time – this is unique – but can be a distraction to your team,” Romar said. “Hopefully, your relationship with the team is good enough that when something happens you are prepared somewhat to deal with it.

“We haven’t covered everything. Sometimes things arise in sports and family situations that just haven’t happened before. You have to deal with that. For some situations, there’s not necessarily a manual for it. But I think we have a together group. Whatever happens within our group, I think we handle it together.”

The university has a procedure that outlines the athletic department’s response to various scenarios involving student-athletes. Athletic director Scott Woodward, who was unavailable for comment, would be the one to make those decisions.

But as a university spokesman said, “It’s on a case-by-case basis.” He said different situations can require different responses.

Asked if this was the most serious incident Romar has dealt with in his nine years as UW’s head coach, he declined to answer.

He added that in terms of behavior, “We always address different things. As a team, sometimes things will happen elsewhere. You can use it as a teaching point as a group. We have individual sessions, on the road, in the airport where we’re just talking. We have on-going talks on a number of different topics.”

The news comes just a week after the team learned that starting point guard Abdul Gaddy will miss the rest of the season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. He will have surgery Friday.

Senior Venoy Overton started in Gaddy’s spot but junior guard Isaiah Thomas took over much of the play-making duties. The pair helped the 17th-ranked Huskies (12-3 overall) to two wins against the Oregon schools. For his efforts, Thomas was named Pac-10 Conference Player of the Week for the first time in his career.

UW is off to a 4-0 start in Pac-10 Conference play, the best start since 1984.

Now comes another, more serious, distraction.

“Adversity is always interesting how people handle it,” Romar said. “We will see.”


YourThoughts

  • DAWGONE in AZ

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    Follow Bob C’s lead in how to run a blog effectively and I bet you’ll see a strong readership in the months to come.
    Good luck!

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