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AAU to announce mandatory screening of coaches, staff

  • Article by: KYLE HIGHTOWER
  • Associated Press
  • June 11, 2012 - 8:35 AM

ORLANDO, Fla. - The Amateur Athletic Union is expected to announce new mandatory background screening for all adult coaches, volunteers and staff, as well as stricter training protocols to govern interaction with youth athletes, a person familiar with the situation said.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the AAU has not publicly announced the findings of an internal review of its best practices. The person did not say how the screening would be conducted, but said the system-wide background checks and screenings would not pose an unfair or unreasonable financial hardship on anyone. A press conference is scheduled for Tuesday at the AAU's national headquarters.

A six-month review by two task forces focused on youth protection and adult volunteering screening. The panels produced a joint 30-page report with their recommendations for changes to AAU's polices, protocols and procedures. Those recommendations are expected to be revealed Tuesday.

AAU commissioned the review last December in the wake of decades-old sex abuse allegations against former president Bobby Dodd. The organization had never faced any abuse allegations prior to those against the 63-year-old, who had it severed all ties with, and he to date has never been charged with a crime.

The oldest organization dedicated to youth athletes in the country, the 124-year-old AAU oversees about 30 sports programs for all ages nationwide, including major sports like football, basketball and baseball to bocce ball, baton twirling and competitive jump rope. More than 500,000 athletes and 50,000 volunteers participate in its programs.

Existing procedures for dealing with adults who violate AAU's code of conduct are expected to be clarified and strengthened as well. And it will be made clear that all staff and volunteers have a responsibility to report any abuse or suspected abuse to law enforcement.

"The AAU is acting decisively because its first priority is not to protect the AAU brand, but to protect the thousands of youth athletes in our events," AAU president Louis Stout said of the upcoming announcements.

AAU had previously done some random screenings of officials, but they were not mandatory.

ESPN reported that two former basketball players had accused Dodd of molesting them as children in Memphis and other locations in the 1980s. But Memphis police suspended their investigation a month later because they could not find any victims, and no one has come forward to file a formal criminal complaint.

Dodd's attorney, Steve Farese, said in January that his client is innocent. Farese said he was not surprised that police did not go forward with a criminal investigation.

One of Dodd's accusers is 43-year-old Ralph West, who alleged that Dodd fondled him, tried to fondle him or masturbated in front of him at Dodd's home in Memphis, the AAU Junior Olympics in South Bend, Ind., and tournaments in Florida, Louisiana and Tennessee. The other accuser spoke to ESPN anonymously and accused Dodd of molesting him at Dodd's home.

Both men said news reports about the Penn State child sex abuse case prompted them to independently confront Dodd in November.

Dodd coached AAU basketball teams in Memphis before joining the organization's national staff more than 20 years ago. Dodd had been an executive with AAU since the 1990s.

Shortly after turning over the allegations to authorities, Stout promised full access in implementing the task force reviews and said he had confidence that AAU acted decisively in cooperating with police.

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