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OU athletic director Joe Castiglione responds to recent Westbrook, Mixon column: Letter to the Editor

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Joe Castiglione

OU Athletic Director Joe Castiglione on the field during the Big 12 Championship celebration Dec. 3.

Dear Editor:

There were unfounded assertions in a recent OU Daily column relative to our care for women on the OU campus and it is important that we address them.

Nearly a decade ago, we became one of the first athletics departments in the country to initiate independent background checks, and set the system up in such a way that the athletics department cannot influence the results. There was no requirement to take that step, but we wanted to act responsibly on behalf of our campus. Even today, there are many athletics departments nationally that do not conduct such searches.

In the case of Dede Westbrook, who joined our program in 2014, the checks came back to us as totally clear. The public record still shows no convictions or findings of guilt. In our commitment to continued improvement in all areas, we now have a more extensive search than we did in 2014.

In the Frank Shannon case, OU followed all of the provisions of federal law. The op-ed did not mention that our President appealed all the way to the state Supreme Court to assure that the Title IX process, which recommended suspension of the player from the University for a year, was enforced and not blocked by lower court action.

On several occasions, the information we received from the background checks has eliminated prospective student-athletes from inclusion in our program. Our own investigative efforts apart from the background checks have similarly resulted in our department declining any future involvement with some individuals. Obviously we do not announce those moves publicly, but their frequency would illustrate our diligence.

These are complicated matters that should be judged on their own merits. There is a temptation to link them together, but we owe it to all parties involved to review them individually. Allegations are investigated by law enforcement officials and the campus' own judicial system. Once those facts, and any other information we can gather are available, we move forward in the decision-making process.

If that process leads to disciplinary action, we have taken that step consistently. Those consequences can result in a range of disciplinary steps including suspensions, redemptive opportunities and dismissals.

The assertion that we don't care about women or any of the students on our campus is simply wrong. We've had a few instances that drew public attention, but there are several other examples that reflect our concern. We deserve to be judged on balance.

We're serving nearly 600 student-athletes every year. The vast majority excel academically and in the community. We've witnessed record grade point averages and many civic awards, and we're proud of those accomplishments. Unfortunately, there are rare instances when behavior falls short of our standard and we're working hard to address those responsibly. At OU, we do care.

Joe Castiglione

Vice President and Director of Athletics

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