UH continues silence over 'punishment workouts'; expert questions Title IX violations

By Mario Diaz - Reporter

HOUSTON - University of Houston senior leadership continues to avoid an interview with Channel 2 Investigates pertaining to a 2018 punishment workout.

The workout was executed because two women's soccer team players were accused of stealing food from the football players, according to multiple sources.

Multiple people associated with the women’s soccer program have confirmed the workout took place and it resulted in one player being hospitalized for nearly five days with a potentially deadly medical condition known as rhabdomyolysis.

UH Athletic Director Chris Pezman and University President Renu Khator are not willing to go on camera.

What others are saying

However, others are speaking with Channel 2 Investigates.

"I don’t think there is any question that they knew physical punishment existed,” Title IX expert Donna Lopiano said.

Immediately following our initial report last week, the University of Houston announced it had launched an internal review.

"An internal review usually isn't best practice,” Lopiano, a former director of women's athletics at the University of Texas for nearly 20 years, said.

Lopiano also served as CEO of the Women's Sports Foundation for 15 years.

Considered one of the leading experts on Title IX, Lopiano has testified on multiple occasions before members of the United States Congress in Washington, D.C., on the subject.

Channel 2 Investigates traveled to her home in Connecticut to get her reaction to the February 2018 punishment workout, as well as those detailed in recent soccer program handbooks.

"If I saw that as an athletic director, I'd have a heart attack,” Lopiano said.

When asked how is it inside the handbook of the University of Houston for women soccer players, she said, "I can only deduce that nobody is looking. There is no oversight."

Potential Title IX violations

Title IX is a federal law that states, "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance."

Here is what some people are telling Channel 2 Investigates

Lopiano

"If you have rules for the football team that treats male football players differently than players on the women's soccer team, then that is a red flag in terms of Title IX."

Ramogi Huma, executive director of the National College Players Association

"The female athletes deserve the same protections as the male athletes, and those girls that went through that workout were not protected."

Brian Panish, attorney

"It seems to me that there is clearly an inequity in the situation.”

Sen. Paul Bettencourt, member of the Senate Committee on Higher Education

"I'm just shocked there is not a Title IX complaint on this already."

Lopiano

"How many other female athletes are subjected to physical punishment? How many male athletes are subjected to physical punishment? It would become a Title IX violation if there was a discrepancy there."

Questions not being answered by UH

Since last Friday, Channel 2 Investigates has asked twice for a response to various questions in the aftermath of last week’s reports.

Here are a sample of the inquiries that have gone unanswered:

  • What specifically did UH learn that the university was unaware of in the past?
  • From records we have obtained, we cannot identify any type of investigation that was done following the immediate aftermath of the February 2018 case. Was there one? If so, what did it show?
  • The university has very clear guidelines regarding hazing. If there was a punishment and a player ended up in the hospital, was law enforcement ever brought in to investigate?

We are still hoping for an opportunity to speak on camera with Athletic Director Pezman or President Khator. Our invitation remains open.

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