Butte’s bad call

Allowing an alleged rapist to participate in sports gives the college a black eye

On the one hand, Butte College, and President Kimberly Perry in particular, should be praised for dismissing a student from the football team pending the outcome of felony criminal charges he faces. On the other, the local community college has left the public with many unanswered questions. For starters, what was the school thinking when it allowed an accused rapist to join the team’s roster? Was he recruited?

The fact that 20-year-old Brandon Banks was booted from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., should have served as a lot more than a red flag (see “Fumbling with felonies,” Newslines, page 8). And the fact is, Athletics Director Craig Rigsbee knew that Banks was awaiting trial in November. The young defensive back faces five counts of aggravated rape and two counts of aggravated sexual battery stemming from the alleged assault of an unconscious woman in a school dormitory. Clearly, this was not the time to invite him to join the Roadrunners.

This issue came to light in recent days, when a Nashville-based TV news investigative team started asking questions about Banks being allowed to play. One of Butte’s top administrators, Al Renville, acknowledged that Rigsbee had sought direction about whether a student facing criminal charges was eligible academically. He maintains the decision to allow that student to play football was the athletic director’s call.

We agree that Banks is entitled to due process and shouldn’t have been denied access to enrolling at the college. But being invited to join the campus’ national championship football team is another story. Rigsbee should have known better, and Renville should have asked more questions from the athletics director.

Perry, the college president, says the school is conducting an immediate review of its athletic enrollment policies. That’s a start. Beyond policy, however, the school needs to put student safety ahead of the pursuit of future football championships.