Lawsuit claiming ex-UT track coach abused athletes allowed to move forward

Education

Former UT high jump coach John Rembao is pictured with former UT athlete Erin Aldrich, who gained a spot to compete for Team USA at the World Junior Championships in 1996. (Courtesy: FeganScott LLC)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A lawsuit claiming a University of Texas at Austin track coach sexually abused athletes will be allowed to move forward, according to a judge’s recent ruling.

The coach attempted to dismiss the case, claiming it was outside the statute of limitations, but the U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of California denied that motion.

“The seriousness of the issue before the Court cannot be overstated. In recent years, it has
become clear that sexual assault on college campuses is a pervasive problem. Of course, as Larry Nassar demonstrated, sexual assault on college campuses is not limited to peer-to-peer assault; it also occurs between coaches and their athletes,” the Judge Edward J. Davila wrote in the decision, referencing the former gymnastics coach who was sentenced after pleading guilty to sexual assault of minors and child porn charges. “This case focuses on that latter type of sexual assault and addresses the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (“NCAA”) responsibility (if any) to prevent sexual misconduct by collegiate coaches.”

Three former athletes filed the federal class-action lawsuit in March, claiming John Rembao sexually abused and harassed several students between 1998 and 2000. Rembao was a Track and Field assistant coach at UT and had also coached at the University of Arizona and worked for Team USA. The National Collegiate Athletic Association and the Board of Governors of the National Collegiate Athletic Association are also listed as defendants in the lawsuit.

One of the plaintiffs had filed a formal complaint at UT Austin against Rembao, but the judge’s motion said UT “exonerated Defendant Rembao” in its final report on the complaint in November 2000.

“Without equitable tolling to protect sexual abuse survivors’ access to justice, the intimidation tactics allegedly used by UT Austin would be condoned. This is another interest to consider,” the judge wrote. “As society progresses and the acts of the past are condoned, it seems unjust to deprive a plaintiff of her day in court.”

KXAN has reached out to UT for comment on the motion. UT updated its policy for handling sexual assault and harassment cases this year, including making firing the “presumptive punishment” for employees found to have committed these violations and making information in the cases public.

The judge also accepted a separate motion from the NCAA and Board of Governors, which asked to dismiss the case because it wasn’t being tried in the correct jurisdiction. The judge transferred jurisdiction of the claims against those defendants from California to the Southern District of Indiana.

The judge’s order said the plaintiffs in the case must file an amended complaint by the end of September.

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