Brandon Austin finds new team after sexual assault allegations

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Brandon Austin will play basketball again.

The sophomore will receive a scholarship to pay for a college education at Northwest Florida State College. He will step onto the hard court for the third team in a year, after he was kicked out of two schools for separate sexual assault allegations.

The 6-foot-6 combo guard was once considered a star recruit, ranked as highly as 45th in the nations by 

In March, Austin and two other basketball players were publicly accused of gang raping a female classmate at the University of Oregon. All three were suspended from the school for at least 10 years, but the district attorney did not press charges.

Before that, Austin attended Providence College, where he and a teammate were suspended for a separate sexual assault claim.

Prosecutors never sought charges in that case either.

Do colleges do enough to protect students?

Lost in the discussion of whether college sports do enough to protect the student athletes is the equally pressing question of whether they should do more to protect the non-athletes.

Students attending public or private universities should not have to worry about their safety.

Of course, there will always be dangers brought on by increased responsibility and independence in an environment full of booze, drugs and parties.

But when idolized, star athletes are the major perpetrators of sexual and physical violence, there is a major concern.

These players are already given scholarships to cover tuition and gifts that can range from free iPads to motor scooters. They are often given special attention, with first choice of classes and a fiefdom of fans calling their names from the stands.

What happens when they become entitled?

What happens when they decide they can take what they want, when they want?

Should Austin be given a third chance?

I do not know Brandon Austin.

I do not know if he and that other Providence College player teamed up on a female classmate who knew them, as was suggested in an internal review revealed by the Wall Street Journal.

I do not know if he and those two other Oregon players forcibly raped a female classmate in multiple locations, while being choked and bitten, as alleged in the original report to Eugene, Ore. police.

However, just because I do not know he is guilty does not mean he is innocent. And it doesn't mean colleges don't need to do more to protect women.

A report released by U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill stated that more than 30 percent of college institutions allow their athletic departments to oversee sexual assault cases.

So those who have the most incentive to protect their athletes from punishment are also supposed to be in charge of prosecuting them.

No wonder so many college assaults never see a courtroom.

Northwest Florida knows about Austin's past, but is convinced that it has the necessary safeguards in place.

"We have the experience, support and resources to help Brandon get back on track towards graduating," Northwest Florida coach Steve DeMeo said in a statement.

Oregon had an athletic department that surely wanted to avoid enabling sexual assault as well. Before that, Providence, a private Catholic school, likely felt the same.

If Northwest Florida is serious about helping Austin graduate, they should be allowed to.

Let him attend classes. Let him seek redemption.

But don't let him play hoops.

That would be a much bigger lesson on how much universities care about protecting their students than any press release about "providing infrastructure" and helping "improve" the life of athletes.

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