Start with common human decency.
It wasn’t Oregon State administrators or coaches who sat star pitcher Luke Heimlich on Friday for an undetermined amount of time. It was the player himself — an admitted, convicted sex offender who molested a then-six-year-old girl.
After a Portland Oregonian story detailed his sordid background as a teenager this week, Heimlich himself said Friday in a statement that he “requested to be excused from playing at this time.”
For a day? For a week? For now? Forever? We don’t know. Heimlich is eligible for the 2017 MLB Draft, so hopefully this is the last we see of the junior who probably shouldn’t have been allowed to build an 11-1 record and sub-1.00 ERA in the first place.
But some shred of decency prevailed because Oregon State’s championship chances have at least been diminished. The No. 1 Beavers entered Friday’s Super Regional against Vanderbilt at 52-4.
The right thing to do would have been to pass on Heimlich in the first place three years ago. But Oregon State doesn’t ban felons from competing as athletes. Amazingly, neither does the NCAA.
It’s still not clear when school officials knew of Heimlich’s crimes. One thing is damn sure: He made it through recruitment and enrollment without much vetting.
Heimlich was cited in April after failing to register as a sex offender in Benton County, Oregon.
Court records obtained by The Oregonian showed the Beavers star pitcher pleaded guilty to molesting that six-year-old female relative in 2012.
Heimlich was 15 years old at the time. Another charge involving the same girl when she was four was dropped as part of a plea bargain.
Oregon State coach Pat Casey apparently doesn’t conduct background checks and has never done so. Heimlich’s statement on Friday came from a “family legal advisor.” So here we are with another reminder that in college sports, the right thing to do is sometimes the last thing to be done.
“It’s painful and hurtful,” said rape victim and activist Brenda Tracy, a former Oregon State student. “A school can be so proactive and so good and do so many good things and drop the ball like this.”
Tracy was gang-raped by four men — two of them Oregon State football players — in an off-campus apartment in 1998. She has a meeting next week on this matter set up with Ed Ray, the Oregon State president who apologized for her assault and hired her as a consultant after Tracy’s story became public.
“I’ve been crying the last couple of days,” she said after becoming aware of Heimlich’s crime.
Ray said the pitcher’s conduct was “disturbing” and that his school “does not condone the conduct.” Except it did, tacitly, until Heimlich pulled himself off the field.
Don’t forget, Ray was the same powerful administrator who stood in judgment of Penn State as head of the NCAA Executive Committee five years ago.
That committee slapped Penn State with a four-year bowl ban and a $60 million fine for similar crimes committed by former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. The difference being, at the time of the Penn State penalties, Sandusky had been arrested and three Penn State administrators were being investigated.
In 2015, Ray advocated for the Pac-12 banning transfers with a history of serious misconduct. Ray will now also be known as overseeing an athletic department that played a sex offender.
Feel free to consider him a hypocrite.
The pitcher finally did the right thing but only after he was outed by a pair of dogged reporters. And we should also mention at least four MLB teams have dropped him off their draft boards.
So let’s not go crazy here patting folks on the back. A pro prospect/convicted felon cultivated his brand, blew away hitters and won games for the Beavers while taking the public’s money in the form of a state-supported scholarship.
This single episode has the potential to melt any shred of faith you may have in the NCAA and college sports. The Collegiate Model (as the NCAA likes to capitalize it)? Amateur sports as a molder of young athletes?
The NCAA and Oregon State are non-profit entities, apparently with non-souls. The Oregonian also reported the school has no idea how many felons it has competing on its teams.
Really? Check with Benton County law enforcement. They know. The only reason Heimlich was discovered was because a county sheriff’s deputy tracked down the pitcher during a sweep of sex offenders who let their registration lapse.
Meanwhile, the NCAA is the same organization who told a court that it has no “legal duty” to protect athletes in a lawsuit brought by the family of a deceased Division III player.
Please ignore the fact Heimlich is classified as a low-risk repeat sex offender in the state of Washington, where the crime occurred. Weren’t the optics nauseating enough?
In April, Indiana University banned recruits with a history of sexual or domestic violence. My first reaction: Doesn’t everybody do that?
Starting Monday, Tracy intends to contact each Power Five athletic director and president urging them to adopt Indiana’s policy. Oregon State should be first to the front of the line.
Say all you want about the. The tailback was suspended for a year. Heimlich took himself out of competition — for now.
Meanwhile, a now-11-year-old girl is scarred forever.
“He got two years of counseling and classes [due to his crimes],” the girl’s mother told The Oregonian. “My daughter’s life has been changed for the rest of her life.”