Article Brief

After televised reports of workouts harming numerous University of Houston athletes, NCPA Executive Director Ramogi Huma's sends letter to University of Houston Chairman calling for an independent investigation and accountability.

June 14, 2019

 

Dear Chairman Fertitta,

 My name is Ramogi Huma and I am the Executive Director of the National College Players Association (NCPA), an advocacy group comprised of over 20,000 current and former Division I college athletes.  The NCPA has been at the forefront of advocating for mandatory health and safety standards to protect college athletes from serious injury, death, and abuse.  I am contacting you in response to disturbing revelations that more than a dozen University of Houston women’s soccer players developed rhabdomyolysis, a preventable but potentially deadly condition, following team workouts.

The NCPA is calling on the University of Houston Board of Regents to immediately commission an independent investigation into this matter because the “internal review” announced by the University of Houston is already compromised.

On June 12, 2019, the University of Houston publicly stated that it initiated an “internal review” claiming it first learned details about this issue during a news segment that aired on Houston KPRC 2 on June 11th, 2019.  However, the same TV station reported on June 13, 2019 that it had obtained emails detailing information about these issues that were circulated in January 2019 among top University of Houston officials including Chris Pezman (Athletic Director) and Renu Khator (President).  KPRC 2 also aired many details regarding this issue on April.

The health and safety of current and future University of Houston athletes depends on a credible, timely, thorough, and transparent investigation.  Such an investigation should include but not be limited to:

  1. Guaranteed whistleblower protections for all current and former athletes interviewed (no retaliation).
  2. Ample availability for private discussions with every athlete thought to be present at each workout with the option of each athlete to be accompanied by a representative and/or family member.
  3. The option for athletes to remain a Jane Doe or John Doe and submit written statements.
  4. A determination as to why punishment workouts were utilized against the 2012 recommendations of “The Consensus Statement Guidelines to Prevent Sudden Death During Collegiate Conditioning Sessions” which was jointly published by the NCAA, National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA), and numerous other organizations.  It sates in part, “Do not use exercise and conditioning activities as punishment.”
  5. A determination of whether or not university personnel conducted the workouts in question in alignment with best practices to prevent rhabdomyolysis and other potential deadly conditions.
  6. A determination of university personnel who were actively or passively responsible for delays in responding to the 2018 and 2019 workouts related to the cases of rhabdomyolysis.
  7. A determination of individuals actively or passively responsible for the University of Houston’s declaration that it became aware of details of this issue on June 11, 2019 despite the email in January 2019 circulated among top university officials and media coverage in April 2019 detailing the matter.
  8. A determination of whether or not any university personnel shared responsibility in endangering women’s soccer players, failing to take corrective action in a timely manner, and/or attempting to cover up or mislead what they knew and when they knew it.  This should include Mr. Pezman’s apparent omission of mentioning the rhabdomyolysis cases in his discussion of athlete well-being to the Board of Regents.
  9. A determination of why women’s soccer players lacked enough food and the degree to which the lack of adequate food presents an increased risk of various workout related hazards.

10. A determination as to whether or not university treatment of its women’s soccer players and its action/inaction complied with Title IX.

11. Going forward, how the University of Houston and its personnel should be held accountable for adopting and implementing best practices to minimize/prevent serious injury, death, and abuse among its athletes; and taking corrective actions in a timely manner.

12. Findings made available to the public.

Any university personnel to found to share responsibility in endangering women’s soccer players, failing to take corrective action in a timely manner, and/or attempting to cover up or mislead what they knew and when they knew it, should be terminated.

In addition, the NCPA is also calling on the Board of Trustees to immediately and permanently provide the means for athletes in all sports to anonymously report hazardous conditions and abuse without any form of retaliation. 

While University of Houston personnel may have made poor and dangerous decisions, this is an opportunity to demonstrate to current athletes, recruits, and the public that the University of Houston will conduct an athletic program that holds the well-being of its athletes as the top priority. 

It is my hope that as Chairman of the Board of Regents, you will lead by example and take timely, decisive action.  I would appreciate a response to this request by Thursday June 20, 2019.  Thank you. 

 

Sincerely,

 

Ramogi Huma

NCPA Executive Director