Looking back, it shouldn’t have been a surprise. For several years I’d received emails regarding Matt Kavanaugh’s unsettling behavior, particularly around women at UD. These stories would almost always coincide with an account of Kav’s profound arrogance and how he seemed to go out of his way to make sure his presence, welcomed or not, was known to those around him. Loud, obnoxious, socially awkward, entitled and dumb – these were the most oft-repeated adjectives that seemed to follow Kavanaugh around like an airborne virus.
Recollections of his cornering of girls at Tim’s and creepy one-hundred yard stares were already the stuff of legend before the rape allegations even surfaced. I remember one email in particular stating, “It’s only a matter of time before he rapes someone” after witnessing some questionable, yet apparently typical, behavior by Kavanaugh at Dayton to Daytona last May. I guess there’s always some truth in jest. So when rumors of Kavanaugh’s rape investigation began to emerge late last summer, I wasn’t particularly surprised (Which isn’t to say I was convinced of his guilt from the outset, far from it).
What is established about the incident(s) of that night is slight and to some extent characteristic for incidents of alleged rapes. The accuser was just a 17 year-old freshman, two separate incidents occurred on that particular night – one in a Ghetto house basement and another at Kavanaugh’s Caldwell Street dorm room – and, not surprising, there was a lot of drinking going on throughout the day in question.
In short, it was a typical “he said-she said” rape scenario. Not enough physical evidence to indict, no corroborating witnesses to substantiate either student’s claims. Ultimately, Montgomery County declined to proceed further with its investigation and UD’s senior center was not criminally charged with sexual assault. Kavanaugh, and the University of Dayton, had effectively dodged a nightmarish public relations bullet. There would be no trial, no further publicity to further besmirch their respective names. Speculation and innuendo are always preferable to revelation.
Fortunately for all involved, this situation did not unfold like similar incidents at Notre Dame. The school cooperated with the police, UD did not discourage anyone from talking to authorities (there was no “wall of silence”), the accused was not threatened via text by other UD players/students and she did not end up committing suicide. The alleged rapist in the Notre Dame case didn’t even miss a single practice while the investigation was conducted; Kavanaugh was removed from all team activities immediately.
Nor did it resemble the embarrassing manner in which Xavier handled the Dez Wells case. UD did not rush to judgment, it let the process evolve organically and permitted the facts to emerge in due time. Xavier pulled the trigger on Wells’ expulsion before anyone in their administrative offices even had a chance to catch their breath. Notre Dame and Xavier provided UD with a blueprint on how not to handle allegations of sexual assault on campus, and the university, to its credit, acted with resolve and foresight. For that, we can all be thankful.
However, Kavanaugh wasn’t absolved completely. The University handed the Centreville native a suspension for the entire school year, “for violating the university’s standards of behavior and code of conduct.” Consequently, the accuser withdrew from the university shortly thereafter. As her father stated, safety was very much a concern.
“I’m concerned for my daughter in that the big man on campus got kicked out of school and my little girl didn’t even know who he was. And I’m concerned about any repercussions against her from crazy basketball fans,” the girl’s father added.
In turn, Kavanaugh’s parents put out a statement of their own, unsolicited, proclaiming their “deep and profound disappointment” with the University’s decision to suspend their son for the entire academic year. Does the unabashed haughtiness of trying to get last word in all of this reflect negatively on the Kavanaughs? I’ll let you decide.
Throughout the year, Kavanaugh had his supporters – as well he should. No one knows with certainty what occurred that night. The fact that there wasn’t enough physical evidence to pursue charges certainly doesn’t clear Kavanaugh’s name outright (most sexual assaults are tried without a shred of physical evidence – only 25% of rape allegations even result in an arrest. It is by far the toughest crime to indict and convict), but it is clearly an indication that the events that night may not have been committed with the use of force.
Furthermore, we weren’t privy to the discussions that occurred behind closed doors with UD’s disciplinary board. No one knows with certainty the findings that led to Dayton’s decision to hand down a suspension, but we, and especially Kavanaugh, had to accept it and move on.
Or so we thought. We all had a suspicion that Doug Harris’ article in yesterday’s Dayton Daily News was coming eventually, sooner or later. With UD’s lack of depth upfront coming into next season, Kavanaugh’s future with the program was certainly going to be reexamined this off-season (I am, of course, joking. It’s not like people are willing to overlook accusations of rape simply because their mid-major basketball team lacks size, right? Of course not, that would indicate something very sinister lies in the hearts of some UD fans).
Harris begins his piece with this suggestive passage:
Senior center Matt Kavanaugh, who was suspended for the 2012-13 school year for a violation of the school’s code of conduct, could return to Dayton and play his final season for the Flyers.
UD has an open scholarship for the upcoming season, and the 6-foot-10, 250-pound Centerville native could be in line to claim it.
“There’s interest on his end and there’s interest on our end,” a source at UD said.
Has Kavanaugh paid his penance? We do know this much, his future is irreparably harmed forever. When a simple Google search for your name results in terms like “alleged rape” and “criminal probe,” job prospects with reputable employers are almost inconceivable. Fair or not, Kavanaugh will wear the scarlet letter of a sexual predator wherever he goes.
If Kavanaugh is permitted to re-enroll, does it change the perception of our university? The answer is clearly yes for some, likely no for others (although these people are unmistakably fooling themselves). Are we comfortable with allowing someone with Kav’s baggage to continue to represent the university? Lastly, are Kavanaugh’s contributions to the team, which would be for just a year, 30 games, even worth the scrutiny that would come with his re-enrollment? These are questions we, and the powers that be at UD, must fully address.
Whether or not he was falsely accused will unfortunately never be known with certainty, but it is without question that Kavanaugh used very poor judgment. Those that take a strong stance on either the side of guilt or innocence need to question their motives. Whatever your thoughts on Kavanaugh, it’s clear that he committed a serious misstep, one he is lucky to have endured. For that, he should not be rewarded. Playing on the University of Dayton basketball team is a privilege, not a right.
So here’s the simple solution: If Kavanaugh really wants to attend the University of Dayton next season, and play on the basketball team, he should do so without a scholarship. Let him pony up the money it costs to attend UD and permit someone else, a kid with a clean slate that deserves the opportunity, to take the scholarship Kavanaugh didn’t respect enough in the first place.
Tom Blackburn is a proud U. o' D. alum. He loses faith in humanity one day at a time, but not in you, you seem like you are all kinds of alright. Charter member of the T-Man fanclub.