LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A woman who said she was raped by two Oregon State football players and two other men in 1998 while Mike Riley was the head coach of the Beavers spoke Wednesday to Riley’s Nebraska team about her experience.
“As part of our ongoing educational efforts, I invited Brenda Tracy to Lincoln, to share her experiences with the young men in our program,” Riley said in a statement. “Brenda has suffered immeasurable pain and has shown the strength and willingness to share her story. Her story today was powerful and I know that it left an indelible imprint on our student-athletes, staff, and myself.”
The Associated Press generally doesn’t identify sexual assault victims, but Tracy has spoken publicly to draw attention to her situation.
Tracy has been vocal in her resentment about how authorities and Riley handled the fallout of the alleged assault in Corvallis, Oregon. The men Tracy accused were arrested but never charged, and Riley suspended the two players for one game — a penalty Tracy has said trivialized the seriousness of the matter.
Tracy told KOIN 6 News when she first saw Riley he said, “Hi, Brenda,” and that’s when she hugged him and began to cry.
Riley is the man who, Tracy said, she hated more than the men she said raped her.
When he was at Oregon State, Riley had spoken with Tracy about having her speak to his players, but a meeting wasn’t scheduled before Riley left for the Nebraska job in December 2014.
“Sexual assault and harassment are serious issues on campuses across America,” Riley said. “We try to recruit young men of character with core values, and once they are here, we educate them on making good decisions and treating all people with the utmost of respect.”
Riley said he spoke with Tracy at length and told her that he appreciated her willingness to come to Lincoln. He said he supports her efforts to create awareness about sexual assault.
“Out of respect to Brenda, I will not share details of our conversation but I hope to have the opportunity to continue our dialogue,” Riley said. “This has been an important day for me and for our football program and we must keep the focus on the victims, and on preventing inexcusable acts in the future.”
She flew to Lincoln on Wednesday to meet with Riley and the entire Cornhusker football team — 144 players. She said she talked about consent and accountability, how athletes have a powerful voice to help change the culture — and that she went into the meeting without expectations.
Tracy first told her story to The Oregonian in 2014. She has since given interviews to other media outlets.
She said she was raped while visiting the apartment of her friend’s boyfriend. She said she accepted a drink that she believes now was drugged and lost consciousness. She said the four men assaulted her over seven hours.
Tracy’s appearance at Nebraska comes in the wake of an investigation that found officials at Baylor mishandled sex assault allegations for years, including some made against football players.
Asked if she forgives Riley, Tracy said she does.
“Yeah, and when I say that I always like to preface it with sometimes people think forgiveness is condoning someone’s behavior or accepting someone’s behavior and it’s not. Really, forgiveness is about me, not him.”
Tracy and her son have started a petition urging the NCAA to ban violent athletes. They maintain a human life is more important than the win-loss column.
Tracy said she will continue to be an advocate and a voice for rape survivors. Making the trip to Nebraska was incredibly difficult, she said, but she’s glad she went.
KOIN 6 News reporter Cole Miller contributed to this report.