Content warning: This article contains themes of sexual and interpersonal violence.
They were #10 in the country.
The 2003 Miami RedHawks football team found themselves there in the final AP Poll, the media’s ranking of the 25 best college football teams in the country. Miami hadn’t been in the top 10 since 1974.
Leading it all was the Mid-American Conference (MAC) MVP and dynamic junior quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, still relatively fresh out of Findlay, Ohio and ready to take his place as a first round pick in the NFL Draft.
Seven years on, he would be wrapped in controversy, and a reputation as an unruly, pushy, rude man known around Pittsburgh for his poor behavior in nightclubs and restaurants.
All because of his own actions.
As detailed in Sports Illustrated in 2010, Roethlisberger’s troubles started in 2008, in a resort near Lake Tahoe, Nevada. According to the accuser, resort employee Andrea McNulty, Roethlisberger called her to his room to “fix a television” – which was apparently in full working order.
In a civil suit filed against Roethlisberger, she depicted Roethlisberger blocking the door of the hotel room, before grabbing, groping, and beginning to kiss her.
In 2010, Roethlisberger was in Milledgeville, Georgia, when he went clubbing at the local college bars. There, he was said to have bought alcohol for several women, some of whom admitted to Roethlisberger and an accompanying Steelers player that they were underage.
At 1 in the morning, he reportedly met one of the underage women, one that his bodyguard had guided alone into a bathroom, and had forcible, non-consensual intercourse.
Roethlisberger was not charged with a crime in either case. The civil case filed against him for the Lake Tahoe incident was settled for an undisclosed amount, and no case was filed for the incident in Georgia.
Both incidents have conflicting reports around them, with a coworker of McNulty making claims of her bragging about consensual sex with Roethlisberger, and while police responded to the incident in Georgia they found no evidence of wrongdoing.
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But it isn’t quite that simple.
In her lawsuit, McNulty stated that she did not file a criminal complaint due to fears that her employer, Harrah’s, would side with Roethlisberger, and that she would lose her job.
According to the Sheriff’s Deputy of Douglas County, where the incident took place, no police investigation could take place without a criminal complaint.
Sgt. Jerry Blash, the Milledgeville police officer who responded to the incident and wrote the criminal report, resigned after the incident over comments he made during his response to the incident.
According to Anthony Barravecchio, a police officer who at the time worked as a bodyguard for Roethlisberger, Blash described Roethlisberger’s accuser as “this drunken bitch” and was dismissive of the claim put by her and her friends later that night.
According to Sports Illustrated, Milledgeville police did not thoroughly conduct an investigation, failing to secure the scene of the crime or interview Roethlisberger in any formal setting. Blash had earlier in the night and along with other Milledgeville officers posed for photos with Roethlisberger.
The Sports Illustrated article depicted a number of other incidents of Roethlisberger’s rude actions towards service workers, including a pattern of lewd comments and generally gross behavior toward women during his time in Pittsburgh.
He served a 4-game suspension in 2010 following the Georgia incident, but has otherwise faced no discipline, either from the NFL or from criminal charges.
I don’t think we need to wait for him to face discipline to disavow him. His actions are enough for that.
By the weight of all his behavior over multiple years, we know Ben Roethlisberger is not a man who continued to live by the Code of Love and Honor upon leaving this school.
We owe it to our students, to our future students, and to his victims, to cast him off into the dustbin of history and find or create better role models, who live by the Code through their words and actions.
He spent his college football years here. He got his degree here. But he does not represent Miami.
Disowning him now is simply the least we can do.
And one day, we’ll be able to forget him.