Former ND football player could visit despite alleged 1998 ban
By MYRA McGRIFF
Saint Mary's Editor
Former Notre Dame tailback Cooper Rego is scheduled to return to campus this weekend as a member of the West Virginia football team despite being banned from campus in 1998.
According to Notre Dame alumna Kori Pienovi and an August 2001 e-mail from a senior Residence Life and Housing administrator to Pienovi, Rego was banned from campus as part of a disciplinary decision in 1998.
The administrator did not deny writing the e-mail.
Pienovi said that Rego was expelled from school and banned from campus for raping her. The reasons for Rego's transfer to West Virginia nor the details of his disciplinary action were revealed in 1998.
West Virginia sports information director Shelly Poe confirmed that Rego is scheduled to play for the Mountaineers, Saturday.
"As far as I know there isn't any issue about it," Poe said Friday.
Calls to Rego's listed number in West Virginia were not returned Sunday night.
Notre Dame officials had no comment on the situation. Bill Kirk and Father Mark Poorman, assistant vice president of Residence Life and vice president of Residence Life, respectively, did not return several phone calls seeking comment.
Athletic director Kevin White's office declined to comment and referred questions to the General Counsel Office. General Counsel referred all questions to Denny Moore, director of Public Relations.
Moore confirmed that the University has been in contact with West Virginia but Notre Dame is not at liberty to discuss its own position stating that the University is "protected from discussion under federal law."
Disciplinary proceedings are considered private parts of students educational record by federal law.
Moore did discuss Notre Dame's general policy on upholding bans on students.
He stated that if a banned student charged with sexual assault were to come on campus and security was made aware of the situation the student would be asked to leave.
He made a distinction for a student banned coming to campus as a group rather than an individual.
"As an individual, security would ask them to leave … As a group, that is some thing different, something we haven't been confronted with," Moore said.
All banned individuals pose a threat, regardless of group affiliation, according to Pienovi.
"If they knowingly let a rapist on campus then they are knowingly endangering the Notre Dame and Saint Mary's community," she said.
Pienovi contacted the school two months ago to determine what actions Notre Dame would take to keep Rego off campus. Notre Dame's indecision makes her uneasy.
"I would not be contacting the media if I was 100 percent sure that Notre Dame would follow through with what they told me ... It's been two months and they haven't made a decision. I am confused why they are considering it ... what is there to decide?" she said.
Letting Rego on campus does more than just break a disciplinary decision, for Pienovi it breaks a working relationship she built with the University. Pienovi spoke at freshman orientation meetings about her experiences as a sexual assault victim for her last three years at Notre Dame and made a video that is shown to all freshman so her story would not be forgotten after her graduation in 2001. She worked very closely with Residence Life to improve sexual assault awareness at Notre Dame since her attack four years ago.
All her work, Pienovi fears, will be jeopardized if Rego is allowed on campus for Saturday's home game
"If they don't uphold the ban it will make other women more hesitant to come forward in the future," she said.
Contact Myra McGriff at
All News Stories for Monday, October 8, 2001