Saskatoon’s Sexual Assault and Information Centre (SSAIC) is voicing concern over a U of S volleyball coach’s decision to recruit a player who was out on bail on a sex assault charge.
Matthew Meyer joined the Huskies men’s volleyball team in 2016, months after he was arrested and charged for sexually assaulting a fellow student at Medicine Hat College. He was academically ineligible to play for the team in 2016-17, but participated in the entire 2017-18 season while still out on bail.
On Monday, he was sentenced to two years in prison and three years probation after pleading guilty to sexual assault and voyeurism for violating a woman who had passed out drunk and taking 147 photos of the incident.
The University of Saskatchewan fired head coach Brian Gavlas on Thursday, days after he told the Prince Albert Daily Herald he was aware of the charges when he recruited Meyer.
He told the paper, “from my perspective as a coach and as a father, I thought being involved with our team and our program would be best at this particular stage in his life.”
SSAIC Communications Manager Megan Evans said she was relieved to see the university act fast to address the situation by firing Gavlas, but she was concerned about the coach’s words.
“What Gavlas had said would be appropriate if Meyer had vandalized some mailboxes, but the issue here is Gavlas has completely negated the devastation caused to Meyer’s victim,” she said. “Playing for a post-secondary athletics team means additional status and opportunity for the offender … so it’s essentially a reward for committing a sexual assault.”
She added it was troubling to see Meyer welcomed to the team, especially given the men’s and women’s volleyball teams often travelled and practiced in close proximity.
“You’re essentially, probably giving the predator more access to more victims,” she said.
Evans noted the SSAIC worked with the U of S on the start of the university’s sexual assault policies.
She said it was “unfortunate” the work the campus administration had done on the file was tarnished by “a staff member operating out of ignorance.”
“We trust they’ll be doing everything they can to ensure this doesn’t happen again in the future,” she said.
The U of S told 650 CKOM on Thursday they are reviewing their student-athlete recruitment processes, and are communicating with coaches and players about the Huskie Athletics Code of Conduct.
They added a review board is being convened to assess whether Meyer is eligible to continue as a student at the university.