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USNA chief says no double standard for athletes

ANNAPOLIS — The new superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy said he does not now believe there is “a cultural issue” in Navy sports with the kind of lax oversight of athletes that is being investigated at the U.S. Air Force Academy, but if there is “we’re going to take care of it.”

Vice Adm. Ted Carter spoke to reporters Thursday for the first time since he arrived as the new superintendent in July. Carter said he spoke with the superintendent of the U.S. Air Force Academy after it launched an investigation this month into its athletic department and demanded greater accountability from coaches due to reports of athlete misconduct, including allegations of sexual abuse. Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson, the Air Force Academy superintendent, told coaches this month to take a bigger role in preventing sexual assaults.

Navy had its own high-profile case last year involving sexual assault allegations against three football players. Charges against two were dropped, and a third man was acquitted in March.

“My sense is that I don’t have a cultural issue here, even given the headlines that were in the paper last year and, trust me, I’m not coming in here blind. If there is an issue, we’re going to take care of it,” Carter said.

Congress and the Pentagon are closely monitoring sexual assaults at the Air Force, Army and Navy academies. A Department of Defense report in January said a culture of disrespect permeates the schools and contributes to sexual harassment and assaults. The report identified sports and club teams as an area where the academies needed to expand training.

Carter said he spoke to faculty and staff of Navy’s sports teams on Thursday.

“There has to be an understanding,” Carter said. “There’s no double standard here at the Naval Academy.”

The superintendent, who entered the academy just after female students were first admitted in 1976, also noted the growing role of women in the Navy. This year’s incoming class is about 25 percent female — the highest in the academy’s history — compared to less than 10 percent when Carter first became a midshipman as a member of the class of 1981. Carter said he has observed big changes in acceptance of women in the Navy during his career.

“There’s a brother-sister mentality in those squadrons,” Carter said, referring to Navy personnel he observed while in foreign ports. “That was not that way 35 years ago. It wasn’t that way, at least not my observation, when I saw the young, female midshipmen here.”

The superintendent also said he has noticed during marathons he has run that the best athletes representing middle America are typically women instead of men, and he noted that there is a higher percentage of women at Ivy League schools.

“So there’s no doubt in my mind that women in our country are the rising gender, and we need to pay attention to that,” Carter said. “We need to figure out how do we get, just not what the numbers are, but how do we get the right women to want to come and serve their country and come to an institution like the United States Naval Academy, and I know they’re out there, so that’s something we’re going to continue to work on.”