Why Has Rego Mess Lingered?

Former Irish recruit Cooper Rego was banned from the Notre Dame campus in 1998 after a campus disciplinary hearing. A Notre Dame graduate says Rego sexually assaulted her; Rego denies it. The graduate wants the ban upheld for this weekend's game. IrishEyes asks, Why wasn't this settled long ago? Let us know your thoughts on our football message board.

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October 11, 2001

Couldn't Rego Mess
Have Been Avoided?

By Alan Tieuli
The IrishEyes.Com News Service

NOTRE DAME, Ind., Oct. 11, 2001 (IE) – Who ever thought Cooper Rego would attract so much attention to Notre Dame?

Unfortunately, Bob Davie's former tailback recruit is generating the type of media coverage normally handled by legal reporters. And this is a messy story that simply is not going to have a happy ending.

The big question is, Why wasn't this handled years ago?

In February 1998 Rego, then a freshman at Notre Dame, was banned from the campus after a campus disciplinary hearing. Kori Pienovi, who graduated from Notre Dame last May, said that Rego sexually assaulted her.

Rego then transferred to West Virginia and, because Rego is a scholarship football player, the two schools exchanged paperwork. Considering that West Virginia and the Irish had just played a football game in November 1997 and were scheduled for two more in 2000 and 2001, shouldn't the documents have addressed Rego's ban from the ND campus? According to a West Virginia spokesperson, "This is all new information we are receiving."

Rego, speaking through his attorney Wednesday, has denied Pienovi's sexual assault charge. Two national organizations, Security on Campus, Inc., and the National Coalition Against Violent Athletes, have issued a joint statement asking Notre Dame to uphold the campus ban on Rego Saturday.

"Whenever a student is permanently dismissed, he is also banned from campus," said Dennis Moore, director of public relations and information for Notre Dame.

West Virginia has placed Rego on the travel list for Saturday's game. Rego has said he plans to play. Notre Dame administrators are huddling to make a final decision.

Like we said, there will be no winners in this Notre Dame-West Virginia square-off. This is a case where a very detailed-oriented administration back in 1998 had to take a long view. And didn't.

Rego is not an impact Mountaineer. The 5-10, 190-pounder has carried the ball only 12 times for 48 yards in West Virginia's 2-3 start. He's not fulfilled the promise he flashed when he appeared on the Notre Dame campus as a freshman in 1997.

Pienovi said that after the disciplinary hearing that banned Rego from campus, Notre Dame administrators housed her temporarily in a "safe room" away from her residence hall. "They obviously considered him him a danger," Pienovi, who was a freshman at the time of the incident, said.

Now, Pienovi is asking, why is there even a possibility that Rego will be allowed on campus Saturday?

"They told me (Rego) was banned from campus. I specifically remember they said it was forever," Pienovi told the South Bend Tribune.

Normally, any student dismissed from Notre Dame for disciplinary reasons is barred from returning to campus. Those who attempt to are asked to leave by campus security. However, there is no written policy for an individual returning as part of a group, such as a football team.

Pienovi did not report the assault to the police and no criminal charges were filed. Rego accepted the disciplinary action from Notre Dame because "…Life was simply too short to spend time fighting. Rather than stand up to defend myself, I accepted banishment from a university that I had dreamed of attending."

In announcing that Rego will travel with the Mountaineers this weekend, West Virginia officials said that Rego has been "trouble-free" since enrolling in Morgantown and he's been a "good student in terms of academics and behavior."

Rego felt like defending himself Wednesday.

"I was a young, black freshman four years ago, accused of a horrible act by a white woman supported by a radical rights group," said Rego. "The accusations against me are not true.

"In the wake of a football game scheduled for Saturday, all that I am is now being attacked by a woman who claims I attacked her four years ago."

The three game series with West Virginia was consummated as far back as the 1989 Fiesta Bowl. Surely there was plenty of times to take proactive steps to make sure this matter was handled quietly. Notre Dame might have been able to schedule this game after Rego's eligibility at West Virginia had elapsed.

Now it's left to be debated in the general public.


SCHEDULING NOTES: Despite the Irish's 1-3 start, they still remain a lure to ESPN. The cable giant has decided to broadcast the Oct. 27 contest at Boston College in primetime. The game will either kickoff at 7 p.m. on ESPN2 or 7:45 p.m. on ESPN…….Also, Notre Dame has announced the site for the next two "road" contests against Navy. The 2002 match-up will be held at PSINet Stadium in Baltimore; the 2004 affair at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.


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