Volleyball player spent season with U of S Huskies while on bail, facing sexual assault charges

The team's coach acknowledged he knew about the sexual assault charges when he recruited the player. Once the season was over, Matthew Alan Meyer pleaded guilty and was sentenced to two years in prison and three years' probation.

University investigating after coach told media he knew about the player's history

Matthew Meyer pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual assault, and video-taping the assault, on Monday in Medicine Hat, Alta. (Josh Schaefer/Huskie Athletics website)

A Prince Albert man played a season with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies men's volleyball team while out on bail, after he was charged with sexually assaulting a woman in Medicine Hat, Alta., and videotaping it. 

Earlier this week the team's coach acknowledged that he knew about the charges when he recruited the player.

Once the season was over, Matthew Alan Meyer pleaded guilty and was sentenced to two years in prison and three years' probation, the Medicine Hat News reported.

The university said in a statement Wednesday it is conducting "an internal investigation."

Allegations that Meyer assaulted a young woman at a party surfaced in January 2016, when he was a member of Medicine Hat College's Rattlers volleyball team. Meyer left the team and the college voluntarily shortly thereafter.

He was charged and released on bail. Soon after that he left Alberta for the U of S.

Critic slams coach

In an interview with the Prince Albert Daily Herald, Brian Gavlas, coach of the U of S Huskies men's volleyball team, told the paper he was aware of Meyer's charge, but "didn't go into a lot of detail" with the athlete.

Gavlas declined to comment on the story to CBC News.

This was not a bad choice, it was a criminal offence.- Lisa Miller, executive director of Regina's Sexual Assault Centre

The Herald quoted Gavlas as saying people in his position, "have to do everything they can to give young adults and teenagers an opportunity to grow and develop and improve on their character and improve on their choices and improve on their lifestyles."

Gavlas's comments have drawn sharp criticism.

"This was not a bad choice, it was a criminal offence. He victimized and violated another person and that's how it needs to be framed," said Lisa Miller, executive director of Regina's Sexual Assault Centre.

"We understand the charges were unproven in court at the time, but the coach does not appear to have changed his stance about providing 'support' and improving this person's lifestyle choice."

She said that the centre's hope is that the victim is receiving all the support she needs.

University investigating

The U of S released a statement Wednesday credited to Shawn Burt, chief athletics officer of Huskie Athletics. It said Burt became aware of the charges against Meyer on Tuesday.

"As soon as this was brought to our attention yesterday afternoon, Huskie Athletics removed the individual from the team's roster. The circumstances surrounding the player are being reviewed under the Huskie Athletics Code of Conduct," the statement said.

It went on to say the university is now conducting an internal investigation into the matter.

Expert: coach is in conflict

Lisa Wade, a sociologist at Occidental College specializing in gender and sexuality, said she believes the issue is multi-faceted.

"I hesitate to suggest that even someone rightfully accused of sexual assault should have no second chances. I'm averse to saying that," she said.

Wade, who researched and wrote a book on sex on college campuses, said that some sex offenders are serial perpetrators, but most who commit sexual assault in college will likely not do it again.

"I do think we need a much better system for making these decisions, " she said.

Coach Gavlas, she said, should not be the one making the decision as he could be conflicted, especially if the individual is a valuable addition to the team athletically.

Additionally, she said, Meyer as an athlete would have a status unavailable to the victim of an assault.

"The more high status a person is, the harder it is for people to see their behaviour as inappropriate, and the more barriers there are to people reporting their behaviour as inappropriate," said Wade.

About the Author

Bridget Yard

Reporter

Bridget Yard is a video journalist based in Saskatoon. She has also worked for CBC in Fredericton and Bathurst, N.B.