In 2020, the U.S. Department of Education implemented a rule change that prevented colleges from handing down “disciplinary, punitive or unreasonably burdensome” sanctions during sexual misconduct investigations. Removing an athlete from a sports team was among the actions that could be considered unreasonable under the new policy, sparking criticism that due process rights had been strengthened too much.
Last year, ESPN reported that several coaches were forced to keep players on their rosters against personal wishes due to Title IX guidelines. The rule doesn’t outright prohibit suspending a player following an allegation, but the school must show that the athlete poses an immediate threat to a personal’s physical health or safety — a high standard to achieve.
The Trump administration changes also narrowed the definition of sexual harassment, excluded sexual misconduct that occurs off campus from Title IX oversight (unless it is “in conjunction with an education program or activity”), and required live hearings to have an opportunity to cross-examine accusers. President Joe Biden vowed to overturn Trump’s policies during his 2020 campaign, but he has yet to deliver on that promise. His proposed reforms were supposed to take effect in May, but he missed that deadline and appears likely to miss the upcoming October deadline as well, meaning change might not come until next year. The delay is partly due to the fact that staff members must review and respond to nearly 250,000 comments regarding the draft rule.
Mikuta competed at the 2023 SEC Championships in February and NCAA Championships in March, more than four months after police received a delayed report that he had sex with a female “who was incapable of consent by reason of being physically helpless or mentally incapacitated” in October.
A 21-year-old breaststroke specialist, Mikuta helped the Tigers achieve their first top-10 finish at NCAAs since 2016 in March, then entered the transfer portal for the 2024-25 season in July after a planned Olympic redshirt year this season.
On Tuesday, Mikuta was arrested for first-degree rape in Lee County, Alabama, following a grand jury indictment earlier this month. An Auburn spokesperson said he is no longer a student at the university, but declined to offer any additional details. Auburn also denied SwimSwam’s open records request for more information on the university’s investigation into Mikuta, citing FERPA.
Lee County Circuit Judge Christopher Hughes reportedly recused himself because his law clerk is married to an Auburn Title IX investigator with knowledge of the case.
“Too many students have lost access to their education because their school inadequately responded when a student filed a complaint of sexual harassment or sexual assault,” former education secretary Betsy DeVos said back in 2020. “This new regulation requires schools to act in meaningful ways to support survivors of sexual misconduct, without sacrificing important safeguards to ensure a fair and transparent process.”
One of Mikuta’s recent retweets on the platform formerly known as Twitter was a post by Andrew Tate warning that “nobody is safe” from false sexual assault allegations. Research has shown that rates of false reporting are actually low — between 2-10%, on par with false reporting rates for other crimes.