AAU contacts Memphis police after abuse allegations

(WMC-TV) - Memphis police confirmed Friday they are investigating sexual assault allegations against Memphian and Amateur Athletic Union President Robert "Bobby" Dodd that date back decades.

"The Memphis Police Department takes allegations of child sexual abuse very seriously," said Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong. "Although this case has its challenges due to the amount of time that has passed, it will be thoroughly examined; and if the investigation reveals the law was violated, the person responsible will be held accountable."

The allegations stem from an ESPN "Outside the Lines" report about abuse claims by the players, who claim they contacted the AAU in November.

The network reported Friday that the AAU is investigating the claims, which date from the 1980s. One of the players, 43-year-old Ralph West, told ESPN's "Outside the Lines" he was assaulted in Memphis in 1984.

Both West and a second unidentified man said news reports about the Penn State child sex abuse case prompted them to independently confront Dodd in November. The player who spoke to ESPN on the condition of anonymity said he called Dodd on Nov. 11 and that Dodd apologized for the alleged abuse. ESPN confirmed an 8-minute call to Dodd by examining telephone records.

The AAU runs National Age Group Championships all over the country every summer, with two in Memphis.  Dodd has been the AAU's top executive since 1992.

The formers players allege the assaults occurred between the ages of 12 and 16 under Dodd's supervision.

News of the allegations against Dodd spread quickly at the annual Memphis vs. Atlanta Roundball Classic.

"I don't see how somebody can do something like that," said Memphis resident Rico Williams.

"Penn State, Syracuse, it makes me think about those places, but not here," said Memphis resident William Woods.

Woods said he cannot believe a scandal like this has hit so close to home.  Dodd not only worked with the AAU, but he was also with the East Memphis YMCA.

"Now with it being out in the open, I guess every parent should be concerned," said Woods.

Some said they believe the victims are only brave enough to speak out now following similar scandals and Penn State and Syracuse.

Attempts to reach Dodd were unsuccessful.

Friday night, the AAU issued the following statement:

"The AAU has recently been made aware of some serious allegations about President Robert W. "Bobby" Dodd, dating back several decades. The AAU has opened an independent investigation into these matters and also has contacted local law enforcement in Memphis, where the activities allegedly occurred. We will actively cooperate with any and all authorities to determine the facts and the truth.

"Mr. Dodd also is dealing with some serious current health issues related to his diagnosis and recent surgery and treatment for colon cancer. He will not be returning to his positions as President and Executive Director of AAU.

"The officers of the AAU are stepping up to shoulder all additional responsibilities necessary to ensure that our operations can smoothly continue. As First Vice President of AAU, I have been asked and authorized to now serve as interim President."

Copyright 2011 WMC-TV. All rights reserved.  The AP contributed to this report.