December 15, 2014

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) With recent incidents of domestic and sexual violence grabbing headlines in sports, the University of Texas on Monday launched a program to aid character development in young athletes and help them be positive role models.

The Center for Sports Leadership and Innovation will work with high school coaches on a training program to help detect and intervene at signs of troubling behavior. It will also develop a program to help athletes and other college student make sound financial decisions.

Texas football coach Charlie Strong has been noted nationally for the core values he has stated for his team: honesty, treating women with respect, no stealing, no guns and no drugs.

Strong dismissed or suspended several players this year for disciplinary reasons, including two Longhorns players who were arrested on sexual assault charges. He also met with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in September to discuss his core values concept. The program will also partner with the Austin-based National Domestic Violence Hotline, which Goodell visited the same weekend he met with Strong.

''These are things that ought to start on the playground in the third grade. (But) we can't use that a reason to say there's nothing we can do. There's a lot we can do to help our student athletes, all our students,'' Texas President Bill Powers said.

The program will create a certification program for high school coaches of both male and female athletes. Texas officials said they believe the program is the first of its kind in the country.

National Domestic Violence Hotline spokeswoman Cameka Crawford called the program an example of how colleges and athletes can help ''change our culture's perception of dating violence and sexual assault, particularly on college campuses.''

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