Husker football players heard a powerful message this week as Coach Mike Riley confronted ghosts of his past and rape survivor Brenda Tracy reconciled with a man she once held in contempt.
Brenda Tracy spoke to the Husker football team on Wednesday, at Memorial Stadium, at the invitation of Coach Riley.
The meeting that came after Tracy met personally with Riley and Nebraska Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst for more than an hour and more than 18 years after Tracy claimed Riley betrayed her with his handling of her report that two members of his Oregon State football team had raped her.
“Pretty much hated him,” Tracy describes her feelings to Kevin Thomas, host of Drive Time Lincoln on Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KLIN. “I was extremely bitter and resentful and very angry with him.”
The Wednesday meeting changed the relationship. Tracy says she found a new ally after speaking with Riley face-to-face.
“He really listened and I think he got it and there were things that I said to him that he’s like, ‘Wow, that really makes sense, Brenda,’” according to Tracy.
Tracy says she took no notes into her meeting with the football team. She spoke from the heart. She conveyed how a culture that excuses sexual assault has arisen in college sports. She looked into the eyes of football players and conveyed the hurt, shame, and humiliation she suffered 18 years ago.
Tracy says she feels as though a weight has been lifted from her shoulders after the meetings. Feelings of hate, turned into a hug, and then into action after a simple meeting during the off-season at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln.
Both Tracy and Riley say they plan to work together in efforts to impact the rest of the country.
“I really do feel at peace. I feel like there is a part of me that isn’t in anguish anymore. I really feel that.”
Coach Riley released a written statement following the meeting saying, “This has been an important day for me and for our football program and we must keep the focus on the victims, and on preventing inexcusable acts in the future.”
To listen to Kevin Thomas’ full interview with Brenda Tracy, click here.
Kevin Thomas contributed to this story.
AUDIO: Kevin Thomas reports [:50]