By Tim Ghianni
NASHVILLE, Tenn (Reuters) - Memphis police have opened an investigation into sexual abuse allegations against Amateur Athletic Union president Bobby Dodd that date to the 1980s, police said on Friday.
Police officials said they were contacted by the AAU regarding accusations of abuse "which occurred in Memphis, Tennessee, approximately 30 years ago," according to police spokeswoman Sergeant Alyssa Macon-Moore.
The accusations against Dodd follow recent allegations of sexual abuse of boys by assistants to Hall of Fame coaches at Penn State and Syracuse universities that rocked the world of major college athletics.
A South Carolina military college, The Citadel, has also revealed that it had failed to take action against a student accused of inappropriate behavior with children at a summer camp.
The allegations against the AAU official surfaced after two accusers told sports network ESPN that Dodd, 63, had engaged in a pattern of inappropriate touching and masturbation while they stayed in hotels during tournaments and that he gave alcohol to underage players, the network reported.
The players making accusations against Dodd said they were abused between the ages of 12 and 16, ESPN reported.
The AAU could not immediately be reached for comment. But ESPN reported that the organization said it had contacted Memphis police after learning about the allegations on the sports network's "Outside the Lines" news program.
"The Memphis Police Department takes allegations of child sexual abuse very seriously," Memphis Police Director Toney Hamilton said in a statement.
"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," he added.
ESPN said the AAU had also begun its own investigation and that Dodd, who has been the organization's chief executive since 1992, would not be returning from current medical leave.
The sports network said one of the former players had been contacted by a Memphis police detective.
One of the accusers, who spoke anonymously, accused Dodd of drugging him when he was a youth and offering him $1,000 if he would agree to have oral sex on him while he was bound and blindfolded.
They have also said they saw hundreds of pictures in his filing cabinet depicting the clothed backsides and crotches of players and bags filled with dozens of pairs of boys underwear, ESPN reported.
The AAU, one of the biggest nonprofit volunteer sports organizations in the country, is dedicated to promoting and developing amateur sports and physical fitness programs for athletes of all ages, the group says on its website.
(Additional reporting and writing by Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; editing by Cynthia Johnston and Peter Bohan)