The expulsion of two college athletes on sexual misconduct grounds highlights a little-known facet of the latitude schools are given when investigating such cases: They can mete out punishment even in the absence of a complaint from the alleged victim.

Former Yale basketball captain Jack Montague and former Colorado State-Pueblo football player and wrestler Grant Neal both filed federal lawsuits this year over their expulsions, alleging their schools mishandled information that originated with someone other than the alleged victim.

Both suits allege the schools were overly aggressive in pursuing the cases, fearing reprisals from the federal Department of Education if they did not.

But victims' rights advocates say schools must investigate all complaints, and are using the proper standard in determining when evidence of misconduct rises to the level that some action must be taken.