Baylor report a scathing indictment of Art Briles' football program
A 13-page document outlining all the ways in which Baylor failed to address sexual assault concerns is damning to the exiting coach and school as a whole
Baylor football coaches essentially covered up sexual assault complaints from the university and police, according to a scathing report by the university's law firm that resulted in Baylor coach Art Briles' firing and the reassignment of president Ken Starr.
The 13-page report produced Thursday by Baylor can only be read as a damning indictment of the entire football program. Pepper Hamilton, the law firm hired by the university to investigate, concluded there was "a cultural perception that football was above the rules."
No employees, including Briles, were directly named in the documents that Baylor released publicly. The investigation came after media stories by ESPN, Texas Monthly and Deadspin showed Baylor mishandled multiple rape claims going back to at least 2009. Some of the accusations later resulted in football players being convicted as criminals.
Baylor said Briles has been suspended indefinitely with the intent to fire him based on procedures spelled out in his contract. Starr will step down as president and become chancellor and a law professor. Athletic director Ian McCaw has been sanctioned and placed on probation.
"Football coaches and staff took affirmative steps to maintain internal control over discipline of players and to actively divert cases from the student conduct or criminal processes," the Finding of Facts document read. "In some cases, football coaches and staff had inappropriate involvement in disciplinary and criminal matters or engaged in improper conduct that reinforced an overall perception that football was above the rules, and that there was no culture of accountability for misconduct."
In some instances, the report said football staff members met directly with the accuser and/or her parents and did not report player misconduct to an appropriate administrator outside athletics. Because the complaint was not reported, "no action was taken to support complainants, fairly and impartially evaluate the conduct under Title IX, address identified cultural concerns within the football program, or protect campus safety once aware of a potential pattern of sexual violence by multiple football players."
The Pepper Hamilton investigation found that Baylor football staff members "conducted their own untrained internal inquiries, outside of policy, which improperly discredited complainants and denied them the right to a fair, impartial and informed investigation, interim measures or promises promised under University policy," per the regents' report. These choices "posed a risk to campus safety and the integrity of the University."
National Coalition Against Violent Athletes founder Kathy Redmond Brown, who was raped by a Nebraska football player in the 1990s, said the Baylor scandal could have described player discipline at almost any major university.
"This is just the new scandal," Brown explained. "This could be duplicated by about any major university, and that's what's so frustrating. I catch a lot of flak and mistrust from universities because I'm willing to say this out loud while also working with them to educate their athletes. Who knows what all of these coaches are hiding when they have meetings with players behind the scenes and they end up leaving for a different school?"
Pepper Hamilton also unearthed a culture in which the Baylor football program dismissed players for unspecified team violations and assisted them in transferring to other schools. Doing so meant some football coaches abdicated responsibilities under Title IX and the Clery Act, according to Baylor's law firm.
Title IX requires universities to investigate claims of sexual violence. The Clery Act requires universities to keep and disclose information about crime on and near their campus.
The discipline handed out by Baylor coaches to players was "fundamentally inconsistent with the mindset required for effective Title IX implementation," per the regents. Pepper Hamilton revealed punishments for players as an "informal system" involving multiple coaches and administrators that relied heavily on individual judgments instead of clear standards for discipline.
"The ad hoc internal system of discipline lacks protocols for consistent with University policy and is wholly undocumented," the finding stated. "The football program's separate system of internal discipline reinforces the perception that rules applicable to other students are not applicable to football players, improperly insulates football players from appropriate disciplinary consequences, and puts students, the program, and the institution at risk of future misconduct."
It was also determined that there were warnings about player misconduct from within Baylor that were ignored. Pepper Hamilton criticized the university and athletic department for failing to take effective action when they knew about allegations that football coaches overreached and took on roles with a conflict of interest.
"Despite the fact that other departments repeatedly raised concerns that the Athletics Department's response to student or employee misconduct was inadequate, Baylor administrators took insufficient steps to address the concerns," the findings read.
Baylor released a list of recommendations from Pepper Hamilton moving forward, including a review of all interpersonal violence cases over the past three years. Baylor said it will contact victims and offer specific remedies to the individuals identified in the review.
In addition, the overall operations Baylor's athletic department "will be integrated into the mainstream operations of the University," Baylor said. "Significant attention will be given to ensuring policies are consistent across all students and student-athletes alike with consistent protocols that eliminate any appearance of preferential treatment."
In a statement, Baylor Board of Regents chairman Richard Willis said the board was "horrified" by the extent of sexual violence found on the campus.
"The depth to which these acts occurred shocked and outraged us," Willis said. "Our students and their families deserve more, and we have committed our full attention to improving our processes, establishing accountability and ensuring appropriate actions are taken to support former, current and future students."
Baylor said it has been in contact with the NCAA about possible infractions. Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said he doesn't have jurisdiction to ask Baylor for the full Pepper Hamilton report.
"It appears they're trying to be as transparent as possible, and beyond that, I don't have any vantage point from which to evaluate," Bowlsby said. "It was certainly a decisive step (to fire Briles), and I guess the evidence was such they felt like that was appropriate. We all know examples where football coaches have done things that were inappropriate and weren't held accountable for them. I don't have any way to evaluate the appropriateness of this."
Brown said Baylor's release of the report and Briles' dismissal is a step in the right direction.
"Any victim's attorney can just show that report and get a judgment against the school," she said. "It's that clear. There's a vulnerability here and it's Baylor saying, 'Fine, you win,' and it doesn't look like they're digging their heels in, with the exception of keeping Ken Starr."
But Brown is skeptical whether the Baylor scandal will dramatically impact how universities handle player discipline throughout college sports.
"I keep thinking with each school this happens to that will probably end it, and it doesn't because the reward is so great," she said. "Even with Baylor, they made great gains during their athletic department during this time. When this blows over, and it will, college sports will go back to business as usual because the impetus is still games need to be won and there will be a giant reward."
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