Baylor's existence as a Power Five school should be up for review
Fallout for Baylor football -- and the entire athletic program -- should be staggering, but it won't be swift
Baylor's lone salvation today may be the straightforward media rights contracts the Big 12 has with ESPN and Fox.
Those deals pay the current roster of Big 12 schools $24 million per year through 2024. That's about the best news Baylor could have today: A shamed university is assured of playing major college football for only the term of that deal -- eight more years.
Let's put it this way: If conference realignment was in play at the moment, Baylor would be a fine candidate for Conference USA.
And that's nothing against CUSA, but Baylor is radioactive at the moment, a pariah's pariah. What conference -- what self-respecting president or board of regents -- would want a university whose desperation to stay relevant has bordered on despicable.
Please remember the Dave Bliss scandal. Please remember that Baylor hired a public relations firm to makes its case as a big-time school in the last round of conference realignment. University officials were handing out their cell phone numbers to reporters, trying to tell their story.
None of those phones were being answered on Thursday.
It's hard to talk about salvation today. Just like at Penn State, the first thoughts in this heinous episode should be with the victims.
According to the Finding of Facts presented by the Baylor Board of Regents from Pepper Hamilton report, football personnel willfully chose not to report sexual assaults of "multiple football players" after learning of the incidents.
University administrators "directly discouraged" complainants from reporting assaults according to Pepper Hamilton.
Need a shower yet?
If this was an open market in realignment, Baylor would be a hitchhiker with its thumb out on the side of the road. It wouldn't come close to being picked up by a major conference. The school is neither a sizable brand nor in a sizable market.
Nor does it seem to have a sizable heart.
No one can predict what the landscape will be like in eight years, but I can guess one conference that might not want Baylor. A private school that was able to hide behind its lack of transparency has been an embarrassing detriment.
Baylor did the right thing Thursday by firing Art Briles. Reasonable people can argue if reassigning president Ken Starr and putting athletic director Ian McCaw on probation is enough.
Otherwise, Baylor's reputation and continued existence as a Power Five school is up for review. The Big 12 will not and cannot do anything at the moment. Its bylaws don't cover such scenarios. Imagine that.
But the market can speak. Common human decency can speak. Baylor's had its chance to prove it is big time, not just on the field but off it, too. It succeeded mightily in that first charge. Will the ways in which it reached that level be forgotten in eight years?
Forget the current strife. One source told CBS Sports that NCAA enforcement has spent more time on the Baylor campus than any other Big 12 school.
"Really, I don't hear about anybody else [in the Big 12]," the source said.
Briles' departure will no doubt mean a dip in football fortunes. To that point, if Baylor doesn't do it, the NCAA should: Allow current players to transfer without penalty. None of this is the fault of the vast majority of players that have come through the program or are on the team now.
To its credit, the Baylor administration acknowledged the results of Pepper Hamilton's findings and acted by firing a coach who was largely responsible for consecutive Big 12 titles, a Heisman Trophy winner and a new state-of-the-art stadium.
But it's worth reviewing why Baylor is playing big-time sports to begin with. As in all things Texas, politics were involved. When the Big 12 was being formed around 1994, it helped that Baylor alum Ann Richards was the state's governor when the Southwest Conference was breaking up.
Baylor was basically nothing in football when it was thrown that lifeline by the Big 12. It continued to be nothing until Briles arrived in 2008. But at what cost?
Those TV contracts saved Baylor in 2010 and 2011 when Fox and ESPN agreed that a 10-team league including the Bears was worth saving. It's hard to believe that would be the same case today.
In fact, Big 12 expansion to places like Cincinnati and UConn suddenly looks a lot more appealing. Their morals have to be a notch or two above Baylor's, at least.
As for the ongoing problem of violence against women, this is not just a Baylor thing; it's everywhere. When are we going to not totally subject ourselves to a football coach's cult of personality? The most powerful of those are allowed to act with impunity.
Eighteen wheelers emblazoned with the school's logo in front of a recruit's house. Satellite camps in Australia. While none of that compares to ignoring sexual assault claims, it does remind of the unadulterated power we've given some of these guys.
Briles will find work again because Bobby Petrino found work again and because Jim Tressel found work again. Incredibly, Ohio State's former coach is the Youngstown State president while serving a five-year show cause order for lying to the NCAA.
Yeah, about that shower.
We have been painfully reminded again that a woman who attends college is more likely to be a sexual assault victim than one who does not. We know that one in five women entering college will be subject to some kind of sexual assault. We also know that only one in eight reports it.
So of course those cries for help from alleged victims had to be taken seriously at Baylor. ESPN's Outside the Lines chronicled that some victims didn't speak out simply because they already knew Baylor would not do anything about it.
The facts released Thursday confirmed their fears. The precious jewel that is big-time football is more important than common, human decency.
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