Baylor fires coach Art Briles amid football sexual assault investigation
The Bears are in the process of firing their head football coach following an investigation into physical and sexual assaults allegedly committed by his players
Art Briles has effectively been fired as Baylor announced Thursday that the football coach has been suspended with intent to terminate his employment. This comes amid an investigation into numerous assault incidents and allegations -- both sexual and physical in nature -- that involved members of the Bears football program.
Briles' firing was not immediate due to "contractual procedures," but the coach reportedly told his players via text message that he would no longer be running the program. The general outline of the text, as reported by Jessica Morrey of KCEN, can be viewed below:
"We were horrified by the extent of these acts of sexual violence on our campus. This investigation revealed the University's mishandling of reports in what should have been a supportive, responsive and caring environment for students," said Richard Willis, chair of the Baylor Board of Regents, in the school's release.
"The depth to which these acts occurred shocked and outraged us. 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."
Briles was 65-37 in eight seasons at Baylor, reviving a program that had gone 31-94 the previous 11 seasons under three different head coaches. He was 50-15 since 2011 with four double-digit win seasons in five years, leading the Bears to consecutive Big 12 titles in 2013-14, the latter of which Baylor shared with TCU.
However, the football-crazed culture in Waco helped fuel a hostile environment when it came to assault allegations. The damning conclusions outlined by Baylor's Finding of Facts explicitly take aim at Briles and the football program, beginning on Page 10.
Among the severe findings:
- Athletics and football personnel failing to report sexual violence to appropriate parties. In certain instances, "football coaches or staff met directly with a complainant and/or a parent of a complainant and did not report the misconduct."
- Football coaches and staff members taking improper steps precluding the university from fulfilling legal obligations.
- When the football program dismissed players for unspecified violations, they assisted in transferring those players to other programs, thus creating potentially dangerous environments elsewhere.
- Members of the football coaching staff took steps to maintain internal control over disciplinary measures to "actively divert cases from the student conduct or criminal processes." The football program operated on its own internal system of discipline, which was "fundamentally inconsistent" for Title IX implementation.
- Baylor did not do its due diligence when it came to transfers. The fact finding states "Baylor did not adhere to a consistent protocol regarding transfers and importantly, Baylor did not consistently follow previously implemented processes regarding criminal background checks, request for records of any prior college disciplinary actions, and character reference screening forms."
Earlier this week, reports surfaced that Baylor president Ken Starr was set to be fired following results of the Pepper Hamilton investigation. Baylor refused to comment on such reports, saying it would make any necessary announcements or revelations on June 3.
Instead, Baylor announced Thursday that Starr will be removed as president on May 31 but will remain with the school as its chancellor. Furthermore, athletic director Ian McCaw has been 'sanctioned and placed on probation" due to a lack of "accountability within the football program." The hope is to produce "effective oversight and controls of the Athletics department" and ensure that changes to the football program "re-align with the Athletics program and the University mission."
Unnamed athletics staffers and administrators were also dismissed, according to the release.
The past year has put Baylor, both the football program and university, under an intense microscope. Last fall, Texas Monthly wrote a scathing piece documenting the silence at Baylor surrounding sexual assault allegations involving former defensive end Sam Ukwuachu and linebacker Tevin Elliott. Ukwuachu was convicted of sexual assault shortly after the story broke and sentenced to 180 days in jail plus 10 years of felony probation and 400 hours of community service.
In March, Jasmin Hernandez, Elliott's sexual assault victim, filed a federal lawsuit against Baylor.
In April, former Bears defensive end Shawn Oakman was arrested on sexual assault charges. Details were released in an affidavit obtained by the Waco Tribune-Herald.
In May, ESPN's Outside the Lines unearthed previously unreported assault allegations of sexual and physical natures against Baylor football players. The OTL report indicated the Waco Police Department went out of its way to shield allegations from the public -- Waco police sergeant W. Patrick Swanton called the ESPN report "sensationalism in journalism" -- and that victims didn't feel they could come forward with their claims.
Defensive coordinator Phil Bennett is expected to serve as interim coach with Briles' son, offensive coordinator Kendall Briles, remaining on staff, according to Yahoo's Pat Forde.
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