Sports

Baylor should thank its stars the NCAA is an even worse operation than they are

Ex-head coach Art (“Incurious attitude”) Briles

Ex-head coach Art (“Incurious attitude”) Briles
Image: Getty Images

Baylor University, synonymous with gang rape and sexual assault on college campuses lo these past several years, has been handed a penalty by the NCAA that will include “four years of probation, recruiting restrictions, a vacation of records,” following an NCAA investigation into Baylor’s handling of sexual assault cases by its football team. You can read the entire report here.

Here’s how the NCAA put it:

“A Division I Committee on Infractions hearing panel could not conclude that Baylor violated NCAA rules when it failed to report allegations of and address sexual and interpersonal violence committed on its campus.

However, the panel did find other violations occurred between 2011 and 2016: impermissible benefits were provided to a football student-athlete who was not reported for failing to meet an academic performance plan following an academic violation and the university operated a predominantly female student-host program that did not align with NCAA recruiting rules. Additionally, a former assistant director of football operations did not meet his obligation to cooperate and violated ethical conduct rules when he did not participate in the investigation.”

That first line is a real humdinger, given all we know about what went on at Baylor under head football coach Art Briles, as reported by Jessica Luther and Dan Solomon for Deadspin. Their reporting covered the stories of women sexually assaulted at Baylor by football players, as well as pointing out the gobsmacking amount of violence that Briles’ team was accused of perpetrating.

Ahmad Dixon, the first four-star recruit Briles brought to Baylor after he was hired in 2007, was accused of domestic violence in 2011 and sexual assault a year later. In 2012 and 2013, five different Baylor football players or recruits would be named in police reports alleging sexual assault or domestic violence. In 2014, linebacker Tevin Elliot was convicted of raping a female Baylor student. The following year, in August 2015, defensive end Samuel Ukwuachu stood trial for sexually assaulting another female Baylor athlete.

Further, Luther and Solomon exposed the culture of silence and denial that consumed Baylor Athletics and failed women on campus over and over, and their reporting, as well as that of Paula LaVigne at ESPN, is well worth your time.

So how is it that the NCAA found that it “could not conclude that Baylor violated NCAA rules when it failed to report allegations of and address sexual and interpersonal violence committed on its campus”? Keep in mind that the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions was looking at Baylor’s failure to report sexual and domestic violence by its players solely as an “impermissible benefit” it handed out to student athletes. Knowing that, this is what the NCAA said in its report, and I swear I am not making this up:

“The panel considered charges that three specific instances of alleged actual or threatened violence by football student-athletes went unreported by members of the football staff and resulted in impermissible benefits to the involved student-athletes. The panel found that those instances of non-reporting did not constitute impermissible benefits to football student-athletes because of a campus-wide culture of nonreporting. That culture was driven by the school’s broader failure to prioritize Title IX implementation, creating an environment in which faculty and staff did not know and/or understand their obligations to report allegations of sexual or interpersonal violence.”

In case all that wordiness was confusing, I’ll translate. The NCAA basically is saying that not reporting allegations of violence against women by football players wasn’t an “impermissible benefit” because Baylor sucked at reporting all allegations of violence against women, for athletes and non-athletes alike. Meaning, I suppose, that if Baylor wants to get around, saying, providing all its athletic recruits with new cars, all it has to do is give all students new cars. You get a non-reported sexual assault allegation! And you get a non-reported sexual assault allegation!

Somewhere, Oprah weeps.

The report also confirms what we’ve long known: Art Briles couldn’t care less about the women harmed by his players, stating “In each instance, when the head coach received information from a staff member regarding potential criminal conduct by a football student-athlete, he did not report the information and did not personally look any further into the matter.” The report goes on to say that, “The head coach failed to meet even the most basic expectations of how a person should react to the kind of conduct at issue in this case… However, there is no linkage between this conduct and Level I or II NCAA violations.”

This is where I remind you that Art Briles was subsequently hired to coach teenage boys at a Texas high school.

As attorney and author Tami Gaw pointed out on Twitter, this kind of finding by an organization tasked with making sure member schools abide by “the rules” is morally bankrupt and completely irredeemable.

Given the NCAA ruling, what is the incentive for schools to report allegations of violence against women (or men) by student athletes? Sure, there are those pesky things like “criminal laws” and “federal Title IX requirements,” but when have those ever stopped NCAA teams from doing whatever the hell they want? Because let’s be honest, guys like Art Briles and Ed Orgeron are much more likely to care about NCAA violations and restrictions on their recruiting and scholarships than they are about some Title IX lawsuit. If it doesn’t affect where their team lands in the BCS rankings, that’s likely a deal with the devil many college coaches are willing to make. The investigation also determined that Briles “

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but this report and penalties handed down to Baylor constitute a complete derogation of duty by the NCAA. Add Baylor to the growing list of college athletics programs about which we can say, “If they’re not going to give them the death penalty for (insert sexual assault scandal), they’re never going to give it to anyone.”

Welcome to the party, Baylor. Your table, along with Penn State and Michigan State, is ready. And as for the NCAA, it should get the death penalty, as well.

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