PARTSCH: Riled by Briles’s, Baylor’s failures
Managing Editor Raymond Partsch III
It should be called “The House That Rapists Built.”
Baylor University’s state-of-the-art college football palace known as McLane Stadium overlooks the scenic Brazos River in Waco, Texas. The $266-million project, the largest ever construction project in Waco history, was built on the backs of the football’s team meteoric rise to national power in the past decade.
And now we know that it was also made possible because of the astounding amount of negligent inaction by the university’s so-called leadership (head coach, athletic director, campus police, president) that allowed players to frequently prey on female co-eds on the Christian school’s campus.
The facts as it stands right now are that at least six female students reported alleged sexual assaults involving football players to Baylor between 2009-2016. In addition, a recent investigation by ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” revealed that several more victims may exist but are currently protected from disclosure due to the “open” status of their claims in the Waco Police Department’s records system.
The ESPN piece also reported that one alleged victim reported that her boyfriend, a football player, had assaulted her twice and reported the incident to Waco Police and the football team chaplain. Eventually head coach Art Briles and Baylor President Kenneth Starr were notified of the allegations, but the player was never reprimanded.
There is also the Title IX lawsuit against the university and athletic staff members by Jasmin Hernandez, a sexual assault victim of former Baylor defensive end Tevin Elliott for what she claims is a pattern of negligence and violation of the Title IX law that is in place to assist sexual assault victims on college campuses.
In the suit, Hernandez claims Baylor failed to follow its duty by not creating a safe environment for her on the campus following her reporting of the assault. Elliott remained on campus after the assault, and Hernandez claimed she was told by the Baylor Police Department that they could not do anything about it because the assault happened off campus. Hernandez also claims in the suit that she was also not given the counseling she asked for from the university.
In 2014, Elliott was convicted of two counts of sexual assault and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Elliott wasn’t the only Bear that roamed around campus executing acts that will haunt women for decades to come.
Lineman Sam Ukwuachu was convicted last year of second-degree sexual assault of a Baylor girls soccer player, and he had a history of violence before transferring to Baylor. Ukwuachu had been dismissed from Boise State by then head coach Chris Petersen, who has publicly come out and stated that he personally called Briles to let him know the reasons why his program severed ties with Ukwuachu.
Not only did Baylor and Briles accept Ukwuachu as a transfer, they had the audacity to say that they “expected” him to rejoin the team in 2015, despite the fact that he was being prosecuted for sexual assault.
That rash of sexual assaults forced the university to finally hire the Philadelphia-based law firm Pepper Hamilton last fall to perform a review of the university’s process of reviewing sexual assault claims.
With all the gory details of incompetency and the shielding of players in their hands, the university’s board of regents took action.
“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,” Richard Willis, chairman of the Baylor board of regents, said in a statement.
Willis further stated, “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.”
The fallout has been swift and ongoing.
The board decided to fire Briles as coach, remove Kenneth Starr as president but allow him to remain as chancellor, and place athletic director Ian McCaw on probation. McCaw has since resigned and Starr resigned his post as chancellor but will stay on as a law school professor. Not to mention, that seven football signees are now requesting a release from their commitments due to the scandal.
Briles had been hailed as the conquering hero in Waco, and many figured one day he would have a statue of himself outside of the stadium.
The legendary Texas high school coach made a name for himself with his own adaptation of the spread offense at Stephenville High. Briles then turned around his alma mater, the University of Houston, into a winning program before arriving at Baylor in 2008, known at that time as the doormat of the Big 12.
Prior to Brile’s arrival, Baylor had 12 straight losing seasons.
Briles transformed Baylor, the most outwardly religious school in any of the power conferences, into a perennial national and conference power. There was Robert Griffin III winning the school’s first Heisman Trophy, multiple 10-win seasons, two conference championships and victories over mighty Texas (which aided greatly in recruiting blue chip prospects), and of course all that on-the-field success paved the way for McLane Stadium.
All the while, Briles and Baylor supporters preached about how the Bears were doing it the right way, how they were doing it the Christian way.
Texas billionaire and Baylor alum Drayton McLane, whom the stadium is named after, provides the foreword in the book “Beating Goliath: My Story of Football and Faith,” written by Briles and Don Yaeger.
McLane wrote, “Still, one of the most important assets Coach Briles has brought to Baylor is the moral character that he built into the football program.” He goes on to write, “He is a gifted leader and an outstanding representative of Baylor University. His leadership and values have been an important contribution to Baylor today and in its future!”
Now we of course know that was all a lie.
The multi-billion dollar business of collegiate sports has a storied history of turning a blind eye to corruption of the moral, ethical and financial kind. From financial gifts for recruits to test-cheating scandals, there is story after story of corruption winning out from the Pac-10 to the SEC.
And this is not the first time that Baylor itself has dealt with something of this magnitude. This is the same school that had a basketball player, Carlton Dotson, who murdered another, Patrick Dennehy, and then had its coach, Dave Bliss, tell his own players to lie to investigators by telling them that Dennehy had paid his tuition by dealing drugs.
Even if Baylor had been diligent in their investigations of sexual assault by their players, and even if they hadn’t created a culture where turning a blind eye to said claims was accepted, there still would be rapes going on at Baylor, as there are at any college campus in this country.
Those cowards who drug, assault and rape women can just as easily wear a three-piece suit and work in an office as they could wear a jersey on a football field.
The harsh reality is that we can’t fully stop these acts of cruelty from occurring but what we can do as citizens, fathers, brothers, mothers, sisters and teachers is allow women the freedom to come forward when one of these heinous acts occurs and to be protected by those assigned to do so moving forward.
Baylor failed miserably at doing all of these things, and instead opted to put success on the football field above the safety of its female student body.
Like how Penn State football program forever tarnished how its school leadership allowed a pedophile to assault victims on campus for decades, the Baylor program will forever be known for its sins.
The view of the Brazos River inside McLane Stadium may be a heavenly sight to behold for some but for those women who paid the cost for it being built, the view is one of pure hell. Remember that this fall.