Amid a flurry of sexual-assault allegations involving numerous football players, Baylor University has fired Art Briles, among other sweeping changed to its athletic department and administration.
“It’s an ugly story,” Fox Sports college football analyst Bruce Feldman said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “I think it’s just a real example of a school that had been such a doormat for so long that basically sold its soul to be good at football – and got burned by it. It affected a lot of women and a lot of folks around there in a really, really ugly way.”
Several Baylor and former football players have been accused of sexual assault in recent years, including Tevin Elliott, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for two counts of sexual assault against a former student in 2012.
Pepper Hamilton, an independent law firm Baylor hired last fall, found that the university “failed to take appropriate action to respond to reports of sexual assault and dating violence committed by football players.” Further, the report found that the response – or lack thereof – of the athletic department and the administration “posed a risk to campus safety and the integrity of the University.”
The investigation occurred after various media reports by ESPN and Texas Monthly, among others, suggested Baylor did not appropriately address rape claims dating back to 2009. Pepper Hamilton found that 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.”
The report concluded that there was “a cultural perception that football was above the rules.”
“When you have stuff like that that is so, so egregious – and the level of it and so many players involved – I think it’s just a sad commentary on how things were handled,” Feldman said. “It’s an abuse of power, an abuse of responsibility, at the highest levels.”
Briles went 65-37 in eight years at Baylor, including 50-15 over the last five seasons. He had four 10-win seasons, won two Big 12 championships, played in two New Year’s Six Bowl games and turned Baylor, once a Division I doormat, into a national player routinely ranked in the top 10.
And now he’s gone.
In addition to dismissing Briles, Baylor has removed school president Ken Starr, who will remain at the university as a chancellor and law school professor. Dr. David Garland has been named interim university president, while athletic director Ian McCaw has been placed on probation.
Feldman does not think the NCAA will punish Baylor further.
“My gut is they won’t do anything,” he said. “I think they went down a road they didn’t want to go down with Penn State or they regretted going down. I think the NCAA is probably going to tread lightly, but I’m curious to see. (Baylor) said that they will cooperate with the NCAA if the NCAA does want to go down that road again.”
As Feldman pointed out, it didn’t matter if members of the football staff believed the sexual-assault allegations to be false; the allegations needed to be reported and dealt with – regardless of how they impacted the football program.
“It needs to go up the food chain,” Feldman said. “That’s one of the things that I think was really missed repeatedly. There’s (also) some real question marks about the Waco PD and how they handled things here. So there’s a lot of blame to go around to a lot of people. Art Briles is the face of it because he was making the most money and he’s the one who runs the program, but Ken Starr is very lucky that he still has a job in some capacity as a chancellor. This debacle was on his watch, too. I think it’s an embarrassment. If he had any self-respect and any dignity, he’d step down and just go away.”