I posted yesterday the news that Baylor’s former head coach dismissed his libel suit against the school, claiming he “wants some peace in his life.”
Unfortunately for Art, some of the Baylor regents want something entirely different. Blood.
Former Baylor coach Art Briles and his assistant coaches actively intervened in the discipline of football players, worked to keep their cases under wraps and tried to arrange legal representation for their players, according to a series of emails and text messages released by three university regents in a legal filing Thursday.
The document filed in a Dallas County court was in response to a libel lawsuit that former football director of operations Colin Shillinglaw had filed Tuesday against the school and several members of its senior leadership.
The regents’ response alleges Briles and his coaching staff created a disciplinary “black hole” into “which reports of misconduct such as drug use, physical assault, domestic violence, brandishing of guns, indecent exposure and academic fraud disappeared.”
Some of the stuff alleged is even more appalling than I imagined, and I’ve got a pretty good imagination.
The woman, a Baylor student, declined to pursue the criminal case and left the state. She returned to Baylor in the summer and fall sessions of 2013 but withdrew after more encounters with Oakman. In January 2015, the woman and her mother met with a learning accommodation specialist at Baylor who, upon hearing her story, immediately contacted judicial affairs, the Title IX office, the student life office and the office of general counsel. The legal filing states the specialist wrote, “I haven’t seen a student as scared and upset as she was in a long time. She mentioned that she lives in constant fear, 24 hours a day she is scared that [Oakman] or his friends will come beat her up. The mom also talked about Baylor protecting the guy because he is a Baylor football player and that he had an assault record before he was at Baylor.”
According to the response, the first allegation of gang rape involving Baylor football players surfaced in April 2013, when a female student-athlete confided in her coach that five players raped her at an off-campus party in early 2012. According to the response, the woman told her coach that the incident “started with one football player and the other players were soon ‘all over her.'” She identified each of the players who allegedly sexually assaulted her, and the coach wrote their names on a piece of paper.
The regents’ response says the woman’s coach — Outside the Lines previously confirmed the coach was former Baylor volleyball coach Jim Barnes — addressed the woman’s allegations with McCaw, who told him to talk to Briles. The response says Barnes showed Briles the names of the players, and he replied, “Those are some bad dudes. Why was she around those guys?” The response says Briles “offered no defense of his players and told the coach he should have his student-athlete inform the police and prosecute.” McCaw allegedly told the coach that if his player didn’t press charges, there wasn’t anything the athletic department could do.
The response says the woman’s mother later met with a football assistant coach at an off-campus delicatessen and provided him the names of two of the five players who allegedly sexually assaulted her daughter. The assistant talked to the players, who claimed it was consensual and “fooling around” and “just a little bit of playtime.” The assistant coach said he contacted other Baylor coaches. According to the legal filing, their “apparent response was to engage in victim-blaming.” The assistant concluded the accusations were in a “gray area,” and Pepper Hamilton attorneys found that no one, including Briles, notified police, judicial affairs or anyone outside of athletics about the alleged gang rape.
Briles and other coaches would state that any failure to report accusations of assault or related behavior was due to the fact that Baylor lacked any clear instructions on what to do, noting that the university did not have a Title IX office until November 2014 and that none of the coaches received proper training. But the response filed Thursday would note that Briles should have been aware that judicial affairs had jurisdiction in investigating allegations of sexual assault because on April 23, 2013, “the very same day Coach Briles learned about the student-athlete’s account of being gang raped — he was forwarded a letter stating that Judicial Affairs had investigated and cleared another one of his players of sexual assault allegations.”
I’d call that a lack of institutional control, except it sounds like Briles and McCaw had all the control they needed. Oh, and along those lines, let’s not forget Ken Starr.
The regents’ response also claims Briles personally appealed to Starr on behalf of former Bears defensive lineman Tevin Elliott when he was charged with a second count of plagiarism, which made him ineligible for the 2011 season. After Elliott missed an April 2011 appeal deadline, according to the response, Briles “personally took up Elliott’s cause more than two months later” in June.
“The coach notified President Starr in an email that Elliott wanted to appeal the suspension,” the response says. “The unusual request by Coach Briles triggered concern among top Baylor administrators, who complained to President Starr and among themselves that overturning Elliott’s suspension after the appeal deadline would send a message that athletes were above the rules.”
The response says Elliott’s appeal letter was suspect and “appeared to have been authored by an academic adviser in the Athletics Department. Nevertheless, President Starr ignored the decision of his Provost and overturned the suspension.”
In another break with university policy, according to the response, Starr put Elliott under the probationary watch of the athletic department and not judicial affairs, which was responsible for overseeing enforcement of the school’s honor code. Because of Starr’s decision, the athletic department became the sole arbiter of whether Elliott was complying with the terms of his probation and what consequences he should suffer if he failed to adhere to them, according to the response.
In the fall of 2011, according to the response, Elliott had “attendance problems, was in danger of flunking his human performance class and was caught cheating on quizzes.” On Oct. 21, 2011, an athletic department employee wrote to McCaw: “Wow, what is this kid thinking?” McCaw replied: “Unbelievable!”
On April 1, 2012, a woman told Waco police that Elliott raped her at her apartment three days earlier. Two weeks later, on April 15, Jasmin Hernandez told police that Elliott raped her behind a pool house near one of his teammates’ townhomes. When the coaches learned of the allegation, an assistant coach texted Briles and told him that Elliott “firmly denies even knowing the girl.” But, after interviewing Elliott the next day, the assistant told Briles that Elliott “admitted he lied to us. He was with her and said when she said stop he did.”
“Wow – not good – I’ll call you later,” Briles replied.
When the assistant texted Briles later and told him that Elliott had been contacted by Waco police, Briles replied: “Dang it.”
On Jan. 24, 2014, Elliott was convicted of raping Hernandez and was sentenced to the maximum 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. His trial would reveal accusations by three other women that he raped them and a conviction of misdemeanor physical assault of another.
Not a good look, fellas.
As disgusting as most of that seems, I can’t say that Briles, McCaw or Starr were the most odious people in this little saga. That honor belongs to this fine, upstanding citizen.
Thursday’s legal filing recounts a meeting that Baylor alumni and donors had with regents, who were unwilling to share more details of the investigation, citing privacy concerns. It states that the regents tried to explain why they couldn’t keep people whom they found responsible for Title IX failure because that would not uphold the “mission of the university.” It quotes a donor as responding, “If you mention Baylor’s mission one more time, I’m going to throw up. … I was promised a national championship.”
Damn it, Baylor. You had one job.
Really, this entire response is remarkable. It’s hard to see any player in the drama who wasn’t thrown under the bus by the regents; that can’t be good for the school. And while I don’t have any reason to think the NCAA is going to involve itself in this debacle — the Penn State fiasco appears to have burned Mark Emmert badly — I won’t shed a tear if everyone involved is tied up in litigation for the rest of their lives.
I can’t help but wonder if this is a bridge too far even for Jimmy Sexton, assuming that concept exists, of course. Briles at this point appears so radioactive that he glows in the dark. I bet it chaps his ass that he’s on the outside, likely for good, while McCaw is gainfully employed.
Speaking of which, you gotta love that. McCaw is the AD at Liberty University. His boss, Jerry Falwell, Jr., announced he was just tasked by President Grab ‘Em to find ways to reduce regulations coming out of the Education Department, including this:
Falwell has been particularly interested in curbing rules that require schools to investigate campus sexual assault under Title IX, a federal law that bans discrimination in education.
“(Falwell) has an interest in eliminating what he feels are overreaches by the federal government, particularly the Department of Education, as pertains to colleges and universities across the country,” Stevens told CNN in an email.
“Title IX is one of the areas he mentioned where there is over-regulation,” Stevens added, adding that Falwell feels issues regarding investigating campus sexual assault are “better left to police, attorneys, judges.”
Irony is dead, so maybe there’s one place left on Earth where Art Briles can coach a little football.