Wolfgang Draving, a junior at Baylor University, is old enough to be able to remember the school’s struggling football program.
But the new-age Bears — those who win Big 12 championships, play in the shiny $250 million McClane Stadium and run the nation’s best offense —are all he knows.
“It’s always been a big, bright green and gold,” Draving said Thursday as he rolled through the quiet campus on a longboard. “Now it’s just kind of associated with the scandal.”
Months of speculation about Baylor’s handling of sexual assault cases culminated this week with the firing of football coach Art Briles and the demotion of President Ken Starr.
An investigation by Philadelphia law firm Pepper Hamilton found a “fundamental failure” by the school and its athletics department to investigate reports of sexual and domestic assaults.
Baylor regents Chairman Richard Willis said the regents were “shocked and outraged” by the findings, which included the football staff conducting its own investigations of complaints, outside of school policy. University administrators also “directly discouraged some complainants” from reporting complaints.
The athletic department and football staff created a perception that “football was above the rules,” the Pepper Hamilton report said.
On campus, students interviewed by the Star-Telegram welcomed the latest developments.
“It’s probably a good thing they’re putting their foot down and saying we’re not going to stand for this anymore,” said Tyler Smith, a sophomore from Waco. “[Briles] helped us get some recognition and helped bring us out from where we were. But hopefully most of the students think it’s the right move, that it needs to be done, and trust the board of regents.”
Waco ESPN Radio host David Smoak compared his listeners’ reaction to a sick patient receiving a bad diagnosis.
For months, Baylor fans watched as reports streamed in about what Briles and the university did or didn’t do. They knew that something wasn’t right, Smoak said, but they just didn’t know what would come of it.
“You know you don’t feel good, so you go to the doctor to find out what’s wrong and he tells you,” Smoak said. “Even if the answer is bad, at least you know.”
Sports scandal — again
Thursday wasn’t the first time an athletics scandal prompted changes at Baylor.
The school fired men’s basketball coach Darrel Johnson in 1994, when he was indicted on mail fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy charges in the recruitment of junior college players. A federal jury later acquitted Johnson, but three of his assistant coaches were found guilty.
In 2003, men’s basketball coach Dave Bliss tried to paint slain player Patrick Dennehy as a drug dealer to cover up illegal payments that Dennehy received.
Dennehy had been killed by a teammate, Carlton Dotson, and his body was found weeks later in a gravel pit.
Bliss and athletic director Tom Stanton resigned. Ultimately, President Robert Sloan also stepped down, moving to the role of chancellor.
National reaction Thursday connected Baylor’s past with the present.
“It is an astounding religious hypocrisy for a school that proudly flaunts its Baptist underpinnings to have not one but two of the worst athletic scandals of the 21st century unfold on its campus,” wrote Yahoo Sports columnist Pat Forde.
CBS Sports columnist Dennis Dodd asked whether Baylor deserves to stay in a major conference.
“What conference — what self-respecting president or board of regents — would want a university whose desperation to stay relevant has bordered on despicable,” Dodd wrote.
Lack of institutional control?
For the Bliss scandal, the NCAA stripped Baylor of five scholarships, placed the team on probation and banned the Bears from playing nonconference games in 2005-06.
The NCAA has not commented on Baylor’s current situation. Willis said the school contacted the NCAA to discuss potential punishments.
While the scandal wasn’t a direct violation of NCAA rules, Baylor could fall under the NCAA’s “lack of institutional control” penalty.
The NCAA used the penalty to punish Penn State in 2012, vacating the football team’s wins, stripping it of scholarships and banning it from postseason play after the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.
“You can easily make the case that the lack of institutional control stipulation would apply” at Baylor, said John Gerdy, a former legislative assistant with the NCAA and the ex-associate commissioner of compliance for the Southeastern Conference.
“If you’re looking at what the principle means in a general sense, it means basically that the inmates are running the asylum. The athletics department [at Baylor] is clearly not being held accountable. It’s out of control.”
You can easily make the case that the lack of institutional control stipulation would apply [at Baylor].
John Gerdy, former Southeastern Conference associate commissioner
‘Much deeper’ than football
Smoak, the radio host, wonders if Baylor can truly change —the school recovered from the two men’s basketball scandals only to let another one creep in.
“This university has to look much deeper than the football program,” Smoak said. “They have to look at how this thing is run.”
Advocates of sexual assault victims said Thursday that the school created a “culture of silence.”
The scandal, if anything, opened the conversation about sexual assault on campus, said Denise Anderson, a senior from Waco.
“When people did speak out about it, it was really a taboo thing,” Anderson said. “You never really saw people get justice for what happened to them. It’s just one of those things that is never talked about here on campus. Now that a few people had the courage to step up and say something after trying to get help where nobody would listen, they got justice, and now everybody wants to listen.”
This article includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.