Billionaire businessman Drayton McLane, whose name adorns the Baylor University football stadium, said Thursday that he wants to see fired football coach Art Briles’ honor “restored” and any evidence that led to his dismissal publicly released by the school’s board of regents.
McLane and a group of influential alumni and donors called “Bears for Leadership Reform” met across the Brazos River from McLane Stadium in Waco to demand more transparency from the regents, including the release of what was uncovered by an investigation of how the school handled sexual assaults.
The group said its goal isn’t to bring back Briles or focus on the football program, but to remove a cloak of secrecy surrounding board meetings, the investigation and its findings.
McLane stopped short of calling for Briles’ return but defended his integrity.
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“I just want to see his honor restored,” McLane said. “The Baylor family and the public needs to know the truth. Art and the other people involved in this need for the facts to come out.” McLane also said he has been told nothing despite his position as a nonvoting regent emeritus.
Regents released some results from the investigation by the law firm Pepper Hamilton this year, which found that the school mishandled reports of sexual assault for years and that Briles’ football program acted as if it was “above the rules.”
The probe led to Briles’ dismissal, the resignation of former athletic director Ian McCaw and the demotion of school President Ken Starr, who later resigned.
Baylor is facing federal lawsuits from more than a dozen women, and a federal investigation by the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights. The demands and sharp criticism of school leadership from influential donors and alumni is the strongest sign yet of the behind-the-scenes battles at Baylor.
Briles remains an explosive figure in it all.
His assistant coaches, all of whom remain on staff, including son Kendal Briles, released a statement last week defending Briles. Fans lined up to buy black T-shirts with his initials before Baylor’s home game against TCU last week, and a similar banner also flew from one of stadium’s luxury suites.
On Thursday, the group demanded that the regents hold open meetings, publish agendas and minutes, and discuss decisions publicly. And it wants Baylor to disclose what the university has spent on settlements and the pending lawsuits. It also wants a voice in selecting a new president.
“Baylor University has no place in scandalous, tabloid news,” former Regent Emily Tinsley said. “Power struggles and secrecy can destroy any family.”
Houston attorney John Eddie Williams, whose name is on the McLane Stadium football field, suggested that some regents should be forced out but did not say which ones. The board, however, is appointed by its own members.
“There’s some good people on that board, but there has been some bad decisions,” Williams said. “I cannot support this board. … At some point, you’ve got to clean house.”
The group noted that Pepper Hamilton recommended reforms at the board level, including training on conflicts of interest and protocols for interaction with administrators and athletics. The group said it wants to know what the investigation found to prompt those recommendations.
The school announced Wednesday that a task force group had been appointed to address the governance issues.
Baylor officials did not attend Thursday’s meeting and declined to comment immediately. A statement released Monday said regents “look forward to engaging in constructive dialogue about meaningful reform.”
About whether the group will try to force its influence by withholding money, Williams said that will be up to individual members to determine.
McLane noted he recently gave school a donation of several million dollars.
“You give because you love Baylor University,” McLane said.