Texas

Baylor regents: 19 football players accused of assault or rape since 2011

By Matthew Watkins

A fan looks on as Baylor and Northwestern State play Sept. 2 in Waco.
A fan looks on as Baylor and Northwestern State play Sept. 2 in Waco. The Associated Press

Baylor University regents have told The Wall Street Journal that 19 of the school’s football players have been accused of sexual assault or domestic violence since 2011 — and that four of those accusations involved gang rapes.

It’s the most detailed description yet of the allegations levied against the school, its administrators and its football coaches in an investigative report commissioned by Baylor last year. A summary of the report was released in May, around the time football coach Art Briles and university President Ken Starr were relieved of their jobs. But few details have been revealed until now.

Regents told the newspaper that Briles knew about at least one alleged incident but didn’t alert police or school staff members who were tasked with handling allegations of sexual violence. In a closed-door meeting before Briles was fired, he tearfully said he “delegated down, and I know that I shouldn’t have,” but didn’t admit specific wrongdoing, regents told the newspaper.

Briles told the board that “I had a system where I was the last to know, and I should have been the first to know,” one regent said.

The paper spoke with Ron Murff, chairman of the board of regents, and Regent C. Cary Gray. They seemed to suggest that Briles should have done more to respond to the allegations. Briles simply wanted to focus on football, Gray said.

“That is not the job for the head coach of a college football program,” Gray told the newspaper. “It is a big business. It is a complex organization that involves millions of dollars, and you have got to have an effective CEO in that role.”

A Baylor spokeswoman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Baylor has been under scrutiny for how it has handled allegations of sexual assault since August, when football player Sam Ukwuachu was convicted of raping another student. During the trial, it was revealed that Baylor investigated the allegations against Ukwuachu but took little action other than suspending him from the football team while his trial was pending. Soon after, other similar cases came to light.

The university hired the law firm Pepper Hamilton to review the allegations. The firm released a scathing report that included claims that Baylor “failed to consistently support” students who reported sexual assault and “failed to take action to identify and eliminate a potential hostile environment, prevent its recurrence, or address its effects for individual complainants or the broader campus community.”

The report said that administrators at times intervened in sexual violence complaints and that coaches met with victims who made allegations against football players but didn’t pass those allegations on to anyone outside the athletic department.

Many on and off campus have called on Baylor to release more details, though until now, school leaders have declined. Multiple women have sued the school, however, opening up the possibility that more details could become public during the discovery phase of a civil case.

Baylor’s handling of rape allegations is also being investigated by the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights. That inquiry opened this month after a complaint was filed by the former director of the school’s Title IX office, which is tasked with responding to such allegations.

Some of Briles’ supporters have criticized the school, saying its poor handling of sexual violence accusations was a universitywide problem being unfairly blamed on Briles. Briles’ lawyer made a similar argument to The Wall Street Journal.

“They are pulling their own house down to justify the mistakes they made,” said the lawyer, Ernest Cannon. “He’s the football coach. That’s not his job [to enforce Title IX]. That’s their job.”

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