Gil LeBreton

As NCAA investigation continues, Baylor dances around sex-assault scandal

In 1996, Southern Baptist-affiliated Baylor University lifted its 151-year-old ban and allowed dancing on its Waco campus.

Baylor hasn’t stopped dancing, we were reminded Monday.

A report by Jim Vertuno of The Associated Press confirmed that the NCAA is conducting an “ongoing, pending investigation” of the university for its role in a sexual assault scandal that led to the firing of football coach Art Briles.

That was no surprise. The sordid mess at Baylor has spread to encompass lawsuits by at least 15 victims and 52 alleged incidents, including gang rapes conducted by 31 football players.

The NCAA has to be concerned with what happened at Baylor.

What was staggeringly repugnant, however, is that the confirmation of the investigation came from the school’s own lawyers as part of a maneuver to keep from releasing Baylor’s communications with the NCAA.

How big is that rug that Baylor wants to keep sweeping things under?

After more than a year of boasting about the purging within its ranks, after pledges of “transparency” and claims of “unprecedented” response, Baylor still doesn’t want the public to know who knew what and when they knew it.

In a filing in federal court Monday, the university’s lawyers asked a judge to withhold the NCAA-related information from attorneys representing the more than a dozen women who have filed lawsuits against the Waco institution.

Astonishingly, Baylor says it is doing this to “maintain the confidentiality of the NCAA’s investigation process.”

Oh, please. The school that originally hired the Pepper Hamilton law firm, in part, to protect it from the NCAA suddenly is concerned with compromising its investigation?

Vertuno’s AP story quoted attorney Chad Dunn, who represents some of the women suing Baylor, as saying, “I find it significant that for over a year Baylor has been going around talking about transparency, but tells the court it wants to turn over no records.”

And the NCAA is OK with this?

Sooner or later, Baylor was bound to encounter someone who couldn’t be bought off, someone who would refuse to take one of their hefty checks in exchange for silence.

That day has come, it seems. The remaining lawsuits are real. Dunn represents 10 clients. In addition, the NCAA likely has already interviewed Patty Crawford, the school’s former Title IX coordinator who rejected Baylor’s million-dollar settlement offer because it contained a confidentiality clause.

As the Penn State case showed, the NCAA must tread lightly when it rules on matters that aren’t distinctly prohibited in its bylaws. Jerry Sandusky’s 45 counts of sexual abuse of 10 minors weren’t, and as a result most of the NCAA penalties against Penn State were later rescinded.

Sexual assaults and gang rapes by football players aren’t specifically dealt with in the NCAA rule book. But clearly they should be.

If the rule book can forbid gambling, why not rape?

Baylor’s NCAA culpability remains uncertain. But if I were Baylor, I’d be worried. The three top administrators in the Penn State case, including the former university president and athletic director, were all sentenced to jail terms for “endangering the welfare of a child.”

Two weeks ago, the NCAA levied sanctions against Louisville because a former Rick Pitino basketball assistant provided strippers and escorts for prospective recruits.

If even one of the Baylor plaintiffs can show that her sexual assault came in the course of her duties with the school’s hostess recruiting program, the now-disbanded Baylor Bruins, the NCAA can make the link between the rapes and recruiting.

In the meantime, the investigation continues.

As does the Baylor dancing.

Gil LeBreton: @gilebreton

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