Gil LeBreton

Don’t expect Baylor report to finger Art Briles

Baylor coach Art Briles appears to have become more powerful than even the Waco police chief or the Baylor president.
Baylor coach Art Briles appears to have become more powerful than even the Waco police chief or the Baylor president. AP

Schools that want to cheat have it easy these days.

Newspapers no longer employ investigative reporters — too expensive.

And the NCAA, short-staffed and hamstrung by lack of subpoena power, has to have evidence fall at its feet — a divorce case or a disgruntled ex-employee — in order to proceed.

Art Briles, in the meantime, has always ruled his roost. Growing up in Rule, he was the quarterback. His daddy was the coach.

At Stephenville, he won four state championships. He could have run for mayor.

And now in Waco, he again has ascended to a position of power and immense sway. More powerful, if we can believe recent dispatches, than even the police chief or the Baylor president.

Not that Briles cheats, though many seem to think so. But rather, evidence mounts that the Rajah of Waco wields his power with impunity.

And why not? Who’s going to stop him?

If you think the oft-referred to Pepper Hamilton report is going to unravel the good ol’ Baylor line, you’re fooling yourself. The Philadelphia law firm that did the leg work and produced the report is said to have briefed the Baylor Board of Regents on its contents last week.

But think about it. Baylor hired the law firm and is paying the two main attorneys, Gina Smith and Leslie Gomez, at a reported $585 and $511 per hour, respectively.

Their specialty, it seems, isn’t dismantling football programs. Their expertise is in keeping their clients out of court. Pepper Hamilton’s past ledger includes the high-profile Penn State case — it represented Penn State.

When he hired the firm, Baylor president and chancellor Ken Starr released a statement which said:

“Ms. Smith and Ms. Gomez are skilled and experienced investigators who will help us pinpoint where we are strong and where we need to make improvements to ensure the highest degree of integrity to protect the safety and welfare of all our students.”

In other words, don’t expect the Pepper Hamilton report, if it’s ever made public, to reveal what Art Briles knew and when he knew it. It won’t contain testimony from then-Boise State’s Chris Petersen on exactly what he told Briles about Sam Ukwuachu.

Did Smith and Gomez even try to contact Petersen?

And what about this week’s revelations on ESPN’s Outside the Lines, which claimed a joint effort by somebody at Baylor and the Waco police department to hide football players’ assault charges and to keep reporters from prying into Ahmad Dixon’s sexual assault case?

Who is orchestrating all this stuff?

Don’t expect the Smith and Gomez report to name names. If their track record holds, the document will be fluffed with hosannas about the recent steps that Baylor has made toward full Title IX compliance. The hiring of a Title IX coordinator — which wasn’t done until November 2014 — will be likened to the discovery of Dr Pepper.

All well and good.

But it’s all lip service unless someone is held accountable for the culture of sexual assault on the Baylor campus. Someone allowed linebacker Tevin Elliott, sentenced to 20 years, to remain on campus, where he could rape other students. Someone allowed defensive end Sam Ukwuachu, sentenced to 180 days, to transfer from Boise State.

The answers may come from the lawsuit filed by one of Elliott’s victims, Jasmin Hernandez, who has gone public with her claims that the school knew about the player’s alleged past assaults and, thus, violated federal law by failing to protect her and fellow female students.

Hernandez’s federal civil suit was filed against Baylor — and against Art Briles.

Eventually, somebody is going to have to talk. And it will be in a courtroom, after putting his hand on a Bible.

Baylor can’t run from that, too, can it?

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