Gil LeBreton

Big 12 presidents take the easy way out on Baylor

New Baylor football coach Jim Grobe seemed to adopt the old “boys will be boys” defense in describing the past misdeeds alleged at the school.
New Baylor football coach Jim Grobe seemed to adopt the old “boys will be boys” defense in describing the past misdeeds alleged at the school. Special to the Star-Telegram

The presidents and chancellors of the Big 12 Conference wanted answers, we were led to believe.

They wanted candor. They wanted evidence. They wanted Baylor University to finally come clean.

And if not . . . ?

Well, we may never know. Caught between a stone wall and a big law book, the Big 12 Board of Directors took the easy way out Tuesday afternoon.

Forget expulsion. Commissioner Bob Bowlsby swiftly turned the page to expansion.

“It’s been a very productive day,” announced Oklahoma President David Boren, chairman of the Big 12 board.

Forget, for a minute, the curiously ill scheduling of a board of directors meeting right in the middle of the conference’s football media days.

The conference lords were ticked off, we were told. They wanted answers. They wanted to know what on earth was going on in Waco.

Some of them, yes, wanted Baylor’s head. Or so the talk this summer went.

Football coach Art Briles was out. President and Chancellor Ken Starr was out. Athletic director Ian McCaw and a lineup of unnamed others were out.

What more did the Big 12 want?

Bowlsby seemed to set the scene Monday at the media days when he said, “When one member’s reputation is damaged, I think all of our images are damaged.”

But when Bowlsby and Boren addressed the media after Tuesday’s meeting, they acted like a family that had resolved a problem that it wanted to remain private.

We were left to read between the lines of the few words that Boren spoke, before the conversation stunningly shifted to impending Big 12 expansion.

“The details provided today are a necessary step in helping the entire membership to gain a better understanding of the past actions, and how the university plans to deal with the issues identified in the Pepper Hamilton findings,” Boren said.

“We were assured of the university’s commitment to keep the conference apprised of what was going on as we move forward. My board colleagues and I sincerely appreciate the leadership of interim President [David] Garland during this very difficult period of time. And we support his efforts for absolute compliance with appropriate rules of all kind.”

Dean Wormer couldn’t have said it better, in other words. Baylor is on double, not-so-secret probation. It had better not embarrass the Big 12 again.

Messy details linger, though, like the upcoming football season. New coach Jim Grobe didn’t help things Tuesday morning during his awkward, 20-minute introduction before the assembled Big 12 media.

“The majority of our kids are fantastic kids,” Grobe said. “The problems that we’re dealing with at Baylor are probably problems at every university in the country.”

Oh, the old “boys will be boys” defense. You would think that a guy who’s coached 40 years would come up with something better than that.

When someone asked Grobe about what’s been done to “change the culture” at Baylor, the new coach objected, saying, “We don’t have a culture of bad behavior at Baylor University.”

Grobe revealed that it was his call to retain Kendal Briles and Jeff Lebby on the coaching staff. The former is the fired Art Briles’ son, and the latter is his son-in-law.

“I felt like the best thing we could do for [the players] is to try to keep consistency in the coaches ... and try to, you know, put our arms around the players and take care of them,” he said.

Grobe’s lame explanation was beyond insensitive. Where was this coaching staff when the sexual assault victims needed somebody to hear them and comfort them?

Baylor’s response appears to be taking two paths:

The university is quick to remind that the high-ranking Starr, McCaw and Art Briles have been expunged from the campus. And in the meantime, its legal representatives have been trying to settle out of court with the victims.

That will have to do for now, apparently, judging by the Big 12 board of directors’ deft footwork Tuesday. Family handled it within the family.

Sadly, the Baylor victims will have to be content with that.

Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram