Mac Engel

Baylor and Briles granted extension by NCAA, optimistic for no major penalties

Names to know in the Baylor sexual assault scandal

An estimated 125 reports of sexual assault or harassment were made at Baylor in four years. A lawsuit alleges 52 of those were committed football players. Here are the names and policies you should know to understand what happened.
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An estimated 125 reports of sexual assault or harassment were made at Baylor in four years. A lawsuit alleges 52 of those were committed football players. Here are the names and policies you should know to understand what happened.

The NCAA’s case against Baylor will not be announced as previously scheduled as former football coach Art Briles has been granted an extension to formally respond to the “notice of allegations,” sources said.

Although Briles and Baylor’s defenses and responses are separate, if one is granted an extension both parties receive it.

The NCAA, which opened an investigation against Baylor in the summer of 2017, sent the school and Briles a notice of allegations in September. Both Baylor and Briles had 90 days to respond.

Officials and those familiar with the case spoke for this report on background on the condition of anonymity.

Briles’ defense requested an extension, which means the NCAA’s response and verdict to its investigation will be delayed until sometime in April.

When the NCAA opens an investigation into a program for one matter, which in this case is in regards to potential Title IX infractions and the mishandling of sexual assault claims, it often finds problems in other areas.

Sources indicated both Briles and Baylor are confident no major penalty will be given, but there exists an unnerving feeling that the NCAA infractions committee could swing a hammer simply because it can.

COOPERATIVE INVESTIGATION

Sources indicated that when the NCAA announced its plans to investigate the football program in the wake of multiple allegations of sexual assault committed by members of the Baylor football team, the school agreed to open everything.

The school’s “open book” approach with the NCAA is not consistent with the way it has handled the Jane Doe lawsuits against the university for how it treated Title IX and sexual assault complaints. In the courtroom, Baylor lawyer’s have repeatedly contested countless records request by the Jane Doe lawyers.

The NCAA can and will use whatever testimony or information obtained in a court room to go with its own investigation. Some of the testimony, specifically by former Baylor athletic director Ian McCaw, is not flattering towards the school and specifically its board of regents.

Per sources, the NCAA’s investigation of Baylor includes more than 9,000 pages of documents as it has interviewed current and past employees of the school and its athletic department.

At a minimum, the NCAA has dug on this case, to at least find something, or look like it did due diligence.

POTENTIAL PENALTY

The main sticking point, as far as Baylor’s potentially facing a serious penalty, is “a lack of institutional control” and meddlesome behaviors by high-ranking school officials on behalf of the football team.

Sources said university officials have been linked to not enforcing penalties on players for failed drug tests, and going to extra lengths to maintain eligibility for some players who struggled academically.

Nearly all of the athletic department officials who would be potentially named in any allegation against Baylor by the NCAA are no longer with the school.

When the Big 12 released its verification report of Baylor at the end of October, it confirmed the school has implemented 105 measures and improvements to its Title IX office. That confirmation put Baylor in good standing with the conference.

While that report will not hurt Baylor’s case with the NCAA, the Big 12 did minimal to zero of its own investigating. The conference basically took the work of the legal team representing Baylor, created its own “Big 12 Report,” thereby concluding its involvement on this matter.

BAYLOR’S FUTURE

Baylor’s primary concern is what sort of penalty will be levied against a football program that in its second season under head coach Matt Rhule exceeded all expectations. One year after finishing 1-11, the Bears are 6-6 this season and nearly defeated Texas in Austin.

The Bears will play Vanderbilt on Dec. 27 in the Texas Bowl in Houston.

School officials were initially confident before it hired Rhule in December 2016 that the program would avoid major penalty by the NCAA. School officials assured Rhule, who was given a seven-year contract, he would have to deal with no major penalties in rebuilding the Baylor football program.

As more and more people were interviewed, however, the mood changed from confident to concerned.

In the late summer, sources said Baylor was advised to potentially consider a self-imposed postseason ban. Baylor officials vehemently deny it considered the ban. A postseason ban is considered a serious penalty by the NCAA.

Self-imposing sanctions are viewed as acts of good faith to the NCAA that the school is taking the investigation, and charges, seriously. Sources said currently Baylor is offering no such self-imposed penalties.

Other than a postseason ban, other potential penalties Baylor could face include fines, loss of scholarships, decreased practice time and recruiting restrictions.

The short-term fear among officials is the NCAA’s committee on infractions crushes Baylor in an effort to look good for a public that has bashed the organization for its handling of previous cases. The NCAA received considerable criticism for its handling of the academic fraud at North Carolina, and the Joe Paterno/Jerry Sandusky case at Penn State.

While the NCAA imposed major fines and sanctions at Penn State for its “lack of institutional control,” nearly all of the penalties were lost after a Pennsylvania senator sued the NCAA.

Baylor, ultimately, is no different than TCU or other smaller schools in Power 5 conferences. It needs to do everything possible to keep a successful team together in fear that the next time major conference re-alignment occurs, it will remain a “power school,” which is worth millions to the school.

BRILES’ FUTURE

The coach at the center of this investigation is Briles, 63, who has been unable to find a college coaching job since he left in 2016.

Sources said the investigation has revealed minor infractions potentially attached to Briles, primarily in the area of discipline. Sources said the investigation has not found a case of Briles knowingly playing a player who had been accused of sexual assault.

The one player who may get Briles in trouble with the NCAA is former Bears defensive end Tevin Elliott, but not for anything related to sexual assault allegations. Elliott was at Baylor from 2009 to ‘12.

Elliott’s grades were an issue, and there are potential specifics in his case that said Baylor officials went an extra mile to help him remain academically eligible.

Elliott was accused of sexual assault in 2012; he was later convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2014.

Sources said during the investigation Baylor has continued to put any of the alleged violations entirely on Briles, his coaching staff, and the athletic department officials who have since left.

When Briles left, he agreed to a total buyout package of nearly $18 million that included a provision not to publicly disparage Baylor. The other two high-ranking officials who left and received buyouts, specifically former Baylor president Ken Starr and AD Ian McCaw, have not commented on their tenure and exits from the school.

Briles made a few comments after he accepted the job in Italy.

Sources indicate he has remained a quiet figure, in part to not to create any issue for his son Kendal, who is the offensive coordinator at the University of Houston. Kendal was a candidate for the Texas State job.

Art Briles remains a polaraizing figure as any time his name is mentioned he is basically viewed as “The Rape Coach.”

Shortly after Texas Tech fired Kliff Kingsbury in late November, sources said a pair of the school’s board of regents inquired about potentially bringing Briles to Lubbock. The proposal went nowhere as Texas Tech AD Kirby Hocutt hired Matt Wells from Utah State.

Then Liberty University had an opening when coach Turner Gill unexpectedly retired to be with his ailing wife. Liberty’s AD is McCaw, but the job was never offered to Briles.

McCaw instead hired former Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze, despite the fact that he resigned from that position amid numerous NCAA infractions that landed the football program on probation. Freeze spoke at Liberty earlier this year and impressed the school’s administrators.

All parties involved have mostly moved on, but as long as there remain lawsuits and this NCAA investigation, it’s not over.

Former Baylor defensive coordinator Phil Bennett talks about the rape scandal at the school that led to the firing of Baylor president Ken Starr, athletic director Ian McCaw and football coach Art Briles.

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