Mac Engel

More than a decade after Dave Bliss, Baylor botches another case

Baylor coach Art Briles told reporters that he didn’t know about a Boise State transfer’s troubled past. But former Boise State coach Chris Petersen said he “thoroughly apprised Briles of the circumstances” surrounding the player’s dismissal.
Baylor coach Art Briles told reporters that he didn’t know about a Boise State transfer’s troubled past. But former Boise State coach Chris Petersen said he “thoroughly apprised Briles of the circumstances” surrounding the player’s dismissal. AP

Baylor, you can’t blame Dave Bliss for this one.

All of the idiots in Waco who enabled their scumbag former basketball coach to run the entire athletic program into oblivion with the Patrick Dennehy murder scandal that began in 2003 are gone. That means this is a new crew of sports zealots who didn’t learn enough from the previous regime: There are just some things you don’t do, and some kids you don’t take for your team.

The disgusting details revealed Thursday by Texas Monthly about Baylor’s recruitment and addition of Boise State transfer Samuel Ukwuachu in 2013 are bad enough. Baylor coach Art Briles told reporters Friday in Waco that he knew nothing about Ukwuachu’s past problems in Idaho, which included accusations of a violent incident involving a girlfriend, being verbally abusive and sending threatening text messages.

Briles said he just knew “Sam was depressed and needed to come home.”

Briles threw former Boise State coach Chris Petersen so far under the bus there should be tire tracks across the back of the Washington head coach. In an interview with ESPN, Petersen denied Briles’ claims and said he “thoroughly apprised coach Briles of the circumstances surrounding Sam’s disciplinary record and dismissal.”

Late Friday, Baylor released a statement from Briles reiterating his point that Petersen did not disclose that there had been violence toward women. The school also released the transfer form that Boise State sent to Baylor, showing that Ukwuachu had not been suspended or disqualified from the school for disciplinary reasons.

Like you, I believe Chris Petersen. Baylor applied for Ukwuachu’s immediate eligibility when he transferred rather than wait one year; Boise State said no way. Pressed further by reporters Friday, Briles said, “Let’s talk about football.”

Let’s not.

Pretty sure Art knew about the sexual-assault accusation against Ukwuachu stemming from an October 2013 incident that involved a Baylor women’s soccer player. In Waco. Ukwuachu was indicted in June 2014.

Do not let Art’s soft, folksy Texas drawl fool you. He’s not dumb, but his spin means he thinks we are. Or we don’t care. Or he knows zero will come of this — as long as he wins, nothing will happen.

Must be hard to be the head coach of a top-10 program and not have any idea about what led to the dismissal of a Freshman All-America defensive end from a Top 25 program. According to the report by Texas Monthly, Baylor buried and willfully ignored Ukwuachu’s case until Thursday when the details of the report were unveiled.

Thursday, Ukwuachu was found guilty of sexual assault. Ukwuachu never officially played for Baylor, but this scandal is disgusting on several levels.

1. Any team at the bottom like Baylor was when Briles was hired in 2008 must take risks on kids that established programs won’t touch. When Briles arrived, he had to take the kids with bad grades or questionable character to have a shot at winning.

Ukwuachu deserved a second chance after he left Boise, but it should have been at a junior college or NAIA school — not at Baylor University.

Baylor is a top-10 team, and Briles didn’t need to take on a risk like Ukwuachu, which he knowingly did despite his protests otherwise. Baylor is not trying to win six games for bowl eligibility; it’s trying to win 12 games to reach the College Football Playoff.

Art is a good man who is just like the rest of ’em, pushing the edge to give the message-board masses what they want: wins so they can buy a $25.99 T-shirt that says “Co-Big 12 Champs.”

2. The quaint-community culture of big-time sports is as enabling as ever. Baylor didn’t care about this kid’s past; it merely hoped history would not repeat itself. The report from Texas Monthly makes it sound as though Baylor didn’t care even after the assault accusations and indictment.

That his sexual-assault charge in Waco remained quiet for nearly an entire year means the university, the media, the team, the coaches and members of law enforcement and the judicial system were all compliant in keeping quiet.

The economic machine at Baylor is humming. It’s a sad statement that the health of a community and a university is directly tied to the success of a football team. Look around Fort Worth and TCU since the football program started winning games; it’s a horrible indictment on our culture, but as true as the sun will rise.

I guarantee donations — as well as applications — at Baylor are at an all-time high. No one in Waco wants to see that momentum stopped, and this case has the potential to leave a scar.

Somebody in Waco knew about this kid and nary a word was said until an outsider did the digging.

3. There exists a rape culture that extends far beyond athletics. The testimony from the Baylor women’s soccer player against Ukwuachu is enough to make a person sick, but this issue is hardly endemic to Baylor.

Watch the 2015 documentary The Hunting Ground, or read bestselling author Jon Krakauer’s new book Missoula. Both delve deep into the rape culture that exists on college campuses, and into the sexual-assault cases of former Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston and a pair of high-profile rape charges against University of Montana football players.

There is an entire generation emboldened by sexually aggressive images and clips that are readily available on TV and iPhones. That’s what they want, and that’s what they think they deserve.

4. This can happen to your team, no matter how “good of a man” your ball coach is. Briles didn’t want this. We are talking about coaching a collection of coddled 20-year-olds who know the score — they are needed because we, as a society, place a high value on their skills, so much is permitted.

TCU fans are laughing at Baylor, much the same way Baylor was laughing at TCU over Devonte Fields two years ago. Don’t think for a minute TCU didn’t try to keep the former Big 12 defensive player of the year on the team, despite a laundry list of off-the-field problems that eventually included a domestic violence charge involving a gun.

The case of Baylor and Sam Ukwuachu are not nearly on the same level as Dave Bliss and the murder of Patrick Dennehy, but it’s another example that the priorities of a fine “Christian-principled” university are not that much different 12 years later.

The big difference is Baylor is winning, and there isn’t a Dave Bliss to fire.

Listen to Mac Engel every Tuesday and Thursday on Shan & RJ from 5:30-10 a.m. on 105.3 The Fan.

Mac Engel, 817-390-7697

Twitter: @macengelprof and The Big Mac Blog

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