Mac Engel

Transparency is the road back to improving Baylor’s image

A report into Baylor’s handling of sexual assault complaints is expected to be released soon.
A report into Baylor’s handling of sexual assault complaints is expected to be released soon. pmoseley@star-telegram.com

Depending on who you believe, the investigation into Baylor University’s athletic department is complete and soon the long-awaited report by the Philadelphia law firm Pepper Hamilton should be released.

A Baylor spokesman said, however, that there is no indication the school’s board has been briefed by Pepper Hamilton.

Given the nature of the story, there is an excellent chance that the communication offices have not been briefed on the particulars of any of this, and won’t be until the 11th hour.

The timing suggests that a story from 247 Sports is accurate — that the report is indeed finished. Per Baylor President Ken Starr in an interview on April 7, the report was supposed to be done “pretty darn soon.”

It makes sense that it’s done. School is over and the summer is near. It’s time to put this report on the table, and then move on.

To investigate this scandal, Baylor hired the Philadelphia law firm of Pepper Hamilton in September 2015.

The question is how much of the report will be released and what “moving on” entails. The board is the final decision maker on how much of the report — that took approximately eight months and cost likely close to $1 million to complete — will be made available to the public.

One purpose of this report was to gain credibility. To release just portions would undermine that intent.

The early fear coming from Waco is that the portions of the report that exonerate football coach Art Briles will surely be released while anything that could potentially expose or embarrass the school will be kept quiet under the guise of FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act).

Starr said in that interview he favored transparency, but that the school will follow the advice of counsel — Pepper Hamilton.

Forget that legalese. Baylor just needs to release the whole thing, eat the vegetables and deal with it. Redact names of the innocent and let the rest go.

There is no way to appease everybody, especially indignant fans who simply want Baylor’s football program to return to the Guy Morriss era so the Bears are no longer a threat to win the Big 12, which they are under Briles.

Baylor is 65-37 in nine seasons under Art Briles with bowl appearances in six straight years.

There is a way to be honest while protecting the innocent. There is another way to handle this besides the bunker mentality the school has followed since this became a national story last August.

As a private university, Baylor does not have to do anything it doesn’t want to do. As the stewards for young adults who are responsible for more than $50,000 per year to attend this private school, Baylor should feel compelled to offer the truth to the parents and kids and future enrollees and donors.

The link for this scandal is sports, but this story goes to the heart of a school’s reputation and the priority it places on the physical well-being of its students. People who wear green and gold will protect their own, but the last thing Baylor’s beleaguered reputation needs is the assumption that it is concealing something in order to protect its football team.

If I’m a parent considering paying for my child to attend Baylor and there is a modicum of concern about this, this school has to be removed as a destination — even with financial aid.

There is football recruiting, which is a part of the body of a university. Then there is general student population recruiting, which is the heart and soul of a university.

You have to be very careful about the timeline and what you say publicly about specific cases.

Baylor President Ken Starr, on April 7, on the school commenting publicly about this scandal

Football fans who don’t like Baylor will automatically not believe a word Briles says and there is nothing he can do about that. The same for Starr and athletic director Ian McCaw. People are going to not want to believe them because they will want the worst to be true.

There is a very good chance this report will reveal a breakdown in due diligence and communications between the Baylor judiciary office and men like Briles and others in the athletic department. Bet heavily that the intermediary offices and those employees will take the brunt of this.

This story has covered the worst of college sports and humanity; it has involved multiple rapes by Baylor football players, coverups, denials, negligence, lawsuits both open and now closed and, so far, a giant “no comment” from the school itself.

It is all nearing its conclusion, which should include the full release of an investigation Baylor paid for in order to find out what happened and to instill credibility.

The quickest route to credibility is transparency.

On this one, Baylor can’t have it both ways.

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

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