Mac Engel

Baylor scandal replaces SMU as worst in Texas sports

The university said in a statement Thursday, May 26, 2016, that it had suspended Briles "with intent to terminate." Starr will leave the position of president on May 31, but he will remain a law professor and perhaps chancellor.
The university said in a statement Thursday, May 26, 2016, that it had suspended Briles "with intent to terminate." Starr will leave the position of president on May 31, but he will remain a law professor and perhaps chancellor. AP

There is no reason to rejoice or gloat about the decision in Waco. We all lost, it’s just a matter of degree.

All of Baylor University loses.

The Big 12 loses.

The state of college football in Texas loses.

TCU’s entertaining rivalry with Baylor will soon die.

The image of college football worsens.

Thousands of good people will temporarily have their Baylor degrees sullied by the deliberate inadequacy of their zealot leaders.

How people regard Art Briles and the remarkable job he did at Baylor is forever ruined, and the coach will now be mentioned in the same sentence as the disgraced Joe Paterno.

The victims in the cases will likely receive a check, but they can’t get anything back.

Baylor University had no choice but to fire a head coach who had previously generated so much positive attention — and money — for the school. His presence on the Baylor sideline was bad for the high-dollar business that is private education.

I didn’t think Baylor would do it, but I am not surprised it did. He was going to negatively affect marketing, applications, enrollment and donations, which made his dismissal an impossibly easy business decision.

On April 7 when I interviewed Baylor President Ken Starr, he said, “If we made mistakes, let’s live up to them, let’s own them and then correct the situation.”

Baylor did that.

As college sports fans we can tolerate a lot of moral depravity and obnoxious double standards to support our team, but we should never accept that an innocent bystander’s physical and emotional well-being is a nuisance. There still must be a line.

That is why I hammered at Baylor for so long, even when I was not sure if anyone cared — it’s assault. It’s rape. It’s corruption. It’s negligence. This is considerably worse than the SMU scandal that led to the Death Penalty in 1987. This one is the worst.

It’s worse than the Baylor basketball scandal that included a murder in 2003.

What Baylor University confessed was not some booster paying money to teenagers or a singularly desperate amoral coach, Dave Bliss, pinning his cheating ways on a murderer.

This was a series of calculating adults who are well paid to be leaders of young men and women and who deliberately tried to coerce rape victims from coming forward. It sets another low in the continually devolving world of college sports.

The full effects of this scandal will not be known for months, but they will be felt for years.

Because we are just 60 days from the start of fall practice, Baylor may have no choice but to retain this coaching staff for one interim season, which will destroy recruiting. A real replacement will not be hired until December or January.

Whoever is the permanent replacement will then have to adhere to the letter of the law — never easy in college football.

President now Chancellor Ken Starr will quietly leave, as will athletic director Ian McCaw. There is no way they can stay much longer.

To those who say the media did not do its job — we didn’t, and then we did.

The Waco media did report on some of these cases, but no one grabbed it. What the media did not do was follow up those stories enough; this happens with greater frequency with continued staff reductions at places like the Waco Tribune-Herald because, “Nobody reads the paper” until they need to.

There was zero movement on this until Texas Monthly published its story on Boise State transfer Sam Ukwuachu last August. Then things began to happen, and Baylor announced the internal investigation by the law firm of Pepper Hamilton.

The first of ESPN’s two Outside the Lines stories came in January, to which reporter Paula Lavigne deserves considerable credit for her work. The same for the stories done by Alex Dunlap from Austin and The Associated Press.

We in the media can collectively stink, but this story is why a free press is vital to big-time college sports and society — without these people and these organizations, the behaviors by the BU staff would have gone unnoticed and continued not only sans obstruction but with support.

Why I personally went at this story was because it represented the most egregious abuses of power, and deliberate denial, all in the name of winning a stupid football game. I love football but it’s still a game, like Candy Land or Scrabble.

I nearly gave up covering this because I thought the interest level changed when I reported firing Briles had become a distinct possibility. Then suddenly people cared a lot about “the victims.”

Most of the righteous indignation at Baylor was all in the name of eliminating the Bears as a player in college football. To fire Briles means there is a better chance of returning Baylor as a homecoming opponent.

The coveted recruits who attended Baylor did so because of Briles, the first Baylor coach to post three consecutive 10-win seasons.

What more of us must admit is that sexual assault is a major problem not just at Baylor but on college campuses throughout the country. Victims of rape are scared to come forward because they are ashamed or resigned to the fact they will not be heard.

With its admission of responsibility Thursday, Baylor said it is accountable, that there is a line.

Firing Briles was necessary to the bottom line, but Baylor admitted it all and said the well-being of its customers — i.e. students — is a priority and that the actions committed by leadership were reprehensible.

Given Briles’ status and success, his dismissal is one of the most difficult actions Baylor has ever made. Briles had created a real Camelot, but firing him was the only way to conclude this tragic ordeal where — ultimately — we all lost.

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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