If you want to see the “effect” the rape scandal had on the Baylor football program check what happened on National Signing Day.
The short of it? Nothing.
The long of it? Other than a wad of six-figure checks to be issued by Baylor, and the dismissal of the most successful coach in the history of the school, as far as football this scandal is done and done.
On Tuesday, new coach Matt Rhule announced his first class of recruits, which ranked 32nd nationally according to Rivals.com. I put zero stock into recruiting rankings, but the fact he was able to do this in less than two months clearly demonstrates he could sell recruits that absolutely nothing was going to happen to his program that could have changed a kid’s mind to play elsewhere. I’m sorry - attend school elsewhere.
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With the Big 12 essentially powerless to do anything and the NCAA so far unwilling, if Rhule is good at his job – which I believe he is – there will be no long-term suffering impact on the Baylor football team beyond maybe the 2017 season.
Baylor could have self-imposed penalties on its football program, but firing Art Briles and his entire staff of loyal assistants are the sanctions. How embarrassing for any school, much less one founded on Baptist principles that a 7-6 season acts as punishment.
Must be nice.
Briles, who had already come to a pricey agreement on a previous suit against Baylor, dropped his libel lawsuit against the Baylor board of regents and its senior VP on Tuesday. Briles was smart enough to know that he had no chance to win this case; that his employer was in fact well within its right to fire him.
He should never have taken a swing after accepting the check. None of them should have. The hated and enabling Baylor Board knows where the bodies are buried, and when pushed hard enough it was only a matter of when they revealed grave sites. Or, in this case, text messages.
Because they know this - employees get fired while the employers stay hired. Especially at private schools.
On Thursday night, Sarah Mervosh of The Dallas Morning News broke a story that entails why Briles would have been motivated to drop this case; the report includes details from another lawsuit and contains sordid particulars how of Briles and other members of the Baylor athletic department, as well as the Waco PD, indeed tried to hide misdeeds by Baylor football players.
The report includes a handful of “alleged” text exchanges between Briles and Baylor staffers. No Baylor apologist could defend this. As easily predicted, they all knew - including some of the esteemed members of the Board who fired Briles.
Briles is finished. It’s embarrassing that Liberty University hired former Baylor athletic director Ian McCaw to run its department. The same for the college programs from Florida Atlantic (Kendall Briles) to Texas (Casey Horny) to Arizona State (Phil Bennett) that hired the loyal Briles’ assistants.
Coverups of academic misconduct, assault and DWIs are routine in big-time college sports, but those who get busted don’t get hired this fast, or at all. Whether it’s Todd Graham at Arizona State, Lane Kiffin at FAU or Tom Herman at UT, none of these men vetted their Briles’ assistants nearly enough, because they never do.
Meanwhile, BU and its lawyers will continue to sort through this mess at a rate of $350 an hour, or more, while the football team just keeps keepin’ on.
The incoming football recruits don’t care. If their parents did they were talked out of it.
The fans certainly don’t care.
As to the victims ... well, we sure do feel badly but ... hey, it’s time to move forward. This assumes you come from the school that actually believes there were victims rather than a series of Baylor female students who overly-aggressively flirted, or wrongly accused some football players because they didn’t want their parents to know they willingly engaged in premarital sex.
Sorry, girls – you just don’t matter. I mean, you do ... kind of ... as long as you don’t get in the way because we’re talking about Baylor versus Liberty University on Sept. 2. Do you know how big that game is?
A scandal like this should have gutted a program, but it’s a different era of college sports. TV sanctions are no longer plausible, bowl bans are silly, and the only real way to nail a program is scholarship reductions and fewer recruiting visits; Rhule had to deal with neither.
Dumping Baylor president Ken Starr was a nothing; university presidents are as difficult to find as junk mail, only more disposable and easily replaced. Judge Starr was in the process of being pushed out by Baylor before the Brazos got dirty in Waco.
Forcing athletic director Ian McCaw out was slightly less significant than Starr – good ADs are not that hard to find.
Firing Briles will remain the most difficult action the school took in this fiasco of leadership. Everyone at Baylor realized how important, and valuable, he was to their pride and to expand their brand. His bosses enabled him because they knew he was the green and gold unicorn they so deeply desired.
They fired him for a reason, and that will be the sanction for his football team that plays on without punishment.