The Big Mac Blog

Only Baylor, and not the Big 12, should decide what it releases

Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby and the conference have called for Baylor University to release the information the school gathered for the rape scandal.
Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby and the conference have called for Baylor University to release the information the school gathered for the rape scandal. AP

The Big 12 Conference has offered its opinion and, like so many, it wants Baylor to roll out the ugly.

On Wednesday afternoon, the league office issued a statement pressuring Baylor University to provide “a full accounting of the circumstances surrounding the sexual assaults at the university. At this time the Board is only privy to information that has been made available to the public.”

Would the Big 12 do this if the school in question was the University of Oklahoma? No.

Would the Big 12 do this if the school in question was the University of Texas? Hell no.

The idea that the Big 12 is “concerned” about this is grandstanding rhetoric. The Big 12 is a sports league, period. Any talk that these “college sports leagues” have a concern about anything outside of ball is bull.

However poorly Baylor’s leadership has handled this situation, it is its house that happens to reside in the Big 12 neighborhood. We can easily judge (which God knows I have), but we don’t get a vote.

I have had a change of heart on this: The only people who should get a vote on this matter are members of the Baylor family and the victims themselves.

Karen Petree, who is a Baylor grad and advocate for the victims of rape at her alma mater wrote to me: “My thoughts on the report that was presented to the BOR is that it contains such detail about these women that it would put their identities at risk even if names were left out. Releasing their names would be just another way to victimize them yet again. These women tried to move on after their rapes, then tried to move on after Baylor failed them, then tried to move on when pepper Hamilton interviewed them, then tried to move on after the report’s findings were many times are we going to rehash their pain? I don't mind some details being released ... numbers, generalities ... but stories? You would have to remove every single date, the major, where it happened, and more.”

That should not be easily dismissed.

However, per the Big 12 press release, “Today, Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby sent a letter to Baylor University Interim President David Garland once again requesting all documents associated with the investigations of sexual assaults at Baylor. This request is for written materials as well as any information that has been conveyed orally to University leadership or to its Board of Regents including, but not limited to, the unedited written or verbal information from Pepper Hamilton, omitting only the names of any involved students. Internal documents pertinent to the investigation have also been requested.

“Because many of the incidents at Baylor reportedly involve student-athletes, the Conference is appropriately concerned with discovery of the facts. The Big 12 is primarily configured to facilitate fair competition among its members and compliance to the rules of both the Conference and NCAA. To that end, full disclosure is vital to assess the impact on the Big 12.

“All of our member universities consider student safety and security to be paramount among institutional responsibilities,” Bowlsby in the release. “The Big 12 Board of Directors, each member of the Conference and its student-athletes want to convey that our thoughts, concerns and sympathies are with the Baylor survivors and their families.”

In turn, Baylor interim president David Garland issued a response via The Austin American Statesman and, basically, Baylor is not doing it; the statement includes, “President Garland will seek an opportunity to sit down with Commissioner Bowlsby to personally discuss the investigation and the Big 12’s requests. Dr. Garland would like to reiterate that the Findings of Fact fully reflect the themes, core findings and failings identified in the investigation – while omitting the documentation of individual cases and names supporting these findings.”

So far, the Pepper Hamilton documentation made available to the public has been limited. There is even a debate about whether a written report even exists. One high ranking source told me that the report does exist; others insist the firm presented an oral presentation and there is no written documentation.

There are two camps regarding the issue:

1.) Release all of it, which has been endorsed by ousted BU president Ken Starr. Many members of the Baylor alumni association, which has had numerous disagreements with the Baylor board of regents, have called for the public release of the documents as well.

2.) The other camp says to keep it sealed to protect the identities of the victims, which is basically what Garland told WFAA on June 14.

If Baylor wants full credibility on this, releasing the documents will do just that. I have been an advocate of that plan for just that reason.

But if releasing the information identifies the victims, then the documents must be concealed.

As a private school, Baylor can do what it wants. As long as those who have a vested interest in Baylor — faculty, leadership, students, parents and alums — are provided a place at the table, it’s their decision.

The Big 12 is not going to kick Baylor out of the league because there is no other viable option to add. Plus, there is no modern day precedent for such a move.

The NCAA is going to have a say in this because, much like the Big 12, it can.

Big 12 officials and the Baylor administration can have private discussions about this matter, but to release it all? That has to be a Baylor decision agreed to by those with a vested interest in that institution with a caring nod to the victims.

They’re the votes and voices that matter.