DALLAS (CN) – Baylor University regents fired back at a former athletic official’s defamation lawsuit Thursday, making damning allegations that former head football coach Art Briles and his staff failed to report several rape allegations against players and actively shielded them from school discipline.
Regents Cary Gray, Ron Murff and David Harper filed a 54-page answer on Thursday, two days after they were sued by fired director of football operations Colin Shillinglaw in Dallas County District Court.
Shillinglaw sued the regents, Baylor, interim President Dr. David E. Garland, several school administrators and the Philadelphia-based law firm Pepper Hamilton, disputing public statements regents made to the press blaming the team’s administrators for the school’s ongoing rape scandal.
Shillinglaw claims he was defamed by association when the football program’s reputation was damaged when Pepper Hamilton’s external investigation of the rape allegations were revealed in May 2016.
The regents say Shillinglaw was “integrally involved with player discipline in a football program that became a black hole,” alleging failures to report to school administrators accusations against players involving “drug use, physical assault, domestic violence, brandishing of guns, indecent exposure and academic fraud.”
“Briles, Shillinglaw, and others set up a structure within football that often insulated Briles from knowing about misconduct,” their filing states. “In those circumstances when information about acts of misconduct bubbled its way up to him, Briles encouraged Shillinglaw and others on his staff to keep the problems internal to the program and not alert other campus authorities. For example, when confronted with allegations of a gang rape against some of his players, Briles made no real attempt to determine if his players were responsible, to report them to authorities outside the Athletics Department or to make sure his players were punished, if warranted.”
The regents say a female student-athlete’s coach reported to former athletic director Ian McCaw and Briles allegations of a gang rape involving five football players in April 2013.
“Those are some bad dudes,” Briles told the coach, the regents say. “Why was she around those guys?”
According to the regents, Briles offered no defense of his players and told the coach the victim should tell police and prosecute. They say McCaw told the coach it was up to the victim to take action against the men, that there was nothing they could do if she did not press charges.
The regents say Briles “personally took up” the suspension appeal of Tevin Elliott, who was sentenced in January 2014 to 20 years in state prison for two counts of sexual assault. They claim Briles told then-president Ken Starr on June 11, 2011, that Elliott wanted to appeal the school’s suspension – two months after the appeal deadline had passed.
According to the regents’ filing, Starr overturned the suspension, ignoring the decision of the provost, and placed the athletics department in charge of his probationary watch and not judicial affairs. They claim this created a different standard for athletes than other students, as Elliott allegedly had attendance problems and was caught cheating on quizzes, among other things.
“This violated President Starr’s probation orders and Elliott’s academic plan,” the answer states. “But two top athletics officials shrugged it off. ‘Wow, what is this kid thinking?’ an athletics department official wrote on Oct. 21, 2011 to his boss, [former athletic director] Ian McCaw. ‘Unbelievable!” McCaw replied. The athletics department’s unwillingness to crack down enabled Elliott to stay at Baylor and play football.”
The regents say that after a fifth assault complaint was filed against Elliott in April 2012, Briles was allegedly told by an assistant that Elliott “admitted he lied” about not knowing the girl when first confronted and said he stopped having sex with her when she said stop.
“Wow – not good – I’ll call you later,” Briles texted, the regents claim. They say he responded “dang it” when told that Waco police had swabbed Elliot’s mouth and the player went to see a lawyer.
The regents claim Briles did not notify school officials or take any action for 10 days, until a Waco Tribune-Herald reporter asked about Elliott’s status and if he had been suspended.
The regents say that when Elliott asked Briles to testify on his behalf, Briles texted, “We need to get your name cleared … Always all in with my players.” Briles did not appear in court.
Thursday’s court filing says Pepper Hamilton reported that after a freshman defensive tackle was cited for illegal consumption of alcohol on April 8, 2011, Briles texted an assistant, “Hopefully he’s under radar enough they won’t recognize [his] name – did he get ticket from Baylor police or Waco? … Just trying to keep him away from our judicial affairs folks.”
The regents claim Briles and his staff did not report another player being accused of brandishing a gun at a female student on Feb.11, 2013. They also say he failed to report to school officials that a player had been caught selling drugs, texting on May 14, 2014, “I’m hoping it will take care of itself – if not we can discuss best way to move on it.”
As a result of Pepper Hamilton’s findings, Starr was quickly removed as school president. He later resigned as school chancellor and from the law school faculty. Briles was suspended with intent to terminate. McCaw was sanctioned and placed on probation. He later resigned as well.
Shillinglaw’s attorney, Gaines West with West Webb in College Station, said the regent’s filing is “very unorthodox.”
“It’s really hard to discern just what it is these defendants assert,” West said in a statement Friday. “We are anxious for the complete truth to come out, instead of just a bunch of disconnected accusations.”