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Tuesday, May 21, 2024 | Back issues
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Baylor cracks door on sexual assaults

WACO, Texas (CN) — Bowing to public pressure, Baylor University has disclosed details of an outside investigation of the school's bungled handling of sexual assault complaints, including "horrifying and painful" reports of football players committing gang rapes.

The Board of Regents hired the Pepper Hamilton law firm in August 2015 to investigate the university, as the rape allegations and lawsuits mounted. Pepper Hamilton concluded that administrators "directly discouraged" some women from reporting sexual assault and in one case retaliated against a woman who did.

The board demoted school President Ken Starr, sanctioned athletic director Ian McCaw and fired head football coach Art Briles when the investigation concluded in May.

Starr and McCaw have since severed all remaining ties to the school. But the board has faced heavy criticism for failing to release full results with more details from the Philadelphia-based law firm's investigation.

The board's five months-long silence on the details have reportedly caused some Baylor boosters to urge the school to consider reinstating Briles. But according to interviews published by The Wall Street Journal on Oct. 28, Baylor regents claim Briles' role in the scandal was far deeper. They claim Briles knew about an alleged sexual assault and failed to inform police, Baylor's judicial affairs office or the school's Title IX coordinator.

Seventeen women have reported sexual or domestic assaults by at least 19 football players since 2011, including four gang rapes, according to the Journal report.

Regent J. Cary Gray said he has heard Briles' supporters say the coach wants to draw up plays in the offensive boardroom.

"That is not the job for the head coach of a college football program," Gray told the Journal. "It is a big business. It is a complex organization that involves millions of dollars, and you have got to have an effective CEO in that role."

The regents said Briles broke down and wept during a meeting before he was fired.

"He couldn't speak he was so upset, and all of us were," Gray said. "Art said, 'I delegated down, and I know I shouldn't have. And I had a system where I was the last to know, and I should have been the first to know.'"

Gray said Briles expressed regret and quoted Scripture, but failed to admit wrongdoing.

Briles' attorney, Ernest Cannon in Stephenville, accused the regents of violating a nondisparagement clause in the parties' June settlement agreement. He said Briles never discouraged any victim from filing claims against his players.

"They are pulling their own house down to justify the mistakes they made," Cannon told the Journal. "He's the football coach. That's not his job [to enforce Title IX]. That's their job."

Board of Regents Chairman Ron Murff told the Journal that wealthy alumni have suggested they would withhold millions of dollars in donations if Briles is not reinstated.

"It was all about football," he said. "My response was that we felt like our fiduciary duty was to uphold the mission of the university. That was the primary objective. It was not just to win football games."

In an interview to be broadcast by "60 Minutes Sports" on Tuesday, Baylor University Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Reagan Ramsower said the Baylor Police Department that he oversees would regularly "bury" sexual assault complaints.

He was asked why an allegation of a gang rape by football players in 2013 was not acted upon by campus police for more than a year.

"It never came out of the police department," he said. "That was a significant failure to respond by the police department, there's no doubt about it," according to a segment posted on YouTube.

The gang rape report involved Trevon Armstead and Shamycheal Chatman, according to "60 Minutes Sports." Neither football player has faced criminal charges. Armstead went on to play the 2014 season before being kicked off the team. Chatman later transferred to Sam Houston State University.

Ramsower said he learned of the case when a Title IX case was opened against Chatman.

"And at that time we took the appropriate actions and eventually he was found responsible," Ramsower said.

He denied that "victim blaming" or protection of the football team was why the report was not acted upon.

"I don't believe at all that that was the reason," he said. "I really do believe that it was feeling like ... I don't know what was said or if they talked to the victim."

These revelations came a week after Baylor confirmed it is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education for its handling of sexual assaults.

The federal investigation was launched after the school's former Title IX coordinator Patty Crawford quit, saying she had been set up "to fail from the beginning."

Crawford told "60 Minutes Sports" that blame for the scandal "absolutely" goes as high as the Board of Regents.

"There were a lot of people like me at the university who did not want these things happening and were fighting for it but did not have the power and they were not heard," Crawford said. "That is institutional. What drives a culture? It's the top, and that was the hardest thing for me to come to grips with."

Only two football players have been convicted of sexual assault. Tevin Elliott was sentenced in January 2014 to 20 years in state prison on each of two counts of sexual assault. Sam Ukwuashu was sentenced in August 2015 to 180 days in county jail, 10 years of probation and 400 hours of community service on one count of sexual assault.

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