DALLAS (CN) – Baylor University’s former director of football operations sued the school and the Pepper Hamilton law firm Tuesday, claiming he was fired during the school’s rape scandal due to false statements by a school administrator.
Colin Shillinglaw sued Baylor, interim President Dr. David E. Garland, several school administrators, the Board of Regents and Philadelphia-based Pepper Hamilton in Dallas County Court.
He claims defendant Regan Ramsower, the head of Baylor’s Department of Public Safety, gave “false and defamatory statements” to Pepper Hamilton during its independent investigation into numerous rape claims against Baylor football players, resulting in Shillinglaw’s suspension with intent to terminate on May 26, 2016.
“It was made clear that Mr. Shillinglaw’s suspension was the result of defendant Ramsower’s defamatory statements and Pepper Hamilton’s defamatory statements,” the 12-page complaint states. “Neither defendant Ramsower nor Pepper Hamilton have retracted the defamatory statements.”
Baylor regents ordered the investigation in 2015 as the rape accusations mounted. In a federal lawsuit last Friday, a woman claims Baylor football players committed at least 52 rapes from 2011 to 2014, “including five gang rapes, by not less than 31 different football players.”
That plaintiff, who says she was raped by two Baylor football players, claimed Baylor football recruiters used sex to sell the school to prospects. “In order to ensure that a last place team could recruit the players needed to win football games, recruiting efforts used sex to sell the program,” Jane Doe said in her lawsuit.
The regents announced the results of the Pepper Hamilton investigation in May 2016. Baylor said the law firm found “specific failings with both the football program and athletics department leadership,” including that they failed to respond to one football player’s “pattern of sexual violence” and dating violence.
Shillinglaw claims Baylor refused to give him an explicit explanation for why he was fired “other than the vague references” to the Pepper Hamilton report. He says the defendants defamed him, that defendant-and regent J. Cary Gray told the press: “There was a cultural issue that was putting winning football games above everything else, including our values,” directly placing the blame on the plaintiff and the team’s administrators.
“The goal of the Baylor regents’ narrative was clearly to show that the leadership in the football program was the issue,” the complaint states. “To reinforce this perception, the Baylor regents have constantly pointed to the termination of football personnel as their solution.”
Baylor said the lawsuit is without merit.
“We will defend the university aggressively,” spokesman Jason Cook said Wednesday. “We look forward to presenting our defense in a court of law.”
As a result of Pepper Hamilton’s findings, Ken Starr was quickly removed as school president. He later resigned as school chancellor and from the law school faculty. Head football coach Art Briles was suspended with intent to terminate. Athletic Director Ian McCaw was sanctioned and placed on probation. He later resigned as well.
Former Baylor athletics employee Tom Hill filed a similar lawsuit in December, claiming Pepper Hamilton failed to interview several key witnesses during its investigation and failed to act objectively.
Shillinglaw seeks actual and punitive damages for libel, slander, tortious interference, aiding, abetting and conspiracy. He is represented by Gaines West with West Webb in College Station.