Baylor University settles Title IX lawsuit in which gang rape by up to 8 football players was alleged
A former Baylor volleyball player who said the school mishandled her complaint of having been gang-raped by up to eight Bears football players in 2012 and that the university allowed a "rape culture" to persist within the football program has settled her Title IX lawsuit against the school, according to a notice filed in the case Friday.
The lawsuit, filed in May 2017, involved one of the most pivotal allegations in the entire Baylor sexual assault scandal and was a focal point in the investigation by Philadelphia law firm Pepper Hamilton, which resulted in the firing of football coach Art Briles, suspension and eventual resignation of athletic director Ian McCaw, and demotion and later departure of university president Kenneth Starr.
At issue was who within the athletic department knew about the woman's allegation and what they did with that information. The lawsuit claimed several Baylor employees, including coaches, failed to properly act when she and her parents told them about the alleged gang rape, and that the woman was subjected to retaliation from the football players and would eventually transfer.
It also alleged that, prior to her reported gang rape, coaches had established a program in which "football players became increasingly emboldened, knowing that they could break the law, code of conduct, and general standards of human decency with no repercussions," thus putting her and other female students at a heightened risk of assault.
Neither the woman nor the football players she said raped her have ever been publicly identified. The incident was never reported to police.
Baylor released a statement in response to the settlement Friday that read: "Baylor University understands that survivors of sexual and interpersonal violence seek resolution in many ways. In reaching a legal settlement, we acknowledge the challenges this survivor has endured and realize it's a small step in the healing process."
It continued: "Under new leadership, Baylor has taken significant actions in response to past reports of sexual violence within our campus community and implemented 105 improvements to our Title IX policy, processes and procedures. We remain steadfast in our commitment to properly respond to incidents of sexual assault, interpersonal violence and harassment."
It stated that the financial terms of the settlement would not be disclosed.
The woman's attorney, Muhammad Aziz, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.
The lawsuit had detailed the alleged assault on Feb. 11, 2012, when the woman went to an off-campus party at a football player's apartment. The woman said she was drinking and believes she was drugged. A friend of the woman reported seeing one football player trying to pull her into a bathroom several times at the party. Another player, whose sexual advances the woman had turned down the day before, kept grabbing at her all night despite her repeatedly telling him "no," the lawsuit stated.
According to the lawsuit, once the woman's friends left, a football player picked her up, put her in his vehicle and drove her to another location, where at least four -- and up to eight -- football players "brutally gang raped" her.
"Plaintiff remembers lying on her back, unable to move and staring at glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling as the football players took turns raping her," the lawsuit stated. "Following the gang rape, plaintiff remembers hearing the players yell, 'Grab her phone! Delete my numbers and texts!'"
What happened next has been of great dispute and has played out in other court filings, releases from the university and interviews with sources.
The lawsuit stated the woman's mother contacted an assistant football coach -- later identified as former strength and conditioning coach Kaz Kazadi -- in July 2012 and told him about the alleged rape. Kazadi brought two players into his office and questioned them, but they said they were just "fooling around" and it was "just a little bit of playtime," according to a legal filing by three Baylor regents in a separate lawsuit.
"The assistant football coach reportedly spoke to other Baylor football coaches who engaged in victim-blaming," the woman's lawsuit stated. "Despite taking no further action to determine the veracity of the gang rape allegations, the assistant football coach concluded that the accusations were in a 'gray area' and there was no definitive evidence of sexual assault."
Briles' involvement in what happened next was first reported in August 2017 in "Violated," a book about the sexual assault crisis at Baylor. Briles' attorney Mark Lanier was quoted as having said that Kazadi told Briles in passing that he had met with a volleyball player's mother who was concerned about her daughter "partying" with football players. "Briles asked if there was anything else 'we needed to do' and Kaz said no," according to Lanier. Kazadi has not responded to requests for an interview.
Briles didn't know it was a rape allegation until a year later, after hearing it from then-volleyball coach Jim Barnes in April 2013, Briles' attorney said.
Barnes' account of his interaction with the woman and her parents, as reported in "Violated," differed from the woman's claims in the lawsuit. Barnes said that when he told Briles about the woman's allegations, Briles responded with, "Oh my gosh. Why would she be in a room at this time of night with some bad dudes?" a reference to those being "some of the roughest guys on the team." Barnes said Briles told him to have her call the police.
Barnes said he encouraged the woman's parents to report the incident to police and to judicial affairs but they refused.
However, according to the lawsuit, neither the woman nor her parents "ever indicated that they did not want to report the assault to judicial affairs or to police."
"Instead, plaintiff and her parents were told that it was too late for criminal charges and they begged plaintiff's head coach and the assistant volleyball coach to tell them what, if anything, Baylor could do about the assault," the lawsuit stated.
It stated that the first time the woman realized no one had reported her case to judicial affairs was in November 2016, when Baylor released a public statement confirming that "no one, including McCaw, Briles, Plaintiff's head coach or the other member of the volleyball coaching staff present during the April 2013 meeting with Plaintiff and her parents, reported the sexual assault to Judicial Affairs or anyone outside of the Athletics Department."
The lawsuit also stated that the woman once met directly with Briles -- to tell him that she believed some of his players had burglarized her apartment -- and that he "was short with [her] and hurried the meeting along," but Briles' attorney said the former coach did not recall ever speaking or meeting with the woman.
Barnes said Briles asked him if he had told McCaw about the rape allegation, and he said he had. Barnes said that when he told McCaw that the women's parents weren't going to report the incident to police, McCaw told him, "They need to report it for something to be done."
McCaw -- who, according to multiple sources, was the most senior person notified of the allegations in 2013 -- has since said in a statement from his attorney that he did not relay the information about her reported rape to the school's judicial affairs office, adding, "It is important to note that at the time Baylor did not have a Title IX office, did not provide Title IX education or have policies or procedures in place for handling and reporting allegations of sexual assault."