Firing Art Briles is a start, but Baylor hasn't gone far enough
On Thursday, Baylor made the remarkable decision to fire a winning football coach for his players' conduct off the field, as well as the role of coaches and the athletic department in covering up allegations of sexual violence.
What occurred at Baylor during the Art Briles era, however, doesn't stop at one person.
Pepper Hamilton's blockbuster investigation prompted Briles' firing. It could also spark lawsuits, a Department of Education investigation or, perhaps, a look at the school from the Department of Justice, according to Kai McGintee, a Title IX attorney and investigator.
If that all sounds like hyperbole, read the summary of facts from Pepper Hamilton, a law firm Baylor hired to investigate the school's response to sexual violence allegations against several football players. Or read this Outside the Lines investigation that also details a disturbing connection with the Waco Police Department.
Despite the massive statement Baylor made by firing its successful head coach, a lot of work must still be done to change the school's campus culture. By allowing the football program to operate without consequences, the school subverted its mission to protect all of its students. Baylor can't move forward with old pieces in place; any coach or employee who participated in the actions detailed in the Pepper Hamilton report -- or knew about them -- must go.
This was blatant disregard for their responsibilities, and putting football above all else.Kai McGintee, Title IX attorney and investigator
The report summary details football coaches, plural, who conducted their own informal interviews with alleged victims and retaliated against one of them. It details how those coaches, once informed of allegations, didn't report them to university officials, as required by law.
"This was blatant disregard for their responsibilities, and putting football above all else," said McGintee, an attorney for the Bernstein Shur firm in Portland, Maine. "It was a massive failure to follow Title IX for years."
The Office for Civil Rights ordered Baylor to hire a Title IX coordinator in 2011, but the school essentially thumbed its nose at the directive for three years. When a coordinator was finally hired, the report details that the position was underfunded and underresourced, without any real power to protect students and hold football accountable.
That finding alone could be enough for the Department of Education to launch an investigation of Baylor, which isn't one of the 161 schools under federal investigation for mismanagement of sexual assault. That means no student has requested one, but, given the report, McGintee thinks that could change. Using legal terms like "hostile environment," the report could also open the door to lawsuits.
"This report is going to be Exhibit A in any case that is filed," McGintee said.
Baylor and its staff will have to put in real work to move forward. Employees will need to be trained to respond to students who allege they have been assaulted. Employees will have to investigate those claims and move them up the reporting chain. Those students, and the respondents, will have to be listened to and supported.
In this new landscape, there isn't a place for Ken Starr, who was removed as president but was retained as the school's chancellor. And why was athletic director Ian McCaw put on probation but not fired? He presided over the department where this culture was rampant. McCaw certainly knew of Tevin Elliot's sexual assault conviction in 2014, yet did nothing to make meaningful changes.
There shouldn't be a single coach or athletic staff member remaining on the job if he or she helped maintain this privileged system. If Baylor wants to mitigate the damage done, it needs to clean house now.
Baylor's mission statement reads:
"The mission of Baylor University is to educate men and women for worldwide leadership and service by integrating academic excellence and Christian commitment within a caring community."
It's not too late for Baylor to return to the values of that statement. But it can't do that if so many people maintain power even in the wake of this damning report.