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Why isn't Baylor recruiting?

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Former Title IX coordinator details issues at Baylor (4:00)

Ex-Baylor Title IX coordinator Patty Crawford details the issues she faced from the university in the handling of sexual assault cases there. (4:00)

Five months after the firing of Art Briles at Baylor, the football program hardly registers on the recruiting radar.

Local prospects visit Baylor to examine opposing Big 12 teams. Assistant coaches at the school are not active in pursuing coveted recruits. Baylor has collected just two commitments for its 2017 class -- none since July -- and even those are tenuous.

According to acting coach Jim Grobe, "there's plenty of time" for the Bears' recruiting to rebound.

"There will be a lot of kids who want to come to Baylor," Grobe said this week, "but they want to see who's going to be their coach. As soon as that happens, there will be a lot of kids jumping in the boat."

Briles was fired on May 26, and after collateral effects from the widely publicized sexual-assault scandal included the summer departures of more than half of the signed members of Baylor's 17th-ranked recruiting class from February, Grobe and his staff of former Briles assistants are stuck in neutral in the push toward national signing day in February.

"I wish I had a better word for weird," said Jeff Hulme, coach at Waco Midway High School. "It's a strange deal and not a good situation for the future of Baylor football, that's for sure."

Recruiting, by comparison, pales in importance to Baylor's on-field product, though it remains the logical next step.

The Bears slipped from the top tier of College Football Playoff contenders with a 35-34 loss last Saturday at Texas. Soon, Baylor, 38-8 since 2013, figures to look past Grobe to a permanent head coach, presumably installed by first-year athletic director Mack Rhoades in early December.

Like Grobe, the current assistants, tied to Briles and the negligence allegations that led to his departure, appear unlikely to stay.

In the meantime, how are they supposed to recruit to Baylor? Well, apparently, they aren't.

"It's like they're not even trying anymore," a Big 12 assistant coach said. "I haven't talked to a single kid that mentions Baylor -- not a one -- and that's crazy to say, because we've always gone after the same type of athletes and recruited in the same areas in Texas."

Grobe and his staff are far from the first set of coaches to face this situation.

John L. Smith at Arkansas served as interim coach in 2012 after the spring firing of Bobby Petrino. The Razorbacks finished 4-8, but continued to recruit and signed a class that ranked 31st nationally under Bret Bielema in February 2013 that featured long-committed quarterback Austin Allen.

One year earlier, Ohio State promoted Luke Fickell to interim coach after Jim Tressel resigned. More than half of the Buckeyes' sixth-ranked Class of 2013 committed before Urban Meyer's late-November hiring, including headliners Joshua Perry, Pat Elflein, Tyvis Powell and Adolphus Washington.

It's a gamble to focus so little energy on recruiting.

Grobe said he has visited with two groups of recruits on campus. On a pair of October open dates, Baylor coaches left campus to see high school coaches.

Their impact appears minimal.

"I don't know what they're doing there, but if you told me they weren't recruiting at all, I wouldn't be surprised with what we're seeing," the Big 12 assistant said. "One less team to go against is just fine with Big 12 coaches."

Hulme, the Waco Midway coach, said a few of his players have attended games at McLane Stadium this season on unofficial visits to observe rival teams. Oklahoma State and Kansas have played in Waco; TCU comes to town on Saturday.

"They'll go and watch whoever's playing Baylor," said Hulme, whose school produced five players on the current Baylor roster. "It's sort of sad."

Hulme took over in February at Midway after coaching at Mansfield (Texas) High School. He visited regularly about recruits at his old school with Baylor running backs coach and passing game coordinator Jeff Lebby, Briles' son-in-law. The ex-coach's son, Baylor offensive coordinator Kendal Briles, largely handled communication with coaches and prospects at Midway.

Neither Lebby nor Kendal Briles has called or visited since May, Hulme said, despite the presence of quarterback Tanner Mordecai, who is uncommitted and ranked No. 90 in the ESPN Junior 300, and several other Midway players in whom Baylor showed initial interest.

Other Texas high school coaches declined to comment about Baylor.

"I don't want to be a part of that situation," one coach said.

Mike Overton, coach at Horn High School in Mesquite, Texas, east of Dallas, said Baylor coaches have not visited in several months. He's heard of similar experiences at other area high schools.

Before the apparent recruiting shutdown, the Bears were not actively recruiting any of his 2017 prospects, Overton said, but Art Briles several times did visit Horn QB Chris Robison, an early pledge to Oklahoma.

"It's disappointing for them," Hulme said. "It's disappointing for me. It's disappointing for our program. I don't know what's going to happen when the season is over. ... They're just going to be behind every day."

How far behind?

Before Briles' firing, Baylor counted six commitments, having already lost pledges from outside linebacker Baron Browning, No. 29 in the ESPN 300, and receiver Jhamon Ausbon, ranked 130th overall and now committed to LSU.

Since then, gone from Baylor's pledge list are ESPN 300 tight end Kedrick James to Alabama, defensive tackle Jayden Peevy to Texas A&M, safety Donovan Stiner to Houston, receiver Hezekiah Jones, ranked No. 112, to A&M and the most significant blow, Kellen Mond of the IMG Academy in Florida, ranked 58th and the No. 2 dual-threat quarterback nationally, to A&M. Four-star running back Eno Benjamin of Wylie, Texas, offered a scholarship by the Bears, tweeted in May that he was "so glad" he "made the right choice and decided not to pursue Baylor."

Benjamin pledged to Iowa in April, but has since decommitted. It's safe to assume he won't end up in Waco.

The two remaining commitments came from defensive backs Jalen Pitre of Stafford, Texas, and Noah Daniels of League City, Texas. Daniels committed in July but recently received offers, he said, from Oklahoma State and TCU.

Daniels said he plans to take official visits to all three schools.

"I'm with Baylor," Daniels said, "and I want to wait it out. But if something happens, I'm open."

He said he talks regularly with cornerbacks coach Carlton Buckels, a shred of evidence that Baylor hasn't faded entirely from this recruiting cycle. Daniels said Buckels tells him often how much the Bears like him and that he'll fit well at the school.

As for the future at Baylor, Daniels said, the coach "doesn't really address it."

How could he? Recruiting shapes the future. And for now, uncertainty and a lack of direction or progress define the recruiting efforts at Baylor.