The U.S. Department of Education has received a Title IX complaint about Baylor University's handling of allegations of sexual assault and violence by students, including athletes, Outside the Lines has confirmed.
A Baylor alumna filed a formal complaint with the federal agency this week, the latest in a series of Baylor developments that includes the pending firing of head football coach Art Briles; the dismissal of several athletic department officials; the demotion of former university president Kenneth Starr; and the decommitment of several top football recruits. Starr resigned as chancellor on Wednesday.
The fallout at Baylor comes after the university's board of regents received a report from a law firm that investigated the school's response to sexual assault and violence allegations in recent years.
"This investigation revealed the university's mishandling of reports in what should have been a supportive, responsive and caring environment for students," Richard Willis, chairman of the Baylor board of regents, wrote last week in a statement. "The depth to which these acts occurred shocked and outraged us."
Despite being a private school, Baylor is required by the federal Title IX statute to investigate such allegations thoroughly and to provide security, counseling services and academic help to those who report assaults. Part of the law's goal is to help keep victims in school.
Outside the Lines has reported on multiple occasions that school officials either failed to investigate, or failed to adequately investigate, such allegations. In many cases, officials did not provide support to those who reported assaults, in apparent violation of Title IX law. Baylor took more than three years to comply with a federal directive to hire a full-time Title IX coordinator, which it eventually did in November 2014.
The U.S. Department of Education indicated last week that it would investigate Baylor if it received a complaint within its jurisdiction, but a spokesman said Wednesday it could take up to a month to confirm whether a complaint meets the criteria to start an investigation. Anyone, even someone who hasn't been a victim of Title IX discrimination, can file a complaint to trigger an investigation by the agency's Office of Civil Rights.
Holly Snyder, a 2001 Baylor graduate who lives near Kansas City, Missouri, said she filed such a complaint late Tuesday.
In her complaint, which she shared with Outside the Lines, she wrote that she came forward, "on behalf of all women to make [sure] that Baylor is investigated to the full extent regarding actions it took to create a climate that covered up sexual violence on campus for years."
She said the Department of Education can provide a truly independent review of Baylor, which as a private university is not subject to most public records and disclosure laws.
On Monday, Baylor hired former Wake Forest football coach Jim Grobe as acting head coach. He replaced Briles, who was suspended ahead of being fired after the report from law firm Pepper Hamilton criticized the "tone and culture within Baylor's football program."
The Bears' returning players and some incoming freshmen reported to campus on Tuesday and met with Grobe for the first time. Outside the Lines has learned that senior running back Devin Chafin won't be returning to the team this coming season.
According to an incident report obtained from Waco, Texas, police, Chafin was accused of assaulting his girlfriend on two occasions in 2014. The woman told police that Chafin grabbed her by the throat and slammed her against a wall, then threw her to the floor and kicked her. In a later incident, Chafin grabbed her arm and slammed it against a car during an argument, the woman told police.
Briles suspended Chafin, from Burkburnett, Texas, for spring practice this year after he was arrested on misdemeanor marijuana charges in Oklahoma in March. Briles told reporters that Chafin would rejoin the team this summer, but Baylor officials aren't planning to allow him to return, sources told Outside the Lines. Chafin ran for 578 yards and nine touchdowns in 10 games last season.
Chafin could not be reached for immediate comment.
Outside the Lines also has confirmed that two additional Baylor athletic department officials who worked closely with the football program have been fired. The university last week fired Colin Shillinglaw, assistant athletic director for football operations, and Tom Hill, associate athletic director for community relations and special projects, according to sources. USA Today first reported their firings on Tuesday.
In a 2011 Waco police report regarding an assault in which several football players were named as suspects, Shillinglaw was identified as the person police should contact if they needed anything from the football program.
In a news release last week, Baylor officials indicated additional members of the university administration and athletic department were fired, but declined to identify them.
Baylor also indicated last week that it had self-reported potential infractions to the NCAA and would offer "full cooperation with any resulting investigation." The NCAA declined comment. The law firm Baylor hired to address the potential NCAA infractions also did not return calls seeking comment.
The NCAA could penalize Baylor for violating provisions of gender equity, ethical conduct or discrimination, or could find that the school wasn't complying with its own rules and policies, said Christian Dennie, a Fort Worth, Texas, attorney who has represented coaches, athletes and schools in NCAA compliance cases and coaches in Title IX disputes. He has never represented Baylor.
"There are several things they could go after them for," Dennie said. "You could see bowl bans, probation for four years, loss of scholarships."
Baylor is currently the target of one Title IX lawsuit, filed in March by former Baylor student Jasmin Hernandez, who reported being raped by former Bears defensive end Tevin Elliott. Elliott was convicted in January 2014 and is serving 20 years in prison. ESPN typically doesn't identify victims of sexual assault, but Hernandez has come out publicly with the filing of her lawsuit.
Baylor has not released the full Pepper Hamilton report and has not indicated whether it will do so. In excerpts made available last week, Pepper Hamilton did not state how many cases it had reviewed, and regents contacted by Outside the Lines did not return calls or emails that sought that information.
Baylor police, responding last week to a public records request filed by Outside the Lines, released a database showing all assaults and sexual assaults the department logged since 2010. The list included 12 sexual assaults and one attempted sexual assault.
But the police department withheld the names of all suspects -- including the names of two who were arrested. There was one exception, and that person was not a Baylor athlete. Most names of physical assault and domestic violence suspects were also withheld, even in some cases in which an arrest was made.
The McLennan County (Texas) District Attorney's office would not comment on whether it would pursue additional criminal charges related to possible cases of sexual assault or violence or to actions by Baylor officials referenced in the Pepper Hamilton report.
But criminal defense attorney Barry Sorrels, who is based in Dallas and once worked as a Dallas County prosecutor, said it's not too late to start -- or restart -- investigations from incidents that happened years ago. The statute of limitations for felony sexual assault in Texas is 10 years -- even longer in some circumstances, he said.
"Because of the appearance of impropriety here, those cases need to be reopened by some independent law enforcement agency and taken a close look at to see if there should be future prosecutions," he said.
Depending on the evidence in the report, Sorrels said it could be possible, although difficult, to pursue criminal actions against Baylor officials who may have interfered with potential criminal investigations, including witness tampering or obstruction of justice.
The report summary released last week states that, "Football coaches and staff took affirmative steps to maintain internal control over discipline of players and to actively divert cases from the student conduct or criminal processes. In some cases, football coaches and staff had inappropriate involvement in disciplinary and criminal matters."
The Pepper Hamilton report also noted that Baylor's actions potentially violated the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013, which could result in federal criminal action. Officials with the U.S. Department of Justice declined to comment Tuesday.