Nonprofit organization to demand overhaul of Baylor board of regents

A group of Baylor alumni and major donors -- including Drayton McLane, for whom the school's football stadium is named -- is scheduled to launch a nonprofit organization that will demand an overhaul of the university's board of regents as well as full details of the school's sexual assault investigation.

Bears for Leadership Reform is going to be "demanding transparency and accountability," spokeswoman Julie Hillrichs said.

"They believe the only way we can do this is to have true reform of the board. They want a seat at the table when the board selects its next president, and then they want a best-in-class Title IX program on that campus," she said, referring to the federal gender-equity law that requires schools investigate reports of sexual violence.

The group formed in part because of recent public comments made by select members of the university's board of regents, who were reported to have said, among other things, that former football coach Art Briles did not properly report an alleged gang rape and that 17 women have reported sexual or physical assaults involving 19 players, including four gang rapes, since 2011.

Although several of the organizers, including McLane, a billionaire businessman and former owner of the Houston Astros, have been among the most vocal critics of Briles' firing, Hillrichs said this group is not advocating bringing him back.

"I cannot stress enough it's not about football, and we're not even going to talk about Art Briles," Hillrichs said. "This is about women who have been sexually assaulted on this campus. We need to have total accountability and transparency."

She said the group will use its funds to build a broad coalition of students, faculty, domestic violence organizations and community leaders to "put an enormous amount of pressure on that university to be transparent and accountable." As of Monday morning, almost 2,000 people had liked the organization's Facebook page.

Last week, Baylor launched a new website designed to provide more information about how the university has addressed sexual assaults. It included a message from Interim President David Garland that read, in part: "I have directed the university to be more transparent wherever possible about the sexual assault crisis that has severely impacted our campus, our alumni and the entire Baylor family."

Members of the board of regents and administrators have declined multiple interview requests from ESPN over the past several weeks, and have referred questions to their public relations firm.

A spokesman for Baylor issued this response to the Bears for Leadership Reform demands on Sunday:

"In their October meeting the Baylor Board of Regents committed to pursuing a policy of transparency and openness to provide the entire Baylor family with the information they need to heal and move forward. The facts released over the past two weeks have been evidence of that commitment. This policy will continue and additional information will be placed on the website www.baylor.edu/thefacts."

He also wrote that the presidential search committee is made up of "faculty, staff, students, alumni and parents," and that an online form is available for anyone who wants to provide input and propose potential candidates.

McLane is listed as one of the members of the search committee.

Hillrichs said Bears for Leadership Reform is demanding the release of documentation related to the findings by the law firm Pepper Hamilton, which in a summary released in May stated that the school was in violation of Title IX and the football program had no "culture of accountability" for misconduct.

The new group also wants to see the board be more open about its meeting agendas and meeting minutes, Hillrichs said. She said Bears for Leadership Reform has about 20 directors and at least 100 other advisers; about $350,000 has already been donated.

One of the founders, Gale Galloway, made a public offer last month of $10,000 to anyone who could find the "true reason" for the firings of Briles and two other athletic department employees.

Galloway -- a former Bears football player, former chairman of the board of regents, retired CEO of several companies, and a large donor to the university -- said the regents made Briles the "poster child" for the school's much larger sexual assault scandal in order to protect the regents' own self interests.

In an interview with Outside the Lines last week, former Title IX Director Patty Crawford said that she was aware of about 400 cases of sexual violence during her two years on campus, although regents have said in other media interviews the number is closer to 125 incidents from 2011 to 2015. Both the regents and Crawford have said that about 10 percent of those involved athletes; athletes make up 4 percent of the male population at Baylor.

"The total, in terms of athletes, they were all found responsible. I think every athlete was found responsible," Crawford said. And even though the numbers were small in comparison, she said the "culture of gang rape" among the athletes stood out and was worth examining further.

But she said she also saw cultural issues that led to sexual assaults among members of fraternities and sororities, other student clubs, and even among faculty sexually harassing students and female co-workers.

"It's important to show that there is more complexity to this, and I didn't want the university making it this depiction of everything is perfect except for these three people," she said, noting the removal of Briles, former President Kenneth Starr and athletic director Ian McCaw.

Crawford, who was named the school's first full-time Title IX coordinator in 2014, said she was not allowed to sit in on the presentation that the Pepper Hamilton law firm gave the board of regents outlining the results of its investigation into the school's Title IX compliance.

A Baylor spokesman wrote in an email Sunday that, "the Board of Regents found failures across the University as reflected in both the Findings of Facts and the Pepper Hamilton recommendations, which were released in May. No Regent or administrator has ever suggested that this was solely a football problem -- and the University's response has been much broader than a narrow targeting of football and athletics."

Galloway, and others involved in the newly formed nonprofit, have said the failures belong squarely with the board of regents, saying it was their responsibly to make sure the school was in compliance with Title IX and to give Starr -- whom the regents removed as president and who later resigned from Baylor altogether -- the administrative support he needed to implement required policies.

A Baylor spokesman wrote that the board does not oversee day-to-day operations, and that it exists instead to determine whether the university has the right resources to accomplish its goals and mission.

Sources have told Outside the Lines that some regents are not in favor of the message that the board chairman and others have been sharing publicly, but a confidentiality agreement -- and fear of being found personally liable in connection with any of the four pending Title IX lawsuits -- prevents them from speaking out.

"It is vital to remember that the Board was -- and is -- overwhelmingly supportive of the decisions taken in May, the implementation of the Pepper Hamilton recommendations and the need for openness and transparency going forward," the Baylor spokesman wrote, noting that Ron Murff, as chairman, is the official spokesman and that other regents may participate in interviews at his discretion.