A Matter Of Conscience
Just a few weeks ago Baylor University was forced to finally address how it systematically scapegoated, hid and bullied “in conduct that could be perceived as victim blaming” by being exposed through an investigative report facilitated by law firm Pepper Hamilton. A mountain of evidence finally seeped out of the small Baptist school in Texas.
Among the most disturbing claims, Sam Ukwuachu, a dismissed Boise St. transfer was sentenced to six months in county jail, 10 years’ felony probation and 400 hours of community service for sexually assaulting a former Baylor women’s soccer player in his apartment. Having been warned of a violent past, Baylor’s coaching staff still offered Ukwuachu a spot on the football team.
The subject of has been widely debated recently as it relates to college athletes. To be indelibly clear rape isn’t a football problem. It’s not a Baylor, Vanderbilt, Penn State, Stanford, Florida State etc…problem. It is one hundred percent a race problem. The human race. If anything is going to change the culture of rape and assaults against women in our society, it will be led by decent men and women who have zero tolerance for it on any level.
Pepper Hamilton interviewed 65 witnesses across multiple departments, including the President’s Office, Judicial Affairs and Executive Council. Institutional failures at every level of Baylor’s administration directly impacted the response to individual cases and the Baylor community as a whole. One woman sent an email directly to chancellor Ken Starr documenting her assault. Yes, the same Ken Starr who 17 years ago authored the Starr Report about the torrid affair between Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky.
Starr, who still maintains his biggest mistake was in “not knowing more” was “demoted” to president before being reassigned as a law professor at the university. Often seen running out with the football team during home games, Starr can’t be separated from the surreptitious culture of the program. Citing a “matter of conscience” he also stepped down from the fundraising chancellorship but will stay on as a law professor. What’s he going to teach exactly? How to ruin lives and keep your pension?
No stranger to crimes Baylor was also the subject of a murder cover-up ten years ago surrounding its basketball team. Player Patrick Dennehy was shot to death by teammate Carlton Dotson. Former coach, David Bliss, concocted a lie pinning the deceased player as a drug dealer in an attempt to cover-up his involvement in tuition payments for two players. The program was nearly destroyed by sanctions and fees.
The school’s once considered doormat football program is credited with resurrecting the good name and coffers of the university and handsomely rewarded with fancy $250 million stadium. Almost immediately after the Pepper Hamilton announcement Art Briles, the coach celebrated for ascending the university out of football obscurity was released. I even heard a well respected Texas beat writer describe Briles as behaving slimy as a coach, but a “good, good guy.” How so? When a coach covers up crimes like rape they can no longer be considered a “good, good, guy” in any capacity.
Even as the university is reportedly assembling a task force to implement the Pepper Hamilton recommendations, USA Today’s Dan Wolken reported a small group of Baylor donors have been pushing to bring back dismissed coach Briles. After he serves a one year suspension the team would return to business as usual.
A college football coach has no less than 100 players and coaches to be accountable for. Chasing around three children in my own house is dizzying enough. And it’s impossible to know everything about the lives of these student athletes. However, crimes, especially rape makes its way to the head coach.
Whether an assault involving a student is alleged to have occurred on or off campus, according to Title IX, the university has a duty to investigate. Something that clearly didn’t happen. The law addresses the crime. It’s up to well paid university staff and coaches to address the matter of conscience.