Bad News Bears: Context and Consequence of Baylor Firing Briles

The University of Baylor has decided to clean house following the revelation of alarming claims of sexual abuse, and cover up. Eventually the public outcry became to much for the University to bear. Heads would have to roll at the university, three heads in particular, the most notable being head football coach Art Briles. At this point last year such an idea seemed ludicrous. Fire Briles? The most winningest coach in Baylor history, who single handedly reinvigorated a program, and school. No Way. Then allegations began to come to light. Allegations of sexual assault, and cover ups.

To truly understand the magnitude of Briles’ firing we must understand exactly what he meant to the school. Baylor University is a private, Baptist University nestled in Waco, Texas. It is the oldest operating University in Texas, established in 1845. Prior to 2007 – the year of Briles’ hiring – Baylor was a fine school that stressed a lot of things, but football was not one of them. In fact The Baylor Bears football was historically bad, compiling a record of 35-101 with a bowl drought extending from 1994. Following Briles’ hiring however, things began to change – and fast. Following two years of so-so results and team building, the Bears took off under Briles. They beat Texas (UT) in Austin securing their first winning season since 1995, and first bowl berth in 16 years, led by quarterback Robert Griffin III, who would go on to win the Heisman the following year. In short time Briles had delivered 3 things no one had been able to do at Baylor. 1. Beat Texas 2. Get to a bowl game 3. Bring home a Heisman. All of a sudden Briles had gone from a hot upstart to Baylor royalty. The football team stayed great, winning Big 12 titles, and big bowl games. Things are going great, Briles gets a huge new contract running through 2023, funding is secured for a new stadium in Waco, leading to the new $266 million dollar McLane Stadium. The good times are rolling, with no end in sight.

So how’d he do it? How did Briles turn a perpetual loser into an overnight sensation? The answer lies in the players he was actively recruiting.  Briles brought more talent to Waco than ever before. Among these great athletes, and just great individuals in general there were one to many bad apples. This is the group that would cost Briles his job with their repeated transgressions against women.

Aug. 20, 2015: Baylor DE Sam Ukwauchu is convicted of sexually assaulting a former Baylor soccer player. Ukwauchu had a history of sexual violence. He had transferred from the University of Washington, where his ex-girlfriend claimed he assaulted her. Baylor and Briles deny any knowledge of Ukwauchu’s history.

Feb. 2, 2016: ESPN reports that Baylor officials failed to investigate allegations of sexual assault against former football player Tevin Elliot, revealing that Baylor took 3 years to comply.

Mar. 3, 2016: former Baylor student Jasmin Hernandez files a Title IX against the university claiming the school knew Elliot had a history of assaults and failed to protect her and other women.

Apr. 14, 2016: Baylor DE Shawn Oakman is arrested for sexual assault charge.

Apr. 14, 2016: Outside The Lines reports that Baylor did not investigate two other sexual allegations made against players Armstead, and Myke Chatman, for more than two years after being informed of them in 2013.

The timeline outlined shows a history of poor decisions by everyone involved in the Baylor Athletic Department. Briles’ was recruiting these young men to play for him, it was his responsibility to bring aboard men who won’t be a danger to the general student populace. Above Briles when allegations began to arise about some of his players it is up to the athletic department to get to the bottom of it, not drag their feet hoping the allegations pass, and the women move on.  In the end Briles’ descent was as fast as his rise. With these allegations in addition to other ones of cover up, and lackadaisical investigations, Briles, Athletic Director Ian McCaw, and University President Ken Starr have all been stripped of power. In the end Baylor chose to put winning football games over the safety of its students. When it came time to pay the piper, heads had to roll, hopefully what has happened in Waco will serve as a reminder to institutions everywhere that winning is not, and cannot be the end all of college athletic teams.

 

By CALVIN BROWN / Sports Editor

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