The Title IX lawsuit filed Tuesday against Baylor is the latest chapter in a disturbing story involving members of the football team when Art Briles was coach.
Baylor’s sexual-assault scandal has resulted in the imprisonment of former Bears linebacker Tevin Elliott and six other Title IX lawsuits against the school. One suit claimed 52 women had been raped by 31 Baylor football players, while Tuesday’s allegation said gang rapes were a “bonding experience” for the football players.
The NCAA is investigating Baylor, ESPN reported, and Tuesday’s suit led to a fresh round of calls for the NCAA to give Baylor’s football team the “death penalty.” But that action could have the unintended consequence of hurting the rest of the Big 12. Eliminating Baylor’s football program, even temporarily, would leave eight conference games for each school, and trying to fill that extra contest each season could be troublesome.
That said, the Big 12 has the option to kick Baylor out of the conference based on the league’s bylaws. Specifically, Section 1.3.2 regards “institutional control.” It states: “Each Member accepts the primary responsibility for the administration of rules and regulations, for investigating known or alleged violations at that institution, and for taking prompt and effective corrective actions where violations have occurred.”
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On the surface, Baylor has failed to meet that threshold.
The Philadelphia law firm Pepper Hamilton was hired by Baylor to look into the host of allegations, and its report last year found “institutional failures at every level.” Baylor’s board of regents removed Briles as football coach and demoted president Ken Starr to chancellor, who later resigned. Athletic director Ian McCaw also resigned.
The latest lawsuit claims that: “In several instances when football coaches were alerted to player’s misconduct — whether it be rape, dating violence, physical assault, or burglary — the coaches did nothing to investigate the accusations to determine whether their players were responsible. Further, the football coaches never reported instances of player misconduct to anyone outside of the Athletics Department or made sure the players were punished.”
An ESPN report found that Baylor did not investigate a sexual assault report against two football players for two years.
That does not seem to be a “prompt and effective corrective action.”
The Big 12 has taken some action against Baylor already. In February, the conference’s board of directors announced the Big 12 will withhold 25 percent of Baylor’s conference revenue pending a satisfactory third-party review of the school’s required changes to become compliant with league bylaws and regulations and all components of Title IX.
Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said earlier this month that the independent review is continuing and likely won’t be completed until after new school president Linda Livingstone arrives. She starts on June 1.
Barring a finding from the independent review that doesn’t mesh with the lawsuits and media reports, the Big 12 could have the option to kick out Baylor. This would leave the conference with just nine members, but it shouldn’t be difficult to find a suitable replacement.
The Big 12 went through a public search for potential new members last year before deciding against expansion. So the league knows the benefits that some would-be members would bring.
The Star’s Blair Kerkhoff contributed to this story