School, Big 12 agree: Baylor has sullied conference

Baylor sullies, Gundy's mullet, Kansas, K-State QBs

Jesse Newell, Kellis Robinett and Blair Kerkhoff break down first day of Big 12 meetings.
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Jesse Newell, Kellis Robinett and Blair Kerkhoff break down first day of Big 12 meetings.

By the end of the day, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby and Baylor interim president David Garland agreed on the language.

In his state of the conference address to open Big 12 Media Days, Bowlsby said some Big 12 presidents believe the conference has been “sullied” by Baylor’s sexual assault scandal.

When told of Bowlsby’s comments, Garland included his school in the group.

“We have sullied our own reputation, and we’re trying to do everything possible to correct that,” Garland said. “The only thing we can do is to make sure it never happens again.”

If those words ring a bit hollow, consider Baylor is only a few months removed from its second major scandal of the Big 12 era when an investigation commissioned by Baylor found a “fundamental failure” by the university, its athletic department and football team to respond appropriately to a series of sexual-assault allegations against football players.

The law firm, Philadelphia-based Pepper Hamilton, wrote in its Finding of Facts that for years the athletic department oversaw a “failure to identify and respond to a pattern of sexual violence.”

The wounds seem too fresh to begin thinking about Baylor on the road to recovery, especially when a cloud of suspicion — what did the assistant coaches know about this, and if they had any connections, why do they remain employed by the university? — continues to hover over the program.

But media days signal the arrival of a new season, and all teams, including those that fundamentally failed, must get on with football business. In Baylor’s case, that means running the athletic department under new leadership.

Monday, the university followed the media to Dallas to introduce the first replacement who isn’t an interim. The Mack Rhoades rollout went about as well as it could have. He hit the right notes, no small consolation to Missouri, the school he jumped after a stay of less than 15 months.

Some at Mizzou signaled to not let the door hit Rhoades on the way out. Chiefs wide receiver and former Tigers great Jeremy Maclin took to Twitter last week to express his thoughts when he tweeted, “I normally don’t speak on stuff like this but glad Mack left ... we are a different breed in Como. It’s family first he lacked that mentality.”

To hear Rhoades on Monday, family was the primary reason for the move. With his wife Amy and three daughters Nicolette, Natalie and Noelle sitting in the first row, Rhoades looked at them as he concluded his news conference.

“This is an opportunity for Baylor University and the athletics department to be a leader in how we handle sexual violence,” Rhoades said. “I have three unbelievably beautiful daughters that I love and if you ask ‘What’s your motivation?’ There’s my motivation.”

Garland was the day’s most interesting and welcome voice. In this awful episode, the interim president took questions, his back pressed against a wall, but answering every query thrown his way. Not all responses satisfied.

“What you have in the Findings of Fact are the clear summaries of the (victim’s) stories,” Garland said. “There’s nothing really more hidden.”

Q: But do you understand why people wouldn’t trust an institution that has covered up a bunch of stuff to now be telling us the whole truth?

A: I do understand that.

Garland said Baylor has crafted 105 recommendations to fix the problem.

“I’m confident that we are changing the culture, and if it is not changed it will be changed,” Garland said. “Not just policies and procedures but I want to change what is the root cause of people who would rape other people.”

Bowlsby offered an answer to that question earlier, and it wasn’t his best moment.

“It almost goes without saying that when you combine alcohol and drugs and the experiences of 18- to 22-year-olds, it’s probably unrealistic to think that these kinds of things are never going to happen,” Bowlsby said.

Cringe-worthy. So was a later comment about expressing surprise that more public assembly venues, like arenas, haven’t been terrorists’ targets.

Call it a sullied moment. There were a few of those Monday.

Blair Kerkhoff: 816-234-4730, @BlairKerkhoff