May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. – Romans 15:5-6
That’s the daily verse that’s posted on the Baylor University website today, where the school touts itself as not only the oldest continually operating University in Texas, but a private Christian University and nationally ranked research center that,”… provides a vibrant campus community for more than 16,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship.”
They neglected to mention that they also feature a nationally-ranked football powerhouse that can be classified as anything but Christian: a program that has developed into a nightmare of criminality engulfing the entire school community.
Other top programs over the years like USC, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Miami and SMU have endured major football scandals. But the only thing that has come close to the news coming out of Baylor recently is what took place within the Catholic Church with abusive priests and at Penn State under head coach Joe Paterno and the vile perpetrator of child sexual abuse in former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky.
If you think that is some supreme hyperbole on my part, you haven’t been paying attention to the horrific news that has been spilling out of Waco, Texas regarding the overall tone and personality of the football program and the despicable actions of an inordinate amount of their players over the years.
We’re not talking about taking a few Harriet Tubman’s under the table or a new sports car from an overzealous booster, or having fraudulent academic transcripts due to fake classes and tutors preparing papers and taking exams for athletes.
We are talking about an accepted culture of severe criminal behavior, sexual assaults and rapes that, in their nature and sheer volume, resulting cover-ups and how the perps are allowed to suit up on Saturday’s in pursuit of that elusive national championship, are essentially being condoned by the football program, its head coach and the overall university leadership.
Baylor has always wanted to be a player on the national landscape of major college football. They got their wish when they hired Art Briles, who is an outstanding head coach and creative offensive genius. Briles is responsible for one of the most incredible rags to riches stories in Division I football that we’ve seen over the last quarter of a century.
What he and the football team at Baylor have accomplished, going from a moribund laughingstock to being on the precipice of winning a national championship during his tenure, is beyond incredible. It’s practically unbelievable.
He inherited a program in 2007 that in twelve years prior had only won 11 games, total. To call Baylor the worst program in the Big 12 was like saying that water is wet. Three years later, Briles had the Bears in their first bowl game in 15 years.
I began paying attention to the program early during the Briles regime due to the magnificence of their young freshman quarterback, Robert Griffin III. I loved watching RG III play, and was happy to see that a young black man who won the Heisman Trophy was also a Dean’s List student with a 3.7 GPA who graduated in three years while also being a world-class hurdler and Olympic hopeful in Track and Field.
As much as I enjoyed watching him play, I could never truly root for Baylor, thanks to the evil I’d previously seen in their basketball program.
For folks that don’t remember, Patrick Dennehy was murdered by his teammate Carlton Dodson in 2003. When investigators starting digging, they found that head coach Dave Bliss had paid for the portion of Dennehy’s tuition not covered by financial aid when he transferred into the university.
I could care less about that, but when Bliss told his players to lie to investigators by saying that Patrick Dennehy had paid for his tuition by dealing drugs, I was done with Baylor.
Witnessing the improbable ascension of Baylor after RG III graduated to the NFL, my initial thought process was that things were moving too fast, that something was amiss.
What we’re now learning is that the university, which proudly champions its Christian roots and faith, made a deal with the devil.
It seems that in addition to being an innovator and exceptional coach, Briles willingly and purposely recruited some terrible characters who he, his staff, the university and the local police department allowed to run amok while terrorizing a community.
Outside the Lines has detailed the infractions for months. The priority seemed to be getting into the national semifinals, and if a few women happened to be assaulted and raped in the process, oh well.
And the irony of Ken Starr, the former judge and independent counsel who is now Baylor’s President, who led the investigation into President Clinton’s sexual relations with a White House intern, is not lost on anyone who is following these developments.
The number of instances in which school officials either failed to investigate, or if they did failed to do so thoroughly is jaw-dropping. The mind-numbing number of sexual assault, domestic violence and rape allegations by numerous members of the football team over a number of years is utterly inexcusable.
Victims were alienated by the school, ignored by police investigators and some of the most egregious actions were kept out of public view thanks to a collaborative cover-up between the football office and the Waco Police Department. The whole fiasco is sickening.
In one incident, the school did not investigate a sexual assault report made against two football players for more than two years. Previous incidents, dating back years, that had previously been unknown to the general public, it’s now being learned, were known about by Baylor officials and coaches, yet most of the players were never disciplined and were allowed to compete as if nothing had happened. None of those incidents were previously reported in the media.
The school’s administration, football program, the overall athletic department and the Waco Police Department, which pulled certain cases involving football players from public view have heinously handled and cast aside female victims in exchange for winning football games in ways that are deplorably inexcusable.
I can understand the pressures and financial incentives for winning in major college football, and the temptations of ignoring an elite recruits past character issues. I don’t condone it, but I understand.
What I can never comprehend is not disciplining, suspending, kicking off the team or expelling players who have shown a violent history of sexual crimes while on campus, allegations that were hidden and even worse, ignored in pursuit of athletic glory.
The entire situation is repulsive and nauseating. Baylor wanted to be a football powerhouse. But in the Faustian Bargain they negotiated to become one, they willingly sacrificed innocent females at the expense of their championship dreams and alumni pride over their ever-increasing football win totals.
Perhaps the most sickening thing is that the university once hired a public relations firm to help increase its chances of being chosen for the college football playoffs.
And in the midst of this public relations debacle, where they willingly empowered a bunch of sexual predators and felons to masquerade as student-athletes, committing crimes brazenly and repeatedly with practically little to no repercussions, they did absolutely nothing.