NCAA Declines to Punish Baylor, Former Coach for Failing to Report Sexual Violence

Photo from Baylor University

Dozens of reports of sexual assaults and interpersonal violence alleged by former Baylor students against football players will not result in punishment by the NCAA.

The claims date back to at least 2013 and allege that members of the football team engaged in gang rapes, sexual assaults, and other violence and that the university condoned the behavior and in some cases may have worked to cover up the truth.

In declining to punish the college based in Waco, Texas, the NCAA said they were unable to conclude that the coach or the college violated NCAA rules in large part because the upper echelons of campus authority did not act on allegations of campus-wide nonreporting.

“Baylor admitted to moral and ethical failings in its handling of sexual and interpersonal violence on campus but argued those failings, however egregious, did not constitute violations of NCAA rules,” the NCAA rules committee wrote. “Ultimately, and with tremendous reluctance, this panel agrees. To arrive at a different outcome would require the [committee] to ignore the rules the Association’s membership has adopted — rules under which the [committee] is required to adjudicate. Such an outcome would be antithetical to the integrity of the infractions process.”

Baylor fired football coach Art Briles in May of 2016 after an independent investigation into allegations that the university was covering for football players. The NCAA cleared Briles of punishment, paving the way for his return to coaching.

Briles, who has not coached since 2019, was alleged to have been a major player in protecting football players from legal action.

Baylor will be placed on probation by the NCAA for improper recruiting practices that involve the use of a female hostess group and other inappropriate benefits provided to players. The college will have recruiting restrictions in place but will not lose opportunities to play in the postseason or scholarships. Former Assistant Director of Football Operations Odell James was hit with a five-year show-cause order.

A member of the NCAA panel that reviewed the claims stated that the allegations didn’t violate NCAA rules, but rather constituted felony violations that should have been pursued legally. Several former players accused of sexual violence had cases dismissed by the courts including allegations that two former players were involved in a 2013 gang rape and a 2016 incident in which a player was accused of raping a fellow student but was found not guilty in 2019.

The university has acknowledged they received at least 17 reports of sexual assault involving up to 19 football players. The Regents settled at least three claims out-of-court, including one claim in which a former member of the hostess group program alleged 52 acts of rape involving 31 players dating back to 2011.

For its part, Baylor has spent the last several years cleaning up its image and instituting policies to prevent a lack of reporting of assaults.

Athletic Director Mack Rhoades said the college is unlikely to appeal the ruling on conduct he described as “a black cloud” that had existed since he had been hired.

“We’re glad to have some closure and to be able to move forward and, again, remember our mistakes, learn from our mistakes, learn from our past, and then we’ll navigate whatever comes in front of us,” Rhoades said.

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