College sports has turned into a multi-billion dollar enterprise. Between television contracts, apparel deals, and big-money donors, the fervor for collegiate athletics rivals that for professional sports, and in some aspects, surpasses them.
With fervor comes great pressure. And with pressure comes a win-at-all-costs attitude. Coaches and athletic directors begrudgingly turn a blind eye to many indiscretions.
But some indiscretions are unforgivable. Despite being one of the winningest coaches in college football this decade, Baylor’s rape scandal has turned former head coach Art Briles radioactive.
One of the brightest offensive minds in the game, Briles led Baylor to four 10-win seasons over his last five years. Prior to his arrival, Baylor had more 10-loss seasons (two) than 10-win seasons (one).
Briles was able to attract and develop NFL-caliber talent, such as Heisman trophy winner and number two overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft, Robert Griffin III. Stud recruits were suddenly making their way to Waco, TX to play for a perpetually subpar football program.
But winning came at a cost. In order to compete, Briles took players with character issues and willfully looked the other way when they behaved badly off the field. That bred a culture of lawlessness which resulted in Baylor’s deplorable rape scandal.
A Baylor graduate who said she was raped by a football player filed suit against the school, which uncovered a rotten ethos.
From the Dallas Morning News:
“The lawsuit describes a culture of sexual violence under former Baylor football coach Art Briles in which the school implemented a’show ’em a good time’ policy that’used sex to sell’ the football program to recruits. That included escorting underage recruits to strip clubs and arranging women to have sex with prospective players, the suit alleges.
Investigation by lawyers identified at least 52 ’acts of rape,’ including five gang rapes, by 31 football players in a four-year period. At least two of the gang rapes were committed by 10 or more players at one time, the suit states.”
The school had no choice but to fire Briles, and despite an “apology tour” (exhaustive interviews and lectures showing remorse), and a sterling football résumé, Briles hasn’t sniffed another job.
Briles’s plight is similar to that of Dave Bliss, another disgraced Baylor coach. Bliss was the men’s basketball coach who was fired after being caught on tape conspiring to blame his own malfeasance on a player who had been murdered by a teammate in a strange, sordid ordeal. After the tape came to light, Bliss became unhirable.
Baylor has taken steps to rectify the situation. All of the coaches are gone, and new head coach Matt Rhule is considered a high-character guy. Baylor has also taken an unprecedented step by hiring its first female president.
Per an ESPN report:
“Baylor University has hired its first female president as the nation’s largest Baptist school faces several lawsuits stemming from a sexual assault scandal.
Linda Livingstone comes to Baylor from George Washington University in Washington, D.C., where she has been a dean and professor of management. Her academic career includes previous administrative and teaching roles at Pepperdine University and Baylor.
A Baylor investigation in 2016 found the school had mishandled sexual assault claims for years and that the football program operated as if above the rules. Football coach Art Briles was fired and former President Ken Starr was demoted and later resigned.
Baylor faces lawsuits from about a dozen women, as well as criticism from state lawmakers and prominent donors.”
Some might say the hire is cynical. A desperate ploy for good optics. Regardless, Linvingstone comes in with a mandate to eradicate the “show ‘me a good time” culture, which is certainly a positive.