Let it never be said the Big 12 sat silently by as a sexual assault scandal enveloped Baylor from head to toe. No, they made a statement about it.
Released on Wednesday, the Big 12 broadcasted this statement down Interstate 35 to Waco by way of the Internet:
The Big 12 Board of Directors is gravely and deeply concerned by media reports about activities involving the athletics program at Baylor University. On May 24, 2016, the Big 12 Board requested a full accounting of the circumstances surrounding the sexual assaults at the University. At this time the Board is only privy to information that has been made available to the public.
Today, Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby sent a letter to Baylor University Interim President David Garland once again requesting all documents associated with the investigations of sexual assaults at Baylor. This request is for written materials as well as any information that has been conveyed orally to University leadership or to its Board of Regents including, but not limited to, the unedited written or verbal information from Pepper Hamilton, omitting only the names of any involved students. Internal documents pertinent to the investigation have also been requested.
Because many of the incidents at Baylor reportedly involve student-athletes, the Conference is appropriately concerned with discovery of the facts. The Big 12 is primarily configured to facilitate fair competition among its members and compliance to the rules of both the Conference and NCAA. To that end, full disclosure is vital to assess the impact on the Big 12.
"All of our member universities consider student safety and security to be paramount among institutional responsibilities," said Bowlsby. "The Big 12 Board of Directors, each member of the Conference and its student-athletes want to convey that our thoughts, concerns and sympathies are with the Baylor survivors and their families."
The Big 12 has no investigative power and most certainly is not booting Baylor from the conference, so outside of some financial penalties hidden within the league's bylaws, it's not clear what the conference gains out of this statement considering the Bears' determination to keep as much of the facts as hidden from view as possible.
Well, there is one thing: the collective embarrassment the other nine members will receive when Baylor turns around and says, "Eh, no thanks."
Update: Baylor interim president David Garland has responded to the Big 12's request, releasing this statement to the Austin American-Statesman.
“Interim President David Garland received the letter from Commissioner Bowlsby and has contacted the Commissioner to acknowledge receipt of his letter. Baylor is reviewing the Big 12’s request for additional information in light of Baylor’s obligations under federal privacy law and the commitment of confidentiality to the brave survivors who shared their experiences to help the University better understand its shortcomings. President Garland will seek an opportunity to sit down with Commissioner Bowlsby to personally discuss the investigation and the Big 12’s requests.
Dr. Garland would like to reiterate that the Findings of Fact fully reflect the themes, core findings and failings identified in the investigation – while omitting the documentation of individual cases and names supporting these findings. Baylor’s Board of Regents chose to publicly release severely critical Findings of Fact because it believes it is in the best interest of the Baylor community to do so, regardless of the impact on current or potential civil litigation or regulatory action. The University self-reported to its community and the NCAA and will maintain normal communication with the Big 12 Conference during the course of the NCAA investigation.
Baylor remains confident in the actions it has taken to ensure improvement in student safety and to help restore confidence that its priorities and values remain in the proper order. We hope to not only apply what we learn and to approach the highest levels of prevention, response and support for students impacted by these acts, but also to share what we learn with other higher education institutions for the benefit of students everywhere.”
What, exactly, would the Big 12 do to Baylor should the Bears refuse to comply? No one really knows at this point.