Skip to main content

The latest on Baylor's firing of Art Briles

ArtBriles3

Baylor has demoted school president Ken Starr, sanctioned athletics director Ian McCaw and fired head coach Art Briles as school regents process a comprehensive report of the school's response to an ongoing sexual assault crisis within the football program, the school announced Thursday.

The school's official wording is that Briles has been "suspended with intent to terminate," while Dr. David Garland has been named school president. Baylor has also dismissed additional staffers within the athletics department, but has declined to name them publicly.

“We were horrified by the extent of these acts of sexual violence on our campus. This investigation revealed the University's mishandling of reports in what should have been a supportive, responsive and caring environment for students,” said Baylor Board of Regents chair Richard Willis. “The depth to which these acts occurred shocked and outraged us. Our students and their families deserve more, and we have committed our full attention to improving our processes, establishing accountability and ensuring appropriate actions are taken to support former, current and future students.”

With regard to the football program, Philadelphia law firm Pepper Hamilton found numerous failings laying at the feet of Briles and McCaw:

  • In addition to broader University failings, Pepper found specific failings within both the football program and Athletics department leadership, including a failure to identify and respond to a pattern of sexual violence by a football player and to a report of dating violence.
  • There are significant concerns about the tone and culture within Baylor's football program as it relates to accountability for all forms of student athlete misconduct.
  • Over the course of their review, Pepper investigated the University's response to reports of a sexual assault involving multiple football players. The football program and Athletics department leadership failed to take appropriate action in response to these reports.

“We were asked to provide a thorough and candid assessment. Baylor allowed us to follow the facts, without influence or interference, wherever they led, and Baylor's Board of Regents openly received sobering findings of failure within football, the Athletics Department and the University as a whole,” said Gina Maisto Smith and Leslie M. Gomez, partners with Pepper Hamilton, LLP. “We believe the choice to share these findings of fact publicly and acknowledge past failures is an important step for the University as it implements the recommendations derived from these findings.”

The full report, which can be seen here, is as damning as one could possibly expect (emphasis added):

Baylor failed to take appropriate action to respond to reports of sexual assault and dating violence reportedly committed by football players. The choices made by football staff and athletics leadership, in some instances, posed a risk to campus safety and the integrity of the University. In certain instances, including reports of a sexual assault by multiple football players, athletics and football personnel affirmatively chose not to report sexual violence and dating violence to an appropriate administrator outside of athletics. In those instances, football coaches or staff met directly with a complainant and/or a parent of a complainant and did not report the misconduct. As a result, no action was taken to support complainants, fairly and impartially evaluate the conduct under Title IX, address identified cultural concerns within the football program, or protect campus safety once aware of a potential pattern of sexual violence by multiple football players.

In addition, some football coaches and staff took improper steps in response to disclosures of sexual assault or dating violence that precluded the University from fulfilling its legal obligations. Football staff conducted their own untrained internal inquiries, outside of policy, which improperly discredited complainants and denied them the right to a fair, impartial and informed investigation, interim measures or processes promised under University policy. In some cases, internal steps gave the illusion of responsiveness to complainants but failed to provide a meaningful institutional response under Title IX. Further, because reports were not shared outside of athletics, the University missed critical opportunities to impose appropriate disciplinary action that would have removed offenders from campus and possibly precluded future acts of sexual violence against Baylor students. In some instances, the football program dismissed players for unspecified team violations and assisted them in transferring to other schools. As a result, some football coaches and staff abdicated responsibilities under Title IX and Clery; to student welfare; to the health and safety of complainants; and to Baylor’s institutional values.

In addition to the failures related to sexual assault and dating violence, individuals within the football program actively sought to maintain internal control over discipline for other forms of misconduct. Athletics personnel failed to recognize the conflict of interest in roles and risk to campus safety by insulating athletes from student conduct processes. Football coaches and staff took affirmative steps to maintain internal control over discipline of players and to actively divert cases from the student conduct or criminal processes. In some cases, football coaches and staff had inappropriate involvement in disciplinary and criminal matters or engaged in improper conduct that reinforced an overall perception that football was above the rules, and that there was no culture of accountability for misconduct.

As expected, defensive coordinator Phil Bennett is expected to serve as interim head coach with offensive coordinator Kendal Briles remaining on staff. Bennett is the natural choice to serve as interim head coach as Briles' most senior assistant -- and yet his comments last summer expecting defensive end-turned-convicted rapist Sam Ukwuachu to play in the fall of 2015 while knowing he awaited trial for sexual assault helped kickstart the firestorm.

Briles confirmed as much in this text message to his players.

Hired away from Houston after the 2007 season, Briles brought unprecedented football success to Waco in the forms of a Heisman Trophy in 2011, back-to-back Big 12 championships in 2013-14 and brand new McLane Stadium opening in 2014. At 65-37 overall and 50-15 since Robert Griffin III's Heisman season of 2011, Briles' offense was truly revolutionary -- the modern equivalent of the Wishbone with spread principles built into its DNA. But Briles was overwhelmed by inaction to multiple sexual assaults committed by Baylor players over a period of multiple years and, just as damning, never adapted. In fact, his final tweet showed the spectacular lack of awareness that ultimately did him in.

And now the account is gone.

Ken Starr has released this statement:

As always, stay tuned to The Scoop for the latest.