For nearly a year, a sexual assault scandal has encircled the Baylor football program. The scandal broke in August when Texas Monthly reported Bears defensive end Sam Ukwuachu stood to face trail for sexual assault despite the entire incident slipping beyond the local media and defensive coordinator Phil Bennett publicly stating he expected Ukwuachu on the field that fall, and reached a fever pitch Wednesday when ESPN’s Outside the Lines published previously unreported cases of Baylor football players instigating violence on campus.
Through it all, Baylor’s brass has said next to nothing. Head coach Art Briles answered minimal questions on the subject while directing his interview sessions back to football. President Ken Starr declined to attend a candlelight vigil staged on the front lawn of his home. Athletics director Ian McCaw today referred to the reporting of sexual assaults as a “Title IX matter.” Not a single member of BU’s 34-seat Board of Regents, to our knowledge, has spoken on record on the subject. Baylor has hired Philadelphia law firm Pepper Hamilton to review its reporting practices of sexual assault cases, but has not promised to make the findings public.
“Over the coming weeks, the Board will carefully consider the information provided in the briefing and determine how to decisively act upon Pepper Hamilton’s findings and recommendations,” the board wrote in a statement released Friday. “The members of the Board will be guided by their faith as they make significant decisions for the welfare of Baylor students, the direction of the institution and the good of Baylor Nation.”
But on Thursday Mac Engel of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported Baylor regents are considering firing Briles as a means of pressing an eject button out of the university-wide scandal. He writes:
The board is expected to keep Briles but two sources indicated firing him is being considered as the final solution to a scandal that continues to be a nightmare for the entire school for what is now approaching a full calendar year.
Two things to note here: Engel leads with “the board is expected to keep Briles.” Pursuant to that, it appears the board would fire Briles only if the backlash for continuing to employ its most valuable employee rendering the option to retain him untenable. It’s possible the Pepper Hamilton report produces damning details of what Briles knew and when he knew it, but considering Baylor is under no obligation to publish the report, that option feels unlikely.
And on that subject, McCaw appeared on ESPN Central Texas Tuesday and said he has no reason to believe the scandal will cost anyone at Baylor their jobs (2:12 mark). The exchange with host David Smoak:
McCaw: “I haven’t heard anything along those lines.”
Given how little Starr and the Baylor regents have spoken on the matter, it’s impossible to state how seriously the board is considering firing Briles. We’ll keep you posted if anything changes.