A law firm hired by Baylor University to investigate the school’s handling of sexual assault and violence cases involving athletes determined that 17 women since 2011 reported incidents of sexual and domestic violence involving 19 football players, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday afternoon. Four of the cases involved alleged gang rapes.
In May, Philadelphia-based law firm Pepper Hamilton released a scathing report about Baylor’s handling of sexual assault allegations. That report led to the demotion and then resignation of former university president and chancellor Kenneth Starr; the firing of football coach Art Briles; the suspension and then resignation of athletic director Ian McCaw; and the firings of multiple athletic department employees.
The Journal on Friday quoted Baylor regents who detailed, for the first time, some of the Pepper Hamilton findings. According to the regents, in at least one case, Briles “knew about an alleged incident and didn’t alert police, the school’s judicial-affairs staff or the Title IX office in charge of coordinating the school’s response to sexual violence.”
J. Cary Gray, a Dallas lawyer and member of the Baylor board of regents, told The Journal, “There was a cultural issue there that was putting winning football games above everything else, including our values. … We did not have a caring community when it came to these women who reported that they were assaulted. And that is not OK.”
The regents spoke to The Journal amid a backdrop of some influential Baylor donors and alumni wondering whether Briles might have been made the scapegoat for a larger sexual assault problem at the university. Such talk has taken hold in some Baylor corners because of the secrecy around the Pepper Hamilton report, which has never been made public.
The Journal story detailed the events that led up to Briles’ firing: On May 24, two days before the firing, Briles addressed regents in a conference room. The regents said that when Briles was asked what he would have done differently, he broke down and wept. Many board members began to cry as well.
“He couldn’t speak he was so upset, and all of us were,” Gray told The Journal. “Art said, ‘I delegated down, and I know I shouldn’t have. And I had a system where I was the last to know, and I should have been the first to know.'”
Ernest Cannon, Briles’ attorney, told The Journal that Briles quoted Scripture and expressed his regrets over the painful situation Baylor was in but didn’t admit to wrongdoing.
The regents told The Journal their decision to fire Briles went beyond the school’s requirements to police sexual assault on campuses: “As he heard information, what did he do with it? From a moral standpoint, what is the right thing to do?” Ron Murff, a Dallas businessman who is chairman of the board of regents, told The Journal.
Baylor’s former Title IX coordinator, Patty Crawford, resigned this month and has sharply criticized university officials for what she says were efforts to prevent her from trying to handle a sexual assault problem that went beyond the football program.
The Journal report said Baylor told the newspaper, “Football players were involved in 10.4 percent of Title IX-reported incidents in the four-year period ending in 2014-15.” Male athletes are 4 percent of the undergraduate male population at Baylor.
Three Baylor football players have been indicted for sexual assault and crimes against women in the past four years. Former defensive end Shawn Oakman was indicted by a McLennan County grand jury on charges of second-degree felony sexual assault last month. Defensive ends Tevin Elliott and Sam Ukwuachu were convicted of sexual assault in 2014 and 2015, respectively.
Outside the Lines obtained confidential letters and emails this week that indicate Baylor’s athletics department was aware of at least one incident of alleged sexual misconduct involving Elliott but continued to allow him to play during the 2011 season.
According to an email obtained by Outside the Lines, Baylor’s judicial affairs office gave Elliott a written notice of misconduct on Nov. 18, 2011, just seven weeks after a female community college student reported to Waco police that Elliott had trapped her in her room, held her against her will and touched her inappropriately, at one point poking a broom toward her vagina, during an alleged incident at her apartment on Sept. 28, 2011. Waco police cited him with a misdemeanor for the incident.
In the notice of misconduct letter sent to Elliott, Baylor judicial affairs coordinator David Murdock told him that “you will have the opportunity to hear the evidence that has been brought to my attention and you will have the opportunity to either admit or deny the charge of misconduct. If you admit the charge, I will set the sanction(s). If you deny the charge, a hearing will be required.” Senior associate athletics director Paul Bradshaw was also copied on the email.
Elliott played in Baylor’s 45-38 upset of No. 5 Oklahoma on Nov. 19, 2011 and in a 66-42 win over Texas Tech the next week, before missing the final two games that season for what the team called a knee injury.
A document obtained by ESPN indicates that Baylor judicial affairs sanctioned Elliott on March 29, 2012, with disciplinary probation and a written warning for the November 2011 incident. The document also noted that judicial affairs became aware just days later, on April 3, 2012, of a female Baylor student having reported that Elliott had sexually assaulted her on March 27, 2012. Weeks later, Elliott was then accused of raping another Baylor female student at an off-campus party on April 15, 2012.
The document also indicates that judicial affairs learned on May 2, 2012, that Elliott had actually been accused more than a year earlier — March 19, 2011 — of sexually assaulting a TCU student in a Waco night club. The incident had been reported to Waco police.
Elliott was suspended from the team for an undisclosed violation of team rules on April 27, 2012, three days before he was arrested by police in Waco for raping the woman at the party earlier that month.
Briles told ESPN in September that he takes responsibility for the football program’s poor handling of sexual assault allegations involving players and that his “heart certainly aches.” He distanced himself from decisions made after some players had been accused of criminal activity, however.
“There were some bad things that happened under my watch,” Briles said. “And for that, I’m sorry. … I was wrong. I’m sorry. I’m going to learn. I’m going to get better.”
He said he understood why victims at the hands of players on his team would be upset with him.
“I’d tell them I’m extremely sorry. It just appalls me that somebody could victimize another human being. And there’s no place in society for it. And I’ve never condoned it and never will and never put up with it,” he said. “These players are part of our program and representatives of our program. And when they do wrong, then it reflects on me and the university. So I do feel responsibility.”
Information from ESPN’s Mark Schlabach was used in this report.