Surely, you have heard and read about the allegations of sexual assault and other lawless behaviors attributed to members of the Baylor football team and about how the coaching staff, athletic department and school administration did less than one should expect to curb those activities and to report them to the authorities. In matters of this nature, I have been sensitized to wait until the process works itself out before diving headlong into the discussion; the infamous Duke Lacrosse Case remains embedded in my memory. That is why I have not been commenting on this matter as it has been in and out of the news over the past year or so.
To be sure, this whole matter is not settled. There are still lawsuits pending against the school by alleged victims and by members of the coaching staff and there are lawsuits for defamation of character that are out there and … Trust me; this is not over by a long shot. Nonetheless, as a result of the discovery process in one of the lawsuits, some text messages sent by former Baylor coach, Art Briles, have come to light. While these messages do not confirm or deny any guilt by any of his players in terms of criminal activities or sexual assaults, the texts indicate to me that he knew that there were multiple issues of behaviors by his players that are socially and legally unacceptable. Those text messages indicate he knew about them and that he was part of a process that intended to keep these behaviors from coming to the attention of the local police in order to keep players eligible to play football.
On the assumption that those text messages are real and have not been concocted to frame Art Briles, they are sufficiently odious to bring me to the following conclusion:
- Art Briles should not be allowed to coach football – or any other sport – at an educational institution in the US again.
Given the information in those text messages and their timing, I think I am also ready to say that the folks who were in charge at Baylor University at the time – they have since been replaced – should also be barred from holding equivalent positions of authority at an educational institution in the US. A quick Google search here will give you an overview of the sordid behaviors that these folks sought to cover up/minimize in order to keep a top-rated football team on the field. Just to focus on one of the allegations here, one Baylor co-ed alleges that she was gang-raped by two football players and that she can identify 52 instances of sexual assault perpetrated by 31 different Baylor football players. Those are allegations; none has been proven. However, juxtaposed with the text messages involving other matters, the situation at Baylor was about as ugly as a barrel of hot cat vomit.
If you are too lazy to use Google, here is an espn.com overview of some of the lowlights here. If you want to read a report on some of the behaviors of the coaching staff and at least one of the boosters for the Baylor football program, check out this report from SI.com.
What interests me here – in addition of course to resolving the outstanding criminal charges at the basis of all this – is the behavior of the good folks at the NCAA. I would like to think that those folks have been quiet and careful regarding this matter because they learned a lesson; that may be the case – or it may also be the case that they are tone deaf. Let me explain…
Remember back to the days of the “Sandusky Affair” at Penn State. Long before the judicial processes finished, the NCAA swooped in and levied a whole bunch of sanctions against Penn State. One merely violated the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and a judge saw to it that the sanction was reversed; others took away scholarships and another performed the feckless task of vacating victories. In that case, Penn State gained no material on-field advantage in football – which is the fundamental reason the NCAA and its rule book exist in the first place. But the NCAA was out-front in terms of punishments…
In the Baylor case, this hot mess has been around for well over a year now and the NCAA is still pondering. If what they are doing is waiting for all the evidence and all the charges to become known so they can make an informed decision in this matter, then bully for them. I am typically not one to offer praise for the folks at the NCAA; but if that is what they are doing here, they are doing the right thing. However, if they fail to come down on this institution and these adults who were in charge at least as hard as they tried to come down on Penn State and the folks there, then it is time for the villagers to bring their torches and pitch forks to NCAA Headquarters and to slay the monsters therein.
Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post has called on the NCAA to invoke the “Death Penalty” on Baylor football. I am not there – yet – simply because there are still events in the world of jurisprudence that are pending. However, I will say this:
- If the bulk of the allegations of sexual assaults and rapes and other sordid illegal behaviors are proven to have happened, then the “Death Penalty” for Baylor football should definitely be strongly considered.
Moving up one level of football competition and the coaching aspects therein, the Niners did announce that Kyle Shanahan will be their new coach and that he and John Lynch will be the football mavens to restore the Niners’ franchise to a status above “laughingstock”. Congratulations to those two folks; they have a steep hill to climb. Moreover, one of the handicaps they will have to carry up that hill is the Niners’ CEO, Jed York who is the son of the team’s principle owner, Denise DeBartolo York. Jed York is a Niners’ fan who was given the keys to the car in 2008 and who enjoyed early success by hiring Jim Harbaugh to coach the team. However, when Harbaugh and then GM, Trent Baalke, crossed swords, York could not restore order and then clearly picked the “wrong side” in the argument letting Harbaugh walk.
From that moment forward, nothing that Jed York has done has made football sense – including his coaching hires, his reliance on Baalke to do the drafting for the team, etc. He has alienated the fanbase and – most importantly – he has shown that he is averse to any sort of public humiliation. Press criticism and fan demonstrations do not make him a happy camper…
Ergo, John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan not only have to do a lot of work to restore a football roster than is severely talent-deficient, they also have to do that in a way that allows some of the reflected glory to shine on Jed York plus they have to do it in a time-frame that will make the fans and the press see that progress is being made to the point that they do not continue to ridicule Jed York. I have read that both Lynch and Shanahan have 6-year contracts; I think that they had better show some progress in the first two years and they had better be relevant in the NFC West in the third year or they will be sitting home and collecting on the final years of those deals.
Finally, here is a comment from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald last week:
“The Winter X Games have been going on. The question is, WHY!?”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports ………