I will admit, at first glance, I thought this was just another case of a university over-prioritizing football. That happens all the time. While this clearly is not one of those instances, sometimes the idol-ization of sports even leads to good things. It can be a means for overcoming economic hardship or a lack of educational opportunity. Then I gave it some thought and this issue is much deeper. This deals with sexism, institutional oppression, and an overall lack of humanity. What happened at Baylor has nothing to do with sports. Things like this happen because, as a whole, we do not place nearly enough focus on the safety of women. In cases like Baylor, we blatantly disregard it. Football did not cause all these problems, it just manifested them.
I am not saying what happened with the Baylor football team was not horrific, but if you read Pepper Hamilton’s 13-page report then you know this is much larger. The report is 9 pages before they even get to the issues within the football program. The football component of this story is somewhat of a distraction from the real issue. Half of the country thinks placing a bowl-ban or cutting some scholarships will solve the problem. The football aspect is making people point to Art Briles, football players, and sports fans. We should be aiming our disgust at Baylor administrators, our male-dominated society and a culture we created that let things get so bad.
I know football is a distraction because there have already been calls for the death penalty (the termination of all football activities), in regards to Baylor’s football team. What Baylor did had nothing to do with wins, losses or recruiting. Baylor perpetuated rape culture on their campus. This is not a matter for the NCAA to deal with, they get enough things wrong to begin with. You really trust an organization that already subjectively governs its members and is notably inconsistent with its punishments to accurately investigate and apply sanctions? The NCAA is more focused on making sure athletes from low-income family do not get their winter coat paid for than investigating real issues. Do not leave them to be the executioner in legal and moral matters or you will get solutions that make you feel good instead of actual justice.
If Baylor wants to do right by its students and especially those victims (besides the civil-suit that is surely to come), instead of reducing scholarships or implementing a bowl ban, it will begin to immediately educate its students, athletes, faculty, staff, and administration on how to deal with matters of domestic violence and sexual assault. It will begin creating and enacting policies that protect victims and accurately punish not only those who are guilty, but also those who took steps to impede the process.
Baylor’s administrators, faculty, and staff committed near-criminal actions. Such as when their actions “constituted retaliation against a complainant for reporting”. This is the definition of systemic oppression and some people are more worried about what happens to future enrollment than what is happening to those already enrolled.
Even worse, after all that, the private-school football program is not at all absolved. The pristine coach, with an impeccable record, could not hold even hold his head above water on this one. In fact, in several instances, the football team was even worse than the university. One quote from the report notes that football coaches and staff met “directly with a complainant and/or parent of a complainant” and still never reported the alleged misconduct. This also led to staffers and coaches having “inappropriate involvement in disciplinary and criminal matters”. The entire system was a sham and while I am generally cynical about the occurrence of poor judgement, I pray this is only place things like this take place (I am probably wrong).
Last, but not least, we need to point the finger at ourselves. Not that I believe anyone reading this article, or myself, had any involvement in these cases; however, we created a culture as sports fans that fostered such a disgraceful environment. Baylor is not the only school that views winning as an end-all, be-all. That is likely because in today’s day and age, many fans view winning as the only thing that matters. I am guilty of it too. There is rarely any notoriety given to the guys who do it the right way, clearly not enough anyways. So little, in fact, that people honestly believed it was in the best interest of the University to cover-up sexual assault rather than to handle it professionally, as an institution.
Just remember, Baylor did not happen because of football, or Art Briles, or a few bad guys on the team. Baylor happened because looking like you had control of your campus, was more important than actually having that control. Baylor happened because the administration deemed winning the Big 12 more important than upholding the values of the university. Baylor happened because it took practically 5 years for any of us to recognize that Baylor did not care about its female students.
Title IX is the nationally accepted minimum a university should do in being attentive to its female student’s safety needs. Baylor hardly made its implementation into their university practices a part of their to-do list, much less a priority. This should make every school take a look into the mirror. Hopefully they do not see anything as ugly as what has been transpiring in Waco, Texas.
The sad thing is, if it was not for the national attention football brings, this probably would have taken even longer to uncover.
My NBC5 DFW follow-up story:
The full 13-page report can be viewed at the link below: