It's an obvious statement, but sports should never be the reason for blurring the line between right and wrong. In the grand scheme of things, we're not that far removed from the mess at Penn State, yet here we have another scandal where an athletic program seems to have put the importance of winning, filling seats, and raking in money ahead of the well-being and rights of fellow members of society.
I'll never understand how anybody thinks sexual assault is OK, regardless of the circumstance or any excuse committers of this horrible act might come up with. But what is even more unfathomable to me is how adults who sign up to be role models and authority figures can look the other way, cover it up, and put the focus on the materials and perceived image of an institution over the lives that have been changed forever.
A quick summary for those who may not be as familiar with this story: Last fall, Baylor hired a law firm out of Philadelphia to investigate its handling of past sexual assault claims. ESPN has reported that several coaches and officials at Baylor were aware of sexual assault incidents, claims of domestic violence, and other acts of violence involving football players, but these players did not miss any playing time as punishment.
Head coach Art Briles was suspended on Thursday with the intent to terminate him, and to me, this act is overdue. In my opinion, it's been evident that he doesn't have control of his program for awhile now. Briles has a history of being soft on people who break the law, plain and simple. Two of the Baylor players accused of sexual assault were recruited by Briles after they were dismissed from their previous teams for off-the-field incidents. Last August, one of them was convicted of sexually assaulting a Baylor women's soccer player and sentenced to 180 days in jail. Another was arrested and charged with sexual assault of a graduate student. Both players had been dismissed from their previous schools for violent acts against women.
By the way, I know every case is different, and accused doesn't mean guilty, but are you sensing a pattern here? The findings of the investigation said that the University failed to take action in order to eliminate a possible hostile environment, prevent it from happening again, or address its effects. The law firm found that there were inconsistent disciplinary measures taken with football players involved in these incidents, and expressed a significant concern about the culture of the football program as it relates to incidents of sexual assault and domestic violence.
But here is the absolute sickest part of this to me: the investigation into Baylor found that administrators discouraged some complainants from reporting the incidents or participating in student conduct processes. In one instance, retaliation was sought against an alleged victim who reported a sexual assault.
Read that last part again and tell me how that makes you feel. Adults, role models, administrators, coaches... people that parents trust when sending their kid(s) to a school discouraged alleged victims from reporting sexual assaults. That makes me sick to my stomach. A cover-up of that level is deplorable. I won't sit here and pretend to understand how difficult a sexual assault is for a female, and to have the courage to come forward and be told to brush it under the rug? I hope Baylor is charged with putting each and every one of those victims through medical and, if needed, psychological treatment, or whatever is deemed necessary to assist them.
Shouldn't we know more? Shouldn't Baylor give more details? We should know the names of the administrators who took part in this. We should have a timeline of when this happened. Even in releasing the findings of this investigation, there are still many questions that need answers. What was the extend of Briles's involvement? Thanks for telling us you guys screwed up, but who screwed up? Who else should be on the chopping block for this? Who was trying to intimidate victims who were violated and already felt helpless?
All in the name of sports. All in the name of making sure the ascension that the football program had seen under Briles wouldn't come crashing down. The donor money, the sold out crowds, the players making the plays on the field, the brand new stadium-- Baylor saw all of that as more important than the safety and comfort of its students.
Oh yeah-- the school president? He's not president anymore, but will be reassigned in some other role.
I hope actions are swift and severe. I'm all for second chances, but consider this the exception. Briles should be just the first head to roll. Any administrator or coach who was found to have covered this up and discouraged victims from coming forward should be out the door at Baylor and never permitted to return to an educational setting. Seriously, how would you feel if you knew your kids were being instructed or under the watchful eye of a person who knowingly covered up sexual assaults? I know this solution is unlikely, but how can anybody who let this happen be trusted around young people again?
I love sports. College football creates an amazing product that I enjoy to the fullest. But there's no experience, game, product, business, dollar amount, athletic program, team, etc. that's worth the agony that Baylor imposed on alleged sexual assault victims. It's added agony on top of an already-traumatic experience that changes people's lives forever.
I'd also like to point out that Baylor is it's own circumstance. I'm sure things happen at other schools as well, but I'm also just as sure that there are programs that are run with integrity and character. I typically don't speak on serious topics like this, and I want to make sure that nobody is misinterpreting what I'm saying as a broad view of all of college football or athletic programs, because I can assure you it's not.
There's a clear line between what's right and what's wrong when it comes to cases like this. Those that view a football program as more important than the well-being of sexual assault victims don't belong anywhere near young people or a college campus.