DALLAS — Baylor’s football coach has been fired. Its athletic director resigned. The president is gone.
But Baylor is not out of the woods. Not by a long shot.
While no one officially is predicting the most dire resolution of the school’s tragic sexual assault scandal, there is the slightest of chances Baylor could be out of the league, too.
The Big 12 could push for that. Now no one should expect that drastic an outcome, but it’s obvious that many of its league brethren are not happy.
Expelling Baylor from the conference would clearly be the most drastic measure, but highly, highly unlikely. Commissioner Bob Bowlsby did say Monday that the league has “a wide array of options” available to it before adding it was “way too premature” to suggest the Big 12 is considering any penalty at all.
“I’m not going to speculate on anything in the way of actions,” Bowlsby said.
But why keep weighing in then? There has to be some form of closure for the league. Even interim Baylor president David Garland said Monday, “We have sullied our own reputation.”
Texas President Gregory L. Fenves sure thinks so.
“I have been deeply troubled by the recent problems at Baylor,” Fenves told the American-Statesman. “They are intolerable and provide important lessons for all universities about responding to allegations of sex assault and changing the campus culture. As I have said, one sexual assault is too many; we must foster a campus that does not tolerate sexual assaults while also strongly encouraging victims to come forward and report incidents.
“Along with the other Big 12 presidents and commissioner, I expect Baylor officials to provide all of the information that the conference needs to decide the best path forward. The recent failures at Baylor have been damaging to the entire conference.”
The next round of the Baylor saga continues Tuesday, when acting coach Jim Grobe and three players meet the media. The Big 12 should hold Baylor’s feet to the fire. For the second time in 13 years, the school has brought incredible shame upon itself and the league with unspeakable controversies. Baylor insists it will be more transparent and unveiled under new athletic director Mack Rhoades, a terrific hire who made his first appearance as such Monday and said, “Doing is simply better than telling.”
With Garland and two other administrators facing tough questions from the other league presidents on Tuesday, the Big 12 could be looking to exact its own punishment on a fellow conference member that, in the powerful words of Bowlsby, “has sullied the image” of the entire conference.
“When one member’s reputation is damaged,” Bowlsby said, “I think all of our images are damaged.”
But just how damaged? And how mad are the Big 12 presidents?
The saga that has enveloped the entire Baylor University and adversely impacted its future remains front and center dominated the first day of Big 12 football media days. Baylor is just more than a decade removed from the Dave Bliss scandal in which one basketball player was killed in 2003 by a teammate, who remains in prison for the crime, and the Bears head coach conducted a massive coverup. The episode crippled the program, which didn’t post another winning season until 2008.
Bowlsby was peppered by strong questions about the league’s stance on the issue and did not emerge unscathed. The normally composed and polished commissioner waffled in his answers, saying at one time the league has “no legal standing” in the Baylor case but later saying it has the power to take action against the school. During his opening remarks, he referred to Art Briles’ replacement as “Al Grobe,” not Jim Grobe.
“And I actually know a guy named Al Grobe,” Bowlsby said before a media scrum of about two dozen reporters outside the main ballroom.
Maybe Grobe has already considered changing his name to separate himself from the considerable wrongdoing in Waco.
It’s clear that Baylor football may not be the same for the foreseeable future. It’s easy to imagine that the Bears could return to their darkest days as a Big 12 doormat; the program has basically lost the bulk of two recruiting classes with scholarship releases, transfers and decommitments from the 2016 and 2017 classes and now faces possible sanctions from its own league.
This won’t be Art Briles’ Baylor for quite some time as Baylor could be threatened with a living death penalty, even if the Big 12 doesn’t levy any punishments on the school.
Bowlsby said his office has looked back at the basketball scandal to check for any precedents that could be applied in this football case. “We found some guidance there, but not a lot.”
In that situation, like this one, Baylor lost major talent as three basketball players transferred, including Kenny Taylor to Texas, and was at one time down to four scholarship athletes. The Bears also had their entire non-conference schedule wiped out, and Baylor wasn’t allowed to compete in the Big 12 post-season tournament for one season.
Baylor’s football team hasn’t been decimated to that extent and still has a lot of talent. But it has already lost 11 of its 22 current class, has lost all but one of its six commitments for 2017 and saw three players transfer, including prized quarterback Jarrett Stidham.
If nothing else, everyone continues to want answers to questions, and that includes Big 12 university presidents.
Garland said Baylor’s legal team has willingly met with the NCAA about any transgressions, and that the information from the Pepper Hamilton report would contain “salacious details” that Baylor does not feel comfortable giving out. No further changes on the football staff are anticipated, Garland said, and moving forward, the school “wants the best Title IX office in all of sports.”
So there is zero expectation that Baylor will reveal the entirety of the Philadelphia law firm report, but Big 12 leaders are still intent upon following up.
“I think some have stronger feelings about it than others, and we will probably hear a little more about that during the meeting tomorrow, but I expect it will be collegial,” Bowlsby said. “I think there will be hard questions. There isn’t any doubt about that, to the extent that they can answer them, they will answer them. But there are a lot of pending processes in place right now and all of that’s not going to go away any time soon. So to say that we have a vision for what the end game is would not be accurate.”
Sadly, no end is in sight.