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Panel Says Baylor Didn't Break NCAA Rules for Failing to Report, Address Sexual Violence

A Division I Committee on Infractions hearing panel did not find Baylor guilty for failing to report and address sexual and interpersonal violence on its campus, according to a release published Wednesday. However, the panel handed down punishments for impermissible benefits given to a football player for an academic violation and for a former Baylor employee failing to cooperate in the investigation. 

The investigation primarily examined how Baylor protected football players from the school's disciplinary processes and didn't report allegations of misconduct from 2011 to '16. In '16 the university regents said that 19 former football players were accused of sexual or domestic assault by 17 women during the five-year span and four of those instances were gang rapes. 

The school hired the law firm Pepper Hamilton to conduct a third-party review, which led to several high-ranking university officials being fired or resigning including football coach Art Briles, president Ken Starr and athletic director Ian McCaw. 

"Baylor admitted to moral and ethical failings in its handling of sexual and interpersonal violence on campus but argued those failings, however egregious, did not constitute violations of NCAA rules," the panel said in the release. "Ultimately, and with tremendous reluctance, this panel agrees. To arrive at a different outcome would require the [committee] to ignore the rules the association's membership has adopted—rules under which the [committee] is required to adjudicate. Such an outcome would be antithetical to the integrity of the infractions process."

Briles's attorney, Scott Tompsett, released a statement on behalf of Briles—who did not receive a show cause from the NCAA—following the NCAA's findings and believes his client is vindicated from the scandal. Briles has been coaching high school football since 2019. 

"My client Art Briles has been completely exonerated and cleared of all NCAA violations alleged against him," Tompsett said in the statement. "As the NCAA Committee of Infractions explained, the conduct at issue was pervasive and widespread throughout Baylor campus, and it was condoned or ignored by the highest levels of Baylor's leadership. The NCAA's decision today clears the way for Mr. Briles to return to coaching college football." 

Starr called the handling of the allegations "colossal operational failure" but held that the current NCAA rules don't call for punishment on how schools handle such issues. Starr resigned in June 2016.

The panel was investigating three specific instances of alleged violence by football players that went unreported but found that "those instances of non-reporting did not constitute impermissible benefits to football student-athletes because of a campus-wide culture of non-reporting."

Because Baylor's culture of not reporting interpersonal or sexual violence was not limited to athletes, the panel found that these instances didn't result in Level II violation benefits. NCAA president Mark Emmert released a statement following the panel's decision and called for change in regard to the NCAA's authority in matters like this. 

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"The conduct by some former Baylor administrators, coaches, and student-athletes described in today's Committee on Infractions decision is unacceptable and runs counter to the values of the NCAA," he said. "Schools have taken many steps to address sexual violence on campus, but as the COI points out, the authority of the NCAA in this area is very limited today. This is a clear demonstration of why the association needs transformational change to create alignment between authority and responsibility to address the most critical issues in college sports. The newly formed Constitution Committee is charged to effectuate this change and the membership should vote to do so at our national convention in January."

The panel also investigated four instances where football players received special treatment but could only conclude that violations occurred in just one instance. The only NCAA violation found was when a player was suspended for plagiarism but appealed the decision, and the then president reversed the decision and the player was subjected to an "academic performance plan requiring 100% academic honesty." 

An academic adviser later notified the football staff that the player had cheated on a quiz, but it was not reported to the president. This resulted in a Level II violation because the player received an impermissible benefit. 

The panel also investigated Baylor for using a predominantly female student-host group, the Baylor Bruins, for football recruiting events, including camps, official visit weekends, junior days and the game-day recruiting room. 

"The gender-based nature of this group is especially concerning in light of the campus-wide cultural issues and Title IX deficiencies at Baylor during this time, as well as the extremely troubling assertions reported by the former Title IX coordinator, including that the Bruins were 'kind of at the disposal of football players in a very inappropriate way,' " the panel said.

The panel found another Level II violation for using the Bruins as impermissible recruiters. Finally, the panel found that the former assistant director of football operations violated NCAA ethical conduct rules when he didn't participate in an interview with the enforcement staff after his departure from the school. 

Here are the punishments handed down by the panel: 

  • Four years of probation.
  • A $5,000 fine.
  • A reduction to 30 football official visits during the 2021–22 academic year.
  • A three-week ban on unofficial visits in football during the 2021–22 academic year.
  • A two-week ban on football recruiting communication during the 2021–22 academic year.
  • A reduction of football evaluation days by three during fall 2021 and by 10 during spring 2022.
  • A five-year show-cause order for the former assistant director of football operations. During that period, any NCAA member school employing him must restrict him from any athletically related duties unless it shows cause why the restrictions should not apply.
  • A vacation of all records in which student-athletes competed while ineligible. The university must provide a written report containing the contests impacted to the NCAA media coordination and statistics staff within 14 days of the public release of the decision.

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