Baylor head coach Art Briles has reportedly been fired. LM Otero AP
Baylor head coach Art Briles has reportedly been fired. LM Otero AP

Baylor Bears

Baylor fires football coach Art Briles

By Jeff Caplan and Tom Johanningmeier

Special to the Star-Telegram

tjohanningmeier@star-telegram.com

May 26, 2016 10:55 AM

UPDATED May 29, 2016 12:18 PM

Baylor coach Art Briles has been fired, Ken Starr is out as president and athletic director Ian McCaw has been sanctioned and placed on probation after an external review found the university failed to respond to reports of sexual assaults by football players.

The report, by the Philadelphia law firm Pepper Hamilton, said the failures by administrators, the athletic department and football staff created a perception that “football was above the rules.”

It also found the school failed to follow requirements under Title IX, the federal law that bans discrimination based on sex in education programs, and the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013.

Briles, the Baylor athletic department and administration have been criticized for months for failing to act through a series of reports of rape and assault made against at least eight Baylor football players over the last eight years. At least eight women have publicly come forward to say the school ignored their sexual assault allegations.

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Pepper Hamilton Findings of Fact

Among the findings from the Pepper Hamilton review:

▪  University administrators “directly discouraged some complainants” from reporting or going forward with their complaints and “in one instance constituted retaliation” against a student reporting sexual assault.

▪  The football staff conducted its own investigations, outside of school policy, and had its own system of discipline. “The choices made by football staff and athletics leadership, in some instances, posed a risk to campus safety and the integrity of the university,” the report said.

▪  Administrators “had a limited understanding of the dynamics of sexual violence and existing barriers to reporting on Baylor’s campus, including the impact of other campus policies regarding the prohibition of alcohol and extra-marital sexual intercourse.”

▪  Investigations by the campus’ Judicial Affairs took a “rigid approach” that was “wholly inadequate to fairly and reliably evaluate whether sexual violence occurred.” In addition, the report said, “the investigations were conducted in the context of a broader culture and belief by many administrators that sexual violence “doesn’t happen here.”

“We were horrified by the extent of these acts of sexual violence on our campus,” Richard Willis, chairman of the Baylor Board of Regents, said in a written statement. “This investigation revealed the university’s mishandling of reports in what should have been a supportive, responsive and caring environment for students. The depth to which these acts occurred shocked and outraged us. Our students and their families deserve more, and we have committed our full attention to improving our processes, establishing accountability and ensuring appropriate actions are taken to support former, current and future students.”

The university said it has notified the NCAA and will cooperate if there is an investigation.

Starr will leave his role as president on Tuesday but will remain as the Louise L. Morrison Chair of Constitutional Law and has agreed in principle to serve as chancellor, the university said. David Garland, former dean and professor at the George W. Truett Theological Seminary, will serve as interim president.

McCaw will help administrators implement the Pepper Hamilton recommendations.

Baylor said other administrators and athletic department employees have been dismissed but did not name them.

Briles, who transformed the Baylor football program from Big 12 laughingstock to national contender, was 65-37 in eight seasons and won a Big 12 title in 2013 and shared one with TCU in 2014. His success led to the opening of the $250 million McLane Stadium in 2014.

He reportedly informed his players via text message.

Per source, here is the group text that Art Briles sent his players today #Baylor pic.twitter.com/4yGb1HLX1L

— Jessica Morrey (@JessicaMorrey) May 26, 2016

Players began reacting with messages on Twitter on Thursday morning, suggesting something seismic was happening.

Tweets by various Baylor players look like something major has happened regarding the staff: pic.twitter.com/wnFVZqrNlt

— RedditCFB (@RedditCFB) May 26, 2016

Baylor students said they believed the university made the correct decision in dismissing the popular coach.

“It’ll be tough on Waco and a lot of Wacoans will be sad by this,” said Tyler Smith, sophomore from Waco. “But Waco was here before Art Briles and got along just fine.”

Denise Anderson, senior from Waco, said the news left students heartbroken and in disbelief. “But we’re happy at the same time that victims are being heard,” she said.

Starr initiated the law firm’s review after former football player Sam Ukwuachu was convicted in August 2015 of sexually assaulting a female soccer player.

Ukwuachu transferred to Baylor after he was dismissed from Boise State. His former girlfriend testified during his rape trial that he had struck and choked her when he attended Boise State.

Ukwuachu’s former coach, Chris Petersen, now the coach at Washington, said he “thoroughly apprised” Briles about the circumstances of Ukwuachu’s dismissal. But Briles disputed that account, saying he talked with Petersen and there was no mention of the incident.

The school is also facing a federal lawsuit from a former student claiming the school was “deliberately indifferent” to rape allegations levied against former football player Tevin Elliott, who was convicted in 2014 of sexually assaulting the woman.

After Ukwuachu’s conviction, Baylor said it would spend $5 million to improve efforts on how it responds to sexual assault, including adding another investigator and more staff.

But the Ukwuachu case was just the start of months of revelations of football players being involved in violent incidents with few or no repercussions. At least seven other women have publicly come forward to say the school ignored their sexual assault allegations.

We are deeply sorry for the harm that survivors have endured.

Ron Murff, chairman-elect of the Baylor Board of Regents

On May 18, ESPN’s Outside the Lines reported about a sexual assault charge against a former Baylor football player that was not pursued but the case was never closed. The report also included a potential coverup by the Waco Police Department and a lack of discipline on the part of the university.

Starr, whose investigation as independent counsel led to the impeachment of President Bill Clinton in 1998, told the Star-Telegram in April that accountability was important and he welcomed the criticism of the university.

“I am in favor of transparency,” he said. “Stand up, take your medicine if you made a mistake.”

Three years ago, Baylor was able to retain Briles when Texas came searching for its new coach. It likely never imagined it would now be seeking a new coach while embroiled in another egregious scandal.

Next month marks 13 years since Baylor basketball player Patrick Dennehy was murdered by Carlton Dotson, an episode that led to a coverup scandal conceived by then head coach Dave Bliss.

Briles is considered to have a genius offensive mind. Before making his way into the college ranks, he led Stephenville to four state championships while revolutionizing Texas high school offense with his up-tempo, spread attack.

He joined Mike Leach at Texas Tech before taking over at Houston, his alma mater, for his first head coaching job. Four years later, he was hired by Baylor to resurrect their football program.

He did just that, sparking to life a program that some believed would never be revived. He was on his way to producing a career similar to that of TCU’s Gary Patterson, who elevated the Horned Frogs to national prominence and after 16 seasons has a statue standing outside Amon G. Carter Stadium.

Baylor was expected to contend for the Big 12 title again this season with the return of quarterbacks Seth Russell and Jarrett Stidham.

Ron Murff, the chairman-elect of the Baylor board, said the regents “offer our apologies to the many who sought help from the university.”

“We are deeply sorry for the harm that survivors have endured,” he said in the statement.

Ryan Osbornue contributed to this report, which includes information from The Associated Press and Star-Telegram archives.

Art Briles Says He Hasn't Felt "Anything"

Baylor head football coach Art Briles responded to questions about the sexual assault scandal involving his players in August.

tengel@star-telegram.com