Baylor’s hope to avoid any serious penalty with the Big 12 and NCAA has hit a snag.
According to multiple sources, the NCAA’s multi-year investigation into the Baylor athletic department has taken a “left turn” to the point that school officials are being advised to self-impose sanctions.
Sources said the law firm representing Baylor in its investigation with the NCAA has recommended to school officials that it impose a one-year bowl ban for the 2018 season.
The “Lack of Institutional Control” infraction, which is so vague it can cover virtually any scenario, is the likely potential NCAA violation.
Sources said the NCAA has recently interviewed former Baylor football coach Art Briles, former Baylor president Ken Starr and former Baylor athletic director Ian McCaw; those interviews could have changed the NCAA’s direction on this case.
Baylor athletic department officials are not permitted to publicly comment on the investigation until its completion, which should be within the next 60 days.
Baylor’s original hope had been that the NCAA’s investigation into Title IX infractions, specifically pertaining to sexual assault complaints, would result in a similar scenario that happened at the University of North Carolina and it’s academic fraud scandal; that case resulted in no sanctions despite the school essentially admitting to university-wide academic fraud.
The primary lawyer representing Baylor on this is Rick Evrard out of Kansas City; Evrard represented North Carolina in its academic fraud case with the NCAA.
The NCAA’s logic is that the infractions at North Carolina were not specific to the athletic department but rather the entire university. As a result, no NCAA violation technically occurred, and UNC was not sanctioned.
One of the problems for the NCAA is specifying the infraction, or infractions, committed by the Baylor athletic department that were exclusive from the rest of the school.
Another problem for the NCAA in the matter of Baylor, per sources, is separating the university from former football coach Art Briles. If it can.
If the NCAA wants to slap a show-cause penalty on Briles, it will likely have to punish the university as well for infractions that were not confined to just the athletic department. That won’t be easy.
Former Baylor defensive coordinator Phil Bennett talks about the rape scandal at the school that led to the firing of Baylor president Ken Starr, athletic director Ian McCaw and football coach Art Briles.
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A “show-cause” is an NCAA rule that says a coach was found guilty of committing major rules violations, and that it will remain in effect for an arranged period of time; the penalty can be transferred to any other job they may accept. Briles recently accepted a position to coach a team in Florence, Italy; it’s no secret he aspires to coach in college again.
Sources said Baylor will, or has, admitted to some secondary NCAA infractions, which normally don’t result in serious punishment, but usually a warning.
The law firm representing Baylor in this matter is suggesting a bowl ban as a show of good faith to the NCAA that it’s taking this matter seriously, and looks to work with the NCAA rather than against it. Baylor wants to avoid any reduction in scholarships, practice time, or fines, etc.
A bowl ban is not a bad idea, nor would it have serious ramifications to the long-term health of the football program. Under first-year coach Matt Rhule last season, the Bears finished 1-11, and a bowl bid in 2018 does not appear imminent.
Baylor already has paid millions of dollars to improve its Title IX office and procedures; the more than 100 recommendations made by the Philadelphia law firm of Pepper Hamilton, which investigated the school’s Title IX policies, have been enacted.
Those procedures are the main sticking point for the Big 12; as long as Baylor follows that, sources said the league will have no additional complaints or concerns.
McCaw, who is now the AD at Liberty University, recently gave a deposition in one of the Jane Doe cases against the university, where he said the school deliberately mishandled multiple accounts of sexual assault at the school.
In the last week, one of McCaw’s former assistants at Baylor, Todd Patulski, was deposed in the same case and corroborated much of what his boss said in his deposition. Patulski is now at Liberty.
More Baylor officials are scheduled to be deposed in this case, including several members of its Board of Regents, in the next few months.
The NCAA has no say in this court proceeding, but any testimony can be used as part of its investigation, and conclusions.
The NCAA, which was roundly criticized for its lack of action against North Carolina, may also feel pressured to enforce penalties. School officials are well aware that it’s easier for the NCAA to push around Baylor than it is a monster like North Carolina or Penn State.
After the Jerry Sandusky/Joe Paterno scandal at Penn State, the NCAA fined the school $60 million with a four-year postseason ban effective in 2014, reduced the number of potential scholarships from 85 to 65, and vacated all of its victories from 1998 to 2011.
A Pennsylvania senator sued the NCAA over this ruling, and eventually the guts of the punishments were repealed.
Given Baylor’s litigious history, should the NCAA enforce a harsh penalty, it should expect a legal fight.
No one at Baylor is quite sure how the NCAA portion of this will all play out, but plans are being made.
Update: Baylor responded to this report with the following statement: “It is irresponsible to report that Baylor is considering a football bowl ban for the 2018 season when in fact the NCAA investigation into the prior football staff and previous athletics administration remains active and ongoing. Additionally, it is premature to speculate as to what the University’s sanctions will be at this point in time.”