Baylor Escapes Punishment Over Sexual Assault Allegations

Baylor Escapes Punishment Over Sexual Assault Allegations
portrait of Dean Golembeski
By Dean Golembeski

Published on August 18, 2021

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Following an extensive review, the NCAA found that Baylor University and a former football coach didn't violate rules by failing to report allegations of sexual and interpersonal violence by football players between 2010 and 2015.

"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 NCAA's infractions committee wrote in its ruling. "Ultimately, and with tremendous reluctance, this panel agrees."

The committee's decision was announced on August 11 following a five-year investigation into a 2015 sexual assault scandal that rocked the private Christian university in Waco, Texas. It marked the latest instance in which the NCAA has backed away from punishing schools for sexual misconduct by athletes.

In a more notorious case, the NCAA didn't punish Michigan State University and Larry Nassar for a sex abuse scandal. Nassar is a former doctor for USA Gymnastics and sports medicine physician at Michigan State. He is now serving a lifetime prison sentence after pleading guilty in 2018 to criminal sexual conduct and federal child pornography charges.

Baylor Put On Probation for Other NCAA Violations

The NCAA investigation began after Baylor fired its football coach Art Briles following an independent report that sharply criticized the university for its handling of sexual assault allegations. Briles was fired in May 2016.

While escaping punishment for its handling of sexual misconduct, the university was placed on probation for four years for other rules violations related to impermissible benefits and improper recruiting practices. The NCAA also imposed some recruiting restrictions but didn't take away any scholarships and will allow the university to play in the postseason this upcoming season. The NCAA also levied a $5,000 fine.

The panel explained its decision by noting the culture of sexual violence and a lack of accountability spanned the entire Baylor University campus, not just athletics. In other words, football players didn't receive any preferential treatment when it came to sexual assault claims.

"The panel found that those instances of non-reporting did not constitute impermissible benefits to football student-athletes because of a campus-wide culture of nonreporting," the NCAA said in its report.

"That culture was driven by the school's broader failure to prioritize Title IX implementation, creating an environment in which faculty and staff did not know and/or understand their obligations to report allegations of sexual or interpersonal violence. Because the culture of non-reporting was not limited to cases involving student-athletes, the panel could not find that these instances resulted in impermissible benefits."

Feature Image: Ron Jenkins / Stringer / Getty Images Sport

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