The Big 12 has finally had enough of the shenanigans at Baylor. Following the arrest of a Baylor strength coach Saturday night on solicitation charges, the conference came out this morning and announced it's punishing the school in the only way that will definitely get the school's attention.
It's withholding money.
The Big 12 stated that, pending an independent investigation into school policies, the conference is withholding 25 percent of future revenue owed to Baylor by the conference. The conference distributes about $30 million a year to the various schools, so the damage to Baylor would be more than $7 million a year.
"The Board is unified in establishing a process to verify that proper institutional controls are in place and sustainable," said David Boren, chairman of the board of directors of the Big 12 and president of the University of Oklahoma.
So it's easy to say that Baylor is gonna Baylor when it comes to sex. But now things are kind of different. For instance, Saturday's incident involved a consensual sex act. Then there was the school firing the coach immediately. But then there's a new coach in charge of football, Matt Rhule, and now the Big 12 butting in. So of course changes are happening.
"When we arrived at Baylor, we made a commitment to character and integrity in our program," new head coach Matt Rhule said in a statement. "[Strength coach Brandon Washington's] actions are completely unacceptable. We will not tolerate conduct that is contradictory to those values."
In the abstract, this seems like a bit of overreaction on Baylor's part. The coach was hit with a Class B misdemeanor charge for attempting to pay for consensual sex. But then it's been a rough year for Baylor football as a long-simmering sexual assault epidemic controversy surrounding Baylor football finally came to a full boil, resulting in the dismissal of the school's president, Ken Starr, the athletic director, Ian McCaw (now AD at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University), and head coach Art Briles (loudly proclaiming this has all just been overblown).
This action also came just days after a Baylor court response in one of the various lawsuits arising from the sexual assaults in which the school released numerous documents that pretty much guaranteed that Baylor will lose any and all such lawsuits. It admitted that Pepper Hamilton, the firm it hired to probe the scandal, didn't actually investigate all of the alleged sexual assaults, nor did its lawyers interview any of the accused. Baylor regents also argued, in their defense, that the football program was a black hole in which all manner of improper conduct that was reported just disappeared forever and ever.
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The school also released numerous text messages from Briles to various assistants and to McCaw in which he stated, among other things, that he could get Starr to reinstate players despite various infractions. Briles also called a female student a "fool" for going to the authorities regarding a player pointing a gun at her. He asked why an assault victim was even hanging out with the players who assaulted her. (See documents at Deadspin.)
Still to come, though, is finding out how Baylor and Rhule act should a new transgression occur. It's one thing to dismiss a strength coach ensnared in a prostitution sting. But what happens if a defensive lineman punches a young lady who tells him no, or a running back is arrested with drugs? Does Baylor then discipline the player in some fashion, or does it sweep things under the rug and blame the victims, as seems to have been common under Briles?
There is a new regime in charge at Baylor, of course. Along with Rhule there's a new athletic director, Mack Rhoades, who came aboard after being AD at Missouri and at the University of Houston. Rhoades made some missteps at Houston, like hiring James Dickey to replace Tom Penders as basketball coach and tapping Tony Levine to take over football from Kevin Sumlin. But he then made smart hires in Tom Herman and Kelvin Sampson, and he found a way to get TDECU Stadium built. He also, during his time at UH, at least, seemed intent on running a clean athletic program. So maybe this does really herald the start of a new way at Baylor.
This all really sucks for Brandon Washington, though. Of all the things Baylor football has been involved with the past several years, this really is just a mild transgression. But then again, just seeing Baylor take proactive measures is somewhat miraculous. So maybe Baylor is going to be Baylor all over again, but really, this time it is different, and maybe that’s for the better.