When it comes to addressing the spate of sexual assaults by football players on its campus, there's not much that Baylor University has done right, starting with its mishandling of the discipline (or complete lack thereof) of the players involved and continuing through the various steps of the aftermath.
From Ken Starr's abortion of an interview with a Waco news station after his resignation to the nebulous lack of specificity in the report the school released in the wake of Pepper Hamilton's investigation, the whole thing has been a mess. About the only thing Baylor has gotten right is its decision to terminate head football coach Art Briles, yet even THAT was handled in an unsavory fashion.
You see, when you're trying to announce important news while simultaneously avoiding any backlash or attention, the coward's move is to make the news item public late Friday afternoon, as this is when most of society is out to happy hour and ready to unplug from the news cycle for the next couple of days. Friday afternoon is the haven for people who just want their news item to disappear into thin air.
So naturally, at 6:57 p.m. on Friday evening came the news that Briles and Baylor had officially agreed to terminate their relationship:
#Baylor & Art Briles have mutually agreed to terminate their employment relationship, effective immediately.— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) June 24, 2016
#Baylor joint statement w Briles says both "acknowledge serious shortcomings" in response to reports of sexual violence by student-athletes— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) June 24, 2016
Man, 6:57 p.m. on a Friday...I mean, why not wait a week and do it on a Friday before a long weekend and go ULTRA-coward, Baylor? By the way, in case you're wondering why I am doing a post on the severance of Briles from Baylor on a Tuesday morning after it was announced last Friday night, it's because people are actually paying attention to the news on a Tuesday morning.
Sorry, Baylor, you don't get the satisfaction of having everyone miss the news of the firing of your rape-ignoring head football coach just because you chose to announce it when people are two hours into their weekend. Not in this space, at least. You will get called out, now and at every appropriate opportunity.
One last add to this chapter of the Baylor saga — last Wednesday, a woman named Brenda Tracy spoke to the Nebraska football team. Back in 1998, in Corvallis, Oregon, she was gang raped by four men, including two Oregon State football players. At the time, OSU head coach Mike Riley, who is now the Cornhuskers' head coach, suspended the two players for a paltry one game and even had the gall to say the rapists were "good guys who made bad choices."
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Tracy was understandably devastated by Riley's leniency and obtuseness and has carried those scars around for 18 years. In that time, Tracy became a nurse as well as an advocate for victims of abuse. In an incredible display of accountability, Riley invited Tracy to come speak to his football team about the victim's side of college's disturbing rape culture. At one point during her speech, Tracy pointed out Riley specifically, saying that she hated him more than the men who raped her.
Riley mishandled the situation in 1998 badly, but he is trying to make it as right as he can 18 years later, apologizing to Tracy and giving her the forum to publicly call attention to Riley's missteps in front of his current team.
Conversely, Briles recently backed out of a promised apology to one of the many victims of rape at the hands of his football team, this one a victim of former Baylor football player Tevin Elliott named Jasmin Hernandez. Briles's cowardice is yet another in a long line of botched opportunities and self-preservation attempts that sadly have defined Baylor's leadership in this tumultuous time.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.