Patrick Dennehy's body was located in a Waco gravel pit on July 29, 2003. The Baylor basketball player was murdered by his teammate Carlton Dempsey. The response of Baylor's head basketball coach, Dave Bliss, was to accuse Dennehy of being a drug dealer.
Baylor (and Bliss) was then under an NCAA investigation for a violation of numerous rules, such as Bliss's paying Dennehy's tuition. Dennehy hadn't known this — he'd been told he was on a scholarship, but Bliss, who had no scholarships left, lied to him and his family. Then, when the NCAA and the police started sniffing around after the murder, Bliss went with another lie, telling everyone that Dennehy paid his tuition by dealing drugs.
There is perhaps no worse way to respond to intense scrutiny than the way Bliss responded to the death of one of his players at the hands of a teammate — he called the dead athlete a drug dealer (he wasn't) to get out of a jam.
There have been no more murders, but Baylor athletics is again under intense scrutiny. Under president Ken Starr, athletic director Ian McCaw and head coach Art Briles, the Baylor football team has seemingly turned into a sexual assault factory. ESPN this week brought us the latest in a report on Baylor football's seemingly unending sexual assault problem. In the report, ESPN uncovered new victims and learned of new football players accused of assault. The details almost aren't even shocking anymore, given the volume of similar claims over the past year or so.
In its report, ESPN provides even more damning evidence that shows Baylor officials, including football coaches and administrators, ignored the problem that was right before their eyes. On one occasion, the team chaplain, Wes Yeary, was told by a victim of her assault. Nothing was done.
ESPN also reported that in regards to one sexual assault, the Waco police pulled the file from the computer system and literally locked the file in an office. One sexual assault, involving a former star Baylor player, has been classified as an open case by the Waco police for four years. And one victim told ESPN she didn't press charges because she knew neither Baylor nor the police would do anything.
Baylor claims to have been awaiting an independent report from the law firm Pepper Hamilton before taking action. And that report was supposedly turned over to Baylor last week. But ESPN's reporting makes you wonder how thorough that report will be, seeing as how one victim who was interviewed says she informed several Baylor officials of her assault but was never contacted by the law firm.
In its own strange way, Baylor should probably be celebrated here. Art Briles, after all, has yet to follow in Dave Bliss's footsteps and publicly blame the victims. There have been no words, publicly, about how any of the victims were asking for it, or how the conduct was consensual, though that’s probably of small comfort to the women. And odds are the victims would probably prefer that Briles or Ken Starr or any other person in a position of power had actually done something instead of doing an imitation of Joe Paterno and just doing nothing while the incidents piled up.
If a woman student poses nude for Playboy, she gets suspended a year for violating the school's Christian values. But if a football player sexually assaults a student, nothing happens. Sure, it's been awhile since I've done that whole church thing, but I don't really recall sexual assault being a Christian value.
Penn State eventually did the right thing and fired Joe Paterno for his sins of overlooking pedophilia, and the coach's reputation was justifiably sullied. Art Briles and Ken Starr will likely never stand trial despite their heroic non-efforts to prevent an on-campus sexual abuse epidemic. But Baylor, Briles and Starr really need to do something besides just be better than Dave Bliss, because that's an incredibly low bar to clear.
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