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Baylor Football's Sexual Misconduct Problem

Playboy magazine visited the Baylor University campus in 2002. A young lady who posed for the "Women of the Big 12" pictorial was suspended for a year. A Baylor fraternity, where several male students posed with some women in bikinis as part of the pictorial, was suspended and the men who participated were given lesser punishments.

The punishments were handed out because, according to Baylor, associating with Playboy violated the student handbook which held that students must comport themselves "in accordance with Christian principles as commonly perceived by Texas Baptists. Personal misconduct either on or off the campus by anyone connected with Baylor detracts from the Christian witness Baylor strives to present to the world and hinders full accomplishment of the mission of the university.”

So an adult woman posing naked for a magazine isn’t in accordance with Christian principles, and it detracts from Baylor’s ability to be a Christian witness. But while posing nude might be a no-no, it sure appears that Baylor doesn’t take such swift action when it comes to criminal sexual misconduct. Especially when those accused of committing the acts of criminal sexual misconduct are football players.

The Baylor football program is back in the news this week, and it’s not for a good reason. On Wednesday, recently graduated Baylor defensive end Shawn Oakman was arrested on charges of sexual assault. And on the same day as that arrest, ESPN’s Outside the Lines broke with the news that tight end Tre’Von Armstead was also possibly involved with a sexual assault, and that it took more than two years from when the incident was reported to Waco police for Baylor to begin its own investigation.

These stories come on the heels of the Sam Ukwuachu incident last year in which Ukwuachu was convicted of raping a Baylor student. The amazing thing was that Baylor had conducted its own investigation and found the charges of Ukwuachu to be unfounded, and that if not for a Waco jury, Ukwuachu would’ve played football for Baylor last year. And don’t forget about Tevin Elliott who is now serving 20 years in prison for sexually assaulting multiple Baylor students from 2009 to 2012.  Despite being informed of the allegations, head coach Art Briles kept Elliott on the team because it was merely a he-said, she-said situation.

The NCAA constantly punishes athletic departments that show a lack of institutional control over sports programs and athletes. So it would seem that the NCAA should really be checking out head coach Art Briles and the Baylor football program, because if anything speaks of an institutional lack of control over an athletic program, it’s got to be a football program thats seems to implicitly condone criminal sexual misconduct.

Then again, this isn’t just a problem for the Baylor football team. It’s been reported, primarily by the victims, that Baylor just will not punish male students accused of sexual assault. Indeed, the university’s response has seemed to be blaming the victims who find their lives upturned.

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One would think that Baylor would be more forceful in its actions regarding sexual misconduct. After all, Ken Starr is the president of the university. And it was Ken Starr who attempted to force through the impeachment of a president over a sexual act between two consenting adults. But maybe it is the fault of the female students of Baylor. Maybe things would be different if they would have presented blue, semen-stained dresses to the Baylor administration.

But then again, it’s not like any of these women voluntarily posed nude for a magazine, because posing nude brought shame down on the school. And having to lose football games because football players are being suspended due to raping their fellow female students would bring shame down upon the school — because there’s nothing more shameful to a college than a losing football team. Especially a losing college football team in Texas.

No university is perfect. No athletic department is perfect. Coaches and players and administrators are humans, and humans make mistake. It would be easy to dismiss one incident of sexual misconduct on the part of a football player. But what’s going on Baylor is not just an isolated incident. It’s systemic, occurring among multiple players, over many years, with coaches and administrators failing to do anything to handle the problem.

It’s way past time for Art Briles and Ken Starr to resign their jobs, if not face some type of investigation for possibly covering up criminal activities. But if they’re not going to resign on their own, then maybe it’s time for the students and parents and alumni to start demanding so.

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