Drayton McLane Reportedly Pushing Baylor to Bring Back Art Briles

A second Title IX lawsuit was filed against Baylor Wednesday. Another in what promises to be a series of lawsuits arising out of a series of alleged sexual assaults involving Baylor football players and various Baylor female students. The resulting scandal has already resulted in Baylor president Ken Starr losing his job and being demoted to law school professor. The Baylor athletic director, Ian McCaw resigned, and football coach Art Briles has been suspended pending termination.

An independent investigation conducted by the law firm Pepper Hamilton concluded that Baylor’s administration and athletic department did little to nothing to protect the campus’ female population. Administrators, according to the investigation, directly discouraged complainants from reporting assaults, and once actually retaliated against one victim who did file a complaint with authorities.

It was a disturbing situation that lasted for years — the Pepper Hamilton report only looks back at the past three years — but there have been multiple Baylor players arrested and/or convicted of sexual assault since 2009. It’s a situation that should have damaged forever the reputations of Starr, McCaw, and Briles. But funnily enough, that’s not the case. At least not where Briles is involved because, well, this is Texas and in Texas, what really matters is that the football teams wins lots and lots of games.

Reports surfaced earlier this week that members of the Baylor Board of Regents were attempting to return Briles to his role as head coach. Well, returned to his job after serving a one-year suspension. There were attempts to dismiss these reports, calling them speculative and then further marginalizing the stories by claiming it was just a vocal, but small minority of the board calling for Briles’ return.

But the Wall Street Journal Wednesday reported that the instigators behind that vocal minority included former Baylor regent Drayton McLane, the former owner of the Houston Astros. McLane’s not just a former regent, he’s the guy who reportedly contributed about $25 million so that  Drayton McLane Stadium could be built.

Reports also established that the other major forces pushing the Baylor board are Bob Simpson, the co-owner of the Texas Rangers, Jim Turner, the former chairman of Dr. Pepper, and Houston attorney John Eddie Williams. The athletic offices and athletic center are named after Turner, and Williams’ name graces that of the football field. Simpson on Monday, stated that he’d like to see Briles return as head coach.

McLane, while at a press conference Wednesday regarding a partnership between the Dallas Cowboys and Baylor Scott & White Health, answered some questions about any movement to reinstall Briles in his job. McLane said he’s a regent emeritus and has no knowledge of what’s going on, that he’s just “trying to support the board” on this issue, and that this situation is “still in limbo. I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to make any comment. There’s just not anything I can say.”

There may be many in Houston who are rather shocked that McLane could be part of such an effort. Especially some former Houston media members who felt that none of this would have never happened had Baylor followed the example of Drayton McLane. But there’s no longer anything about the Baylor situation that should surprise anyone. Pepper Hamilton’s findings were that the administration and athletic department had known of the situation involving the football team, that they had been contacted by alleged victims, yet did nothing.

Nothing’s been done yet. It’s still just a reported minority of the board pushing for Briles’ return, and there’s no indication that McLane and others have made inroads with the rest of the board. So there’s still hope that sanity will prevail, even at Baylor, and even in regards to winning football games.
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John Royal is a native Houstonian who graduated from the University of Houston and South Texas College of Law. In his day job he is a complex litigation attorney. In his night job he writes about Houston sports for the Houston Press.
Contact: John Royal