How is it that Art Briles received an ovation from Baylor fans during Friday night’s Rice/Baylor football game, yet it’s the feelings of Baylor fans that got hurt? In what world does Shawn Oakman get to stay free and attend the Baylor/Rice game while Rice is the one issuing an apology for offending people?
It’s the world of college football where a band mocking a school’s pathetic response to sexual assaults committed by football players is considered a bigger offense than cheering on a guy who allowed the sexual abuse to take place, or at least tolerated it.
Briles is the former head coach of the Baylor football team. He was dismissed from this job this past summer after an investigation into a string of alleged sexual assaults supposedly committed by Baylor players against Baylor coeds. The report found that Baylor officials knew of such issues, but chose to ignore them so as to continue a pursuit of a winning football team. And just like Penn State fans when it comes to Joe Paterno and his failure to stop one of his coaches from sexually abusing young boys, many Baylor fans have chosen to turn a blind eye and have offered support for Briles.
Briles, meanwhile, has been touring the country, seeking a new job while claiming he had no knowledge of what was happening while also claiming the scandal has been blown out of proportion. Which brought him to Rice on Friday night where he was greeted loudly and fondly by Baylor fans there to watch Baylor defeat Rice 38-10. Also in attendance, sitting with Baylor fans, was Oakman, a former Baylor defensive end currently under indictment on a charge of second-degree felony for sexual assault.
Enter Rice’s Marching Owl Band, better known as the MOB, which is popular for its juvenile and sometimes controversial halftime shows. The band has needed police escorts at Texas A&M for mocking Reveille and angered Tulsa for detailing the descent of former current Rice head coach/then Tulsa head coach Todd Graham into hell while calling Graham a douchebag.
So the MOB did what the MOB does, and went off on Baylor. The band faced the Baylor fans and formed a huge Roman numeral IX in reference to a Title IX lawsuit filed against the school by one of the sexual assault victims. Then it formed a huge star in honor of Ken Starr, Baylor’s former president (and Bill Clinton sex scold), who lost his job for his role in failing to do anything about the issue.
Baylor fans were, of course, offended. They called the band low class and disgusting and immediately set about demanding an apology. One Baylor fan even attempted to confront the MOB as the musicians left the field. There were others who were offended, stating that the MOB demeaned women who had been raped and that sexual assault is not an issue to be joked about.
So on Saturday, the Rice administration does what administrations do: It apologized. Kind of, issuing to the press one of those non-apology apologies, stating it regretted the offense, “particularly if Baylor fans may have felt unwelcome in [Rice] stadium...” but continuing:
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“While we know that the MOB did not intend in any way to make light of the serious issue of sexual assault, we are concerned that some people may have interpreted the halftime performance in that vein. Sexual assault is a matter of serious concern on campuses across the nation, and all of us have an obligation to address the matter with all the tools at our disposal.”
I have several friends who did feel the MOB was joking about rape, and that this is a no-no. And that is correct, rape is not something that should be joked about. But yet, it didn’t appear, up in the press box that is, that the MOB was joking about rape. The MOB appeared to be criticizing the Baylor administration for failing to act to prevent sexual assault and for valuing football over the safety of its female students. And if there were any Baylor fans offended by this, well, their right to whine about the MOB was destroyed when they decided to give Briles an ovation and to welcome Oakman in their midst.
Rice’s apology, meanwhile, did not sit well with some Rice fans and alumni. “I’m burning my diploma,” Rice graduate Ria Hogan told the Press upon reading the statement. And while Hogan’s statement might have been a bit too extreme for other Rice alumni, many were angered and disgusted by the administration caving into the feelings of Baylor and its fans.
So if there's anything that Rice and the MOB should apologize for, it should be for letting Baylor fans get off with thinking that they're the victims that need to be appeased. Because it's not appeasement they need. They need to be made to feel shame, especially if they're going to go around welcoming Art Briles back into their company.