Baylor punished, but not for sex assault issues

More than five years after Baylor fired football coach Art Briles in response to a scathing review of the university’s handling of sexual assault allegations made against students, including football players, the NCAA ruled on Wednesday that neither Briles nor the university violated its rules for their inaction.

Based on other violations related to academic misconduct and improper recruiting practices involving a female hostess group, the NCAA Committee on Infractions placed Baylor on four years’ probation and imposed other recruiting restrictions against the program but didn’t ban the Bears from playing in the postseason this upcoming season. A former assistant director of football operations, who failed to cooperate in the investigation, was given a five-year show-cause order.

In its report, the NCAA said the committee could not conclude that Baylor violated NCAA rules when it failed to report allegations of sexual and interpersonal violence committed on its campus.

“Baylor admitted to moral and ethical failings in its handling of sexual and interpersonal violence on campus but argued those failings, however egregious, did not constitute violations of NCAA rules,” the committee wrote in its ruling. “Ultimately, and with tremendous reluctance, this panel agrees. To arrive at a different outcome would require the [committee] to ignore the rules the Association’s membership has adopted — rules under which the [committee] is required to adjudicate. Such an outcome would be antithetical to the integrity of the infractions process.”

The committee noted that while a former Baylor president described the school’s handling of sexual violence as a “colossal operational failure,” current NCAA rules do not allow the Committee on Infractions to punish schools for how they handled such issues.

The NCAA said the committee considered charges in three specific incidents of “alleged or threatened violence” by football players that weren’t reported by members of the football staff, which the enforcement staff had alleged were impermissible benefits.

“The panel found that those instances of non-reporting did not constitute impermissible benefits to football student-athletes because of a campus-wide culture of nonreporting,” the NCAA said in a release. “That culture was driven by the school’s broader failure to prioritize Title IX implementation, creating an environment in which faculty and staff did not know and/or understand their obligations to report allegations of sexual or interpersonal violence. Because the culture of non-reporting was not limited to cases involving student-athletes, the panel could not find that these instances resulted in impermissible benefits.”

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