Celina Summers – Blogcritics https://blogcritics.org The critical lens on today's culture & entertainment Sat, 01 Dec 2018 21:49:37 +0000 en-US hourly 1 NCAA Fact or Fanatic: Why Doesn’t The NCAA Do Something About Baylor? https://blogcritics.org/ncaa-fact-or-fanatic-why-doesnt-the-ncaa-do-something-about-baylor/ Sat, 01 Jul 2017 18:07:45 +0000 http://blogcritics.org/?p=5473441 The terrible truth is that the NCAA feels no reason to punish or censure Baylor University, its administration, athletic department, and football program for also placing athletes' criminal behavior and coaches’ obstruction of justice above the law.

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Welcome to the first NCAA Fact or Fanatic of the 2017-18 football season, where usually we break down fan myths in college football and uncover the reality of the sport. That’s why this off-season column is so important for every fan of collegiate athletics, because that’s exactly what we’re going to do.

Once again, our quest begins in Waco, Texas, at the Southern Baptist-affiliated Baylor University. What’s disturbing about that statement? Well, to be frank, this story should be originating out of Indianapolis, Indiana and the NCAA headquarters. But it isn’t, and with the nightmare at Baylor spiraling into ever more horrifying details, the NCAA remains silent and does nothing.

So let’s start off with Baylor and see how the story there is both changing and staying the same.

Baylor and Its Rape Culture

On May 17, a new Title IX lawsuit against Baylor University re-agitated the ongoing controversy regarding the football program and a series of rapes. This particular lawsuit, however, gives us greater insight into the scope of the problem and the university’s response to the victims. The plaintiff, identified only as Jane Doe, was also a Baylor athlete on their women’s volleyball team. The suit alleges that in February 2012, she was drugged and then gang raped by four to eight Baylor football players at an off-campus party. The allegations are both detailed and chilling. The following passages are taken directly from the lawsuit, which can be read in its entirety here.

One phrase now in the public consciousness regarding university athletics and sexual assault issues is the concept of a “culture of rape.” Jane Doe’s lawsuit details exactly how such a culture is formed.

THE CULTURE OF SEXUAL VIOLENCE AT BAYLOR: RECRUITING In order to ensure that a last place team could recruit the players needed to win football games, Baylor’s recruiting efforts used sex to sell the program. Central to their recruiting efforts, Baylor football coaching staff implemented a “Show ’em a good time” policy which permitted members of the Baylor football team to engage in unrestricted behavior with no consequences. This behavior included, but was not limited to:

a) Players arranging for women, alcohol and illegal drugs for parties when recruits were in town
b) Paying for and escorting underage recruits to bars and strip clubs; and
c) Paying for off-campus football parties (which repeatedly resulted in gang rape of
women by the football players)

In other words, Baylor’s football program ingrained the idea of sexual entitlement into its players before they signed with the university. They were teaching minors, still in high school, that because they were top-tier athletes, they could expect to be sexually gratified upon demand. This culture manifested itself in alarming ways and was enabled by the football coaches and staff.

THE CULTURE OF SEXUAL VIOLENCE AT BAYLOR: HAZING AND TEAM “BONDING” RITUALS Upon information and belief, prior to Plaintiff’s arrival at Baylor, members of the Baylor football team had already developed a system of hazing their freshman recruits by having them bring or invite freshman females to house parties hosted by members of the football team. At these parties, the girls would be drugged and gang raped, or in the words of the football players, “trains” would be run on the girls.

The gang rapes were considered a “bonding” experience for the football players.

Photographs and videotapes of the semi-conscious girls would be taken during the gang rapes and circulated amongst the football players. Based upon investigation, Plaintiff has confirmed that at least one, 21-second videotape of two female Baylor students being gang raped by several Baylor football players was circulated amongst football players.

Note: Bolding is mine.

Jane Doe personally experienced that “bonding” when she, with some of her friends, attended an off-campus party on February 11, 2012. She became intoxicated, and because she was unable to remember portions of what occurred may have been drugged. At some point in the evening, she was taken from the party, put into a car, and driven to another location where she was brutally raped by four to eight football players.

Plaintiff remembers lying on her back, unable to move and staring at glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling as the football players took turns raping her. Following the gang rape, Plaintiff remembers hearing the players yell “Grab her phone! Delete my numbers and texts!”

This is the result of a rape culture. But what happened after the rape is where Baylor’s culpability is truly established. The victim’s nightmare didn’t end when she woke up the morning after the rape and realized what happened. If anything, it worsened as the direct result of the rapists, the football staff, the athletic department, the university, and ultimately the NCAA itself.

Baylor and Obstruction of Justice

After the rape, the football players who’d participated continued to brutalize the victim. This is a natural consequence of a culture of rape, one that allows the rapists to not only rationalize their own behavior but to turn that blame onto the victim. For example:

Following the sexual assault, Plaintiff was repeatedly subjected to verbal abuse and public humiliation by Baylor football players. Baylor football players sent several text messages to Plaintiff in which they attempted to paint a completely different picture of what had happened that night.

One football player told Plaintiff that it was consensual and that she “wanted it.”

That same football player also taunted Plaintiff with claims that a Baylor football player had taken nude photographs of Plaintiff and other Baylor football players during the gang rape. The football players also perpetuated rumors about Plaintiff throughout the Baylor campus about “riding train” on Plaintiff, a reference to the night they took turns raping her as she laid there barely conscious.

She wanted it.

How many times do rapists and their attorneys make that claim? She wanted it because she was drunk/she was clothed provocatively/she didn’t fight or protest. An athlete who feels entitled to take sex when he wants it regardless of what the female may want is going to find a way to tell himself that regardless of her saying “no,” and she really wanted sex the entire time.

What’s extraordinary about the Baylor situation is that as a direct result of their “bonding experiences” as recruits and then college football players, they are also somehow able to convince themselves that any female “wanted” to have sex with multiple partners at the same time. This claim that a “train” was somehow consensual – even though they had to drug women beforehand, which indicates both planning and intent – demonstrates the deep-seated and intrinsic belief that had been inculcated into the team by this “show ’em a good time” policy.

But disturbingly, the abuse doesn’t stop there.

The victim’s mother met with an assistant football coach and informed him of the assault, even providing him with a list of the players who had been involved in the gang rape. This meeting has been confirmed by the university.

The Regents’ members also acknowledged that the assistant football coach spoke to two of the football players involved in the gang rape. The football players reportedly admitted to “fooling around” with Plaintiff, likening the atrocious gang rape to “a little bit of playtime.” The assistant football coach reportedly spoke to other Baylor football coaches who engaged in victim-blaming. Despite taking no further action to determine the veracity of the gang rape allegations, the assistant football coach concluded that the accusations were in a “gray area” and there was no definitive evidence of sexual assault.

After this meeting, the football players harassed the victim relentlessly. She and her family were harassed via phone calls and text messages. She was forced to attend classes with her rapists, and as the football team and volleyball team shared training facilities, she saw her assailants on a daily basis. Her apartment was burglarized by Baylor football players – and the Waco Police Department didn’t press charges against the players because they gave her possessions back. In the spring of 2013, she attended sessions at the Baylor University Counseling Center, where she was offered the following assistance:

Plaintiff informed her counselor of the sexual assault, including the names of the players who assaulted her. In an apparent effort to dissuade plaintiff from reporting the assault, the counselor cited statistics about the number of women who decide not to report sexual assaults. The counselor did not mention Title IX, Plaintiff’s rights or options for reporting the sexual assault, or any accommodations, whether academic or otherwise, which could be made for Plaintiff.

The victim took further steps to inform the university of what she’d been experiencing.

In late April 2013, Plaintiff and her parents met with her head coach and another member of the volleyball coaching staff. During the meeting, Plaintiff recounted in painstaking detail the night she was gang raped by Baylor football players and even provided the names of the players who were involved. Following the meeting with Plaintiff and her parents, Plaintiff’s head coach spoke to Briles and informed him of the sexual assault. Plaintiff’s head coach also gave Briles a list of the players who were involved. Briles reportedly looked at the list of players’ names and said, “those are some bad dudes … why was she around those guys?”

Plaintiff’s head coach claims that he also spoke to McCaw, Baylor’s Athletic Director at the time, and informed him of the sexual assault (a fact that McCaw later admitted, despite initially denying that he had prior knowledge of Plaintiff’s sexual assault). McCaw reportedly told Plaintiff’s head coach that it was up to Plaintiff to take action and that if she failed to press charges, there was nothing else Baylor could do. That information was not provided to Plaintiff or her parents.

So let us recap. The victim of a gang rape who was also a Baylor University athlete reported the gang rape to her head volleyball coach, an assistant football coach, the head football coach, and a Baylor University counselor.

The head volleyball coach also reported the gang rape to the athletic director. And not one of those people who were informed of the rape aside from the head volleyball coach took any action whatsoever to aid the victim or to discipline the players involved. The rapists were allowed to continue to harass and brutalize the victim, and even when they broke into her apartment and stole her things, the Waco police refused to press charges against the football players. And what was the result of all of this?

The victim withdrew from Baylor University after the spring of 2013.

What Does It All Mean?

This ongoing nightmare at Baylor University is the result of a culture where rape and sexual entitlement were encouraged by a university athletic program. With the notable exception of the victim’s head volleyball coach, every single Baylor official that was informed of the rape by victim, her family, or her coach is complicit not only in creating and maintaining that culture but in the obstruction of justice on a galactic scale.

And yet, the NCAA’s position on this matter is that it’s outside of its jurisdiction. But a quick look at the NCAA mission statement might enlighten us on what their jurisdiction actually is.

NCAA Core Values

The Association – through its member institutions, conferences and national office staff – shares a belief in and commitment to:

  • The collegiate model of athletics in which students participate as an avocation, balancing their academic, social and athletics experiences.
  • The highest levels of integrity and sportsmanship.
  • The pursuit of excellence in both academics and athletics.
  • The supporting role that intercollegiate athletics plays in the higher education mission and in enhancing the sense of community and strengthening the identity of member institutions.
  • An inclusive culture that fosters equitable participation for student-athletes and career opportunities for coaches and administrators from diverse backgrounds.
  • Respect for institutional autonomy and philosophical differences.
  • Presidential leadership of intercollegiate athletics at the campus, conference and national levels.

Keep in mind that the NCAA single-handedly destroyed the Penn State football program, as the results of an action that not a single football player knew about or participated in, that occurred off-season and completely not associated with the the football program beyond the use of their facilities and the criminal pedophilia of an assistant football coach. So how is it possible that these activities at Baylor are suddenly not the NCAA’s jurisdiction?

Let’s see. Which of the bullet points above did Baylor violate? “Collegiate model of athletics” — yep. “highest levels of integrity” — thinking obstruction of justice violates that. “Pursuit of excellence” — pretty sure covering up rapes doesn’t constitute excellence. The “supporting role that intercollegiate athletics plays” — probably doesn’t include gang rapes. “An inclusive culture” — for everyone but female rape victims who are drugged and then gang raped.

But then consider the last two.

“Respect for institutional autonomy” is definitely something the NCAA is demonstrating with its continued silence. It’s respecting Baylor so much that it’s claiming they don’t have jurisdiction over the actions of Baylor athletes and coaches during the football season and the regular academic year. And then “Presidential leadership” of college athletics at the campus, conference, and national levels.

The campus level.

Let’s be honest here for a minute. Drop all the media BS.

The NCAA isn’t acting on the Baylor case because it’s afraid to touch the situation. If they can skate out of the limelight and never weigh in, maybe the whole problem will just go away. After all, they acted in the Penn State case and look how that blew up in their faces. Right?

The main issue with that contention is that they really didn’t have jurisdiction in the Penn State case and acted anyway. But the Baylor situation is different. As the lawsuit above details, these are student-athletes who have been protected by the university after committing heinous, violent crimes against women during the regular academic year.

So the real question here is: How is this NOT the NCAA’s jurisdiction?

By Enoch Lai at the English language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=23107722

As we inch closer to football season, and are days away from the beginning of media days frenzy, take a moment to stop and consider what you’ve just read. We have a feeling that you will come to the same conclusion we did.

The NCAA doesn’t want the Baylor case to be in its jurisdiction because it inherently doesn’t care about the fact that scores of women were brutalized by male athletes, that a prominent athletic program took steps to cover up athlete crimes, that the systemic harassment and terror tactics subsequently used by male athletes against the victims of their sexual assaults was of no importance to the university, and the university did everything in its power to try and keep the story contained because all it was concerned about was winning football games, which turned into more cash flowing into its coffers.

The NCAA at its core believes that it’s okay for a member institution to place donor engagement, prime time television slots, and the safety of a student athlete who commits violent crimes against women above the welfare, safety, health, and education of a female student athlete at the same university. But the terrible truth is that the NCAA feels no reason to punish or censure Baylor University, its administration, athletic department, and football program for also placing athletes’ criminal behavior and coaches’ obstruction of justice above the law.

And that, friends, is a fact.

So while there is a continuing and justified outcry against Baylor University for the horror that increases every time another victim steps forward with her story, there needs to be a growing outcry against the NCAA as well. Their cowardice in the face of this member institution’s unbelievable complicity in these crimes is unacceptable. But what really should be angering the fan of college athletics is the incontrovertible, profoundly depressing, and blatantly evident fact that the NCAA has elevated the priorities for male student athletes, while demonstrating no apparent concern about the systemic abuses and injustices heaped upon female student athletes at the same university.

Sadly, the NCAA doesn’t seem to care about the women who fall under their jurisdiction because they are athletes. Female athletes don’t show up on the radar at NCAA national offices in Indianapolis, because if they did, the governing body over college sports would definitely consider the horrors perpetrated at Baylor University as being “under their jurisdiction.” Because if the health and safety of student athletes isn’t the concern of the NCAA, what is?

Oh let us guess: coaches paying for a recruit’s meal or going to see them at a track meet, right?

But not the female student athlete. Not this or any other Jane Doe.

And that, sadly, is the main fact we must take away from this nightmare.

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Exclusive Preview: LiveSciFi’s Tim Wood Takes On The Haunted Monroe House https://blogcritics.org/exclusive-preview-livescifis-tim-wood-takes-on-the-haunted-monroe-house/ https://blogcritics.org/exclusive-preview-livescifis-tim-wood-takes-on-the-haunted-monroe-house/#comments Tue, 14 Feb 2017 19:06:00 +0000 http://blogcritics.org/?p=5468981 On a quiet residential street in Hartford City, Indiana, the large white house seems innocuous at first glance. But while every town has that really creepy turn of the century residence, the one at the corner of Monroe and Franklin supersedes your run of the mill haunted house. Not only is the property the most …

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On a quiet residential street in Hartford City, Indiana, the large white house seems innocuous at first glance. But while every town has that really creepy turn of the century residence, the one at the corner of Monroe and Franklin supersedes your run of the mill haunted house. Not only is the property the most haunted house in Indiana, it’s one of the best-known haunted locations in the United States. Beginning on Thursday, February 16, the Monroe house will encounter another paranormal giant. LiveSciFi, the largest paranormal channel on YouTube, will be investigating the residence. The hundred hour investigation will be continuously live streamed on the team’s website as well as YouTube. Lead investigator Tim Wood, veteran of hundreds of previous ghost hunts which are all documented on the LiveSciFi channel dating back to 2008, has been wanting to investigate the home for some time.

“The Monroe House has intrigued me ever since I heard about it a few years ago.  I  heard that the home has a mysterious past, and is a paranormal hot spot for violent physical and poltergeist activity. We will be spending four days in the home, trying various experiments that can hopefully facilitate and capture paranormal activity and communication,” Wood begins. He pauses and then adds, “I do believe that there is a strong chance that there is something highly malevolent that currently inhabits the house.”

Child apparitions captured looking out second floor window–the Monroe house

Wood is uniquely qualified to investigate this particular haunting…and to determine if the entities in the Monroe House are as malevolent as he suspects. Not only is his team renowned for the EVP responses and other communications they document at haunted locations, but their experience in dealing with different types of interactions in demonic-style hauntings like the Sallie House in Atchison, Kansas and the Villisca Axe Murder House in Villisca, Iowa gives them the perspective and knowledge to confront the entities said to be inhabiting the Monroe House. LiveSciFi’s last investigation, in fact, was at the Sallie House in January, 2017 and the evidence they captured was staggering. This site in Hartford City shares an element with both the Sallie House and the Villisca Axe Murder House  – claims of child spirits that may not be what they seem.

“I do not believe that child spirits exist, nor have I ever documented any evidence of their presence.  It is common however for demonic entities to assume the form of a child,” Wood says unequivocally.

And yet, the most persistent claims involving the Monroe house regard children. Many witnesses claim to have seen the apparitions of children looking out the second story windows, hearing the disembodied voices and screams of children, EVPs of children speaking, crying, and screaming – even interacting with paranormal investigators through baby monitors. These claims reach back to the 1930s and 1940s, and are reinforced by modern encounters with the same entities. Whether they are the earthbound spirits of children who lived in the house at one time or, as Wood suspects, demonic entities presenting themselves as children is impossible to determine. Regardless, the legend surrounding the Monroe House has had adequate time to percolate and the other claims of paranormal activity run the full gamut from spooky to horrifying.

Strange mist photographed in basement of Monroe House

In recent years, paranormal activity has escalated. Since 2012, witnesses have experienced shadow figures, full bodied apparitions, poltergeist activity, growls and snarls, bangs, footsteps, doors closing, creepy laughter, and windows slamming shut with such violence that they shatter. Pictures of apparitions, both child-sized and adult, are being taken with increasing frequency. People have been touched, pushed, punched, scratched, and been threatened by name.  Now whatever is scaring visitors to the house will be confronted by Wood and his team in what is shaping up to be a seismic encounter between the living and the dead, the investigator and the entities. Their no-nonsense approach to hauntings and the completely transparent nature of their investigations makes LiveSciFi a fascinating team to cover.

When I write about investigations into haunted locations, I do a lot of research on the location first: property records and deeds, death records, censuses, and newspapers in the town. What I’m looking for are events that might corroborate the claims of witnesses to the haunting. But the Monroe house is a difficult house to dig into. Surprisingly for a haunted residence, there are no documented deaths or tragedies on the property since 1900. That’s discouraging for me as a researcher, but doesn’t mean it’s the end of the story. What I did find about the property is both fascinating and frightening.

Digging through old newspaper articles, I uncovered a bizarre string of accidents and disasters involving the families that occupied the property between 1900 and 1940, events that had disturbing elements and uncanny similarities. Beginning with a tenant’s nasty divorce that had accusations of child abuse, domestic violence, and desertion, the things that happened to other residents of the house – a prominent Belgian family by the name of Berger – were startling: the death of a daughter and her infant son in childbirth, which led to her other five children being raised by their grandmother after their father either died or disappeared; a brother whose feet were severely frostbitten, then after one foot got stepped on by a horse the man developed gangrene which resulted in the amputation of his leg; an accident where a wheel inexplicably fell off a carriage and seriously injured a daughter-in-law; and a hate crime that led to the near-fatal shooting of a son…just to name a few.

The curse, for lack of a better term, continued until 1940, when another tenant somehow drove his car into the support beam of a bridge. That beam somehow tore from the bridge and pierced the car, gruesomely impaling the driver and killing him. But 1940 was the end of the line for easy research on the property.  As the Monroe house is a triplex, the complicated tangle of tenants and owners is impossible to decipher without a good starting point. The census for 1940 is the last census currently available to researchers, and the census is the starting point for learning who was living on the property.

These bizarre events and the timeline that ensued from them corroborate elements of the haunting. History and personal experiences create the core of the house’s story, which is what a writer is looking for. The combination of documented fact and witness claims are what makes the Monroe house so terrifying.

Searching for modern stories, however, is what makes the house and its story pertinent. Longtime residents of Hartford City were brought up hearing tales about the mysterious house at the corner of North Monroe and Franklin. Reports of child apparitions looking out the window are rife, as are neighbors’ claims of lights going on and off  and audible conversations and screams from inside the locked and empty house. Three times in 2012, for example, neighbors called the police between March and May to report a black figure in the house, followed by a glow they thought was a fire. When the authorities arrived, the house was empty, silent, and locked up. On one website, I even found personal experiences posted online by former tenants:

I spent about six years of my childhood growing up in that house. I was always scared of the strange noises , they were not common but when it happened it sure got your attention fast. My mother would comfort me about the sounds and voices as a child but she mentioned years later about a woman she thought she had seen upstairs near my bedroom. She had always wondered if she had seen the apparition of the woman who had taken her own life decades ago. I for one never liked the old house and was happy when we relocated in the early 50s to Muncie.

There is no record of a suicide in the Monroe house. Another legend, unsubstantiated by fact. Later witnesses were equally emphatic:

I wanted to let everybody know there is something wrong with that house . A friend and I would spend a few hours peeking into the only window that’s not covered up .Finally seen and heard something. I clearly could hear talking . I can’t believe it, ghosts do exist . This crap is Not for me !!!!

Alleged shadow figure captured in the basement of the Monroe house

Obviously, you have to take anonymous online posts with a grain of salt. There’s no way to verify the stories. However, researching a paranormal story means you’re looking for common themes…strands of lore that when woven together create a fabric of similarities too frequent to ignore. And when paranormal investigators chime in with their experiences, you have to sit up and take notice. One group’s experiences are chilling:

Once upstairs, where the smokey figure has been seen, we were unloading our equipment when something in the back bedroom clinked across the floor. We collected EVP’s upstairs telling us to GET OUT, DIE, and PRAY FOR US.

The story continues as the investigation took a turn for the worse.

Investigating the basement, where the story of the child’s death due to the fire occurred, the charred beams where the fire started were still visible. While taking pictures of this, the lights started to flicker and then went off leaving us in pitch blackness. Then suddenly my assistant screamed and ran up the stairs and out of the basement. Once outside she said it felt as though someone had touched her back, she had three deep scratches just below her neck. After this, she left and refused to go back inside.

That investigator story begins with the most well-known legend about the house – an unexplained fire that killed a small child. But the legend is just that: a legend. What makes this house’s story so frustrating is that the charred beams the investigator mentioned can still be seen in the basement, a mystery that no one has yet been able to solve…including me. I searched through fifty years of Hartford City newspaper articles, and there was never a documented fire at the Monroe house.

Another investigator, David Weatherly, contributes his own report on his blog:

During our time in the house, shadow figures darted all around inside the home. A door was slammed on us, as if something was attempting to confine us in a certain area. We experienced equipment issues, watched as a toy activated itself, and had several other strange events. We also heard disembodied voices, some of them children, or at least, what sounded like children.

Whatever is haunting the Monroe House, one thing is for certain: in the last few years, the paranormal activity has been thoroughly documented and appears not only to be escalating, but turning decidedly more violent and malicious. The Fourman Brothers of Living Dead Paranormal investigated the location in 2012 and 2013, and the evidence they uncovered was chilling.

But this week, it’s LiveSciFi’s turn to take on the Monroe House, and with their cameras live streaming the investigation twenty-four hours a day as investigators explore, investigate, and sleep in the residence, not only are the chances of documenting more paranormal activity substantially increased but the likelihood of encountering the core of the infestation in the house is elevated. And since those bone fragments were found in the Paranormal Lockdown episode (the bones were found during filming in August of 2016, but the episode aired on TLC and Destination America in December), Wood and his team will now have to confront these new and unusual elements head-on.

“Hauntings can be triggered by a variety of reasons, I believe that the bones that were discovered in the basement could tie in, as well as the numerous misfortunes that occurred to the families over the years that have lived in there.” Wood states.

Apparition of a woman captured in second story window of Monroe house

Wood’s hypothesis seems logical. Without any documented deaths on the property, it makes sense that the bones were brought into the residence by a past tenant or owner for some reason – most likely occult related. Strangely enough, the area has a history of that sort of macabre activity. In 1994, in nearby Fort Wayne, two Satanists were running an unusual business –  providing human remains to be used in occult rituals. They were busted by an undercover cop posing as a Satanist. The officer paid them $400 for a corpse, and the pair was subsequently arrested trying to steal a body from a mortuary.

“If the bones that were found in the house were from a human, then I find it very probable that the bones were placed in the basement for some type of ritual that was performed in the house at some time.” Wood adds,  “I do believe that the bones were meant to be found, however.”

Meant to be found. Wood is not the first paranormal expert to suspect that someone deliberately brought in the bones, depositing them in the crawl space as part of a ritual. Rumors in Hartford City have long claimed that during the 1990s, tenants of the triplex were practicing occultists. The bones may be part of a curse, perhaps, like the one that seemed to infect the property in the early 1900s when an entire family was plagued by a series of bizarre and tragic events. That’s a possibility that Wood and his team must consider, as it could jeopardize the team’s safety.

But Wood is more interested in what they can find in the Monroe house, and what form the haunting will present to them this week. “Houses like this are almost begging to tell their story to investigators who are able and willing to listen. Perhaps we can unlock some the mysteries that occurred in the home that makes it haunted today.”

You have to wonder what part of the story the house will tell the LiveSciFi team this week. You can watch the story unfold yourself, from the safety of your living room and the security of your computer. Will Tim Wood and his investigators lure the entities of Monroe house into a confrontation? Or will the demon they suspect is in residence try to drive the team out? One thing’s for certain: after dozens of demonic investigations. Wood’s group won’t run screaming out of the house and refuse to return. Whatever story the ghosts of Monroe house decide to throw at LiveSciFi, the investigation – and the cameras – will roll on, while 460,000 subscribers on every continent are glued to their laptops.

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NCAA Fact or Fanatic: Athletes, Universities, and Crime – Fan Edition https://blogcritics.org/ncaa-fact-of-fanatic-athletes-universities-and-crime-fan-edition/ Sat, 04 Feb 2017 15:04:15 +0000 http://blogcritics.org/?p=5468404 This epitomizes what a "rape culture" is: sloughing off of the real issues, blaming the victim, contemptuous laughter about the victim's situation. Art Briles's reaction to the atmosphere he himself had created in the Baylor football program is as much a rape of the victims as the actual assault was. And we the fans bear as much responsibility as anyone.

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fact-or-fanatic350pixels_use-this-oneWelcome to NCAA: Fact or Fanatic, where we’ve reached the final installment of our analysis of athletes’ criminal behavior and the culpability that ensues. Once again, Texas attorney Kevin Lindstrom (who also writes for GigEmGazette.com) and Texas-based Laura Leigh Majer, special contributor to NFLFemale.com and Down and Dirty Sports, weigh in on the issues.

Today, we’ll be taking a look at the fans’ part in the growing problem of student-athletes and crime, focused upon Baylor University and other schools with ongoing sexual assault issues.  One of the best places to gather information about how fans feel is The Paul Finebaum Show, a popular sports call-in show on the SEC Network, where on Monday the following occurred:

A Baylor fan from Dallas called the show to claim that “due process” has to play out in the Baylor rape allegations that blew up exponentially over the weekend, and that “it’s not fair” to the athletes or the program to be “punished further” since the president, athletic director, head football coach, and entire assistant coaching staff are no longer employed by the university.

That statement right there is exactly what’s wrong with college football, encapsulated in one fan’s opinion. The fans are what drive college athletics – dollars, attendance, boosters, alumni, gear, tickets, post-season play, online footprint. All of it is fan-generated and fan-driven. The sad fact is that to the average Joe and Jill Q. Public, winning football and basketball games is more important than the physical, emotional, and sexual health of a few anonymous females. And while Baylor University isn’t the only school with issues resulting from sexual assault, there can no longer be much question that it is the worst offender in a national problem.

And fans of the Baylor Bears are more concerned – still – about how fair play should happen for the program and its athletes.

You think this is exaggerated? Well, let’s take a look at the latest twist in the Baylor disaster.

A federal lawsuit filed Friday alleged that at least 31 football players at Baylor University committed at least 52 “acts of rape” over four years — including five gang rapes, two of which involved 10 or more players at the same time, some of whom videotaped the rapes on their phones and passed the recordings around to teammates.

The lawsuit, filed by a Virginia woman who alleges that she was gang-raped by two Baylor players in 2013, is the latest fallout in a sexual-violence scandal that has embroiled the Baptist university in Waco, Tex., for more than a year.

Stop for a moment and let that sink in.

Yes, these are “just” allegations. But with videotaped evidence of gang rapes that involved 10 players or more at the same time, they won’t remain as “just” allegations for long. Just as in the case at the University of Minnesota we discussed a couple of columns ago, video, audio, and phone records are finite, easily subpoenaed, and easily found by people who know how technology works.

And that includes what coaches say and how.

The lawsuit describes a culture of sexual violence under former Baylor football coach Art Briles in which the school implemented a “show ’em a good time” policy that “used sex to sell” the football program to recruits. That included escorting underage recruits to strip clubs and arranging women to have sex with prospective players, the suit alleges. Former assistant coach Kendal Briles — the son of the head coach — once told a Dallas-area student athlete, “Do you like white women? Because we have a lot of them at Baylor and they love football players,” according to the suit.

art_briles_at_2014_press_conferenceWe had to read that four or five times before it sank in, really. Throughout the multiple universities named in Title IX lawsuits over the past five years has been a key phrase: “culture of rape.” The Title IX suit that the University of Tennessee settled in 2016 accused the school of establishing a “culture of rape,” but the UT cases involved athletes who were immediately deprived of their student-athlete privileges and removed from the team within hours of the allegations being made.

Baylor is different. At Baylor, athletes were protected by the coaches, police, and administration from facing punishment for sexual assault. At Baylor, victims were threatened into silence in order to keep that football program winning. At Baylor, everyone from the board of regents to the athletic director to university officials and police have undoubtedly contributed to what we may absolutely call, in all honesty, a “culture of rape.”

Oh, and let’s be for real here: The fans are guilty of that too.

For any normal adult human being, the idea that the major consideration in a case like this should be for the athletes and the program is incomprehensible. The fact of the matter is that at Baylor, all of the actions taken by the university were for the protection of itself, its program, and its athletes. Not the victims. Not the women who were gang-raped by 10 or more athletes who’d been conditioned to think it was okay because the coachestold them “we have a lot of women and they love football players.”

The victims, on the other hand, were told their parents would be informed of their illicit behavior. You know – drinking, drugs, and promiscuity.

So tell us, Baylor fans. How is it that the athletes involved in these crimes require more consideration than the victims do?

In no way. It can’t be.

The fact of the matter is that fans are not only entitled to expect explanations from universities and the NCAA regarding athlete-involved crimes where a student sexually assaults another student but we, as fans, must accept responsibility for our own part in creating an atmosphere on college campuses across the country in which injustice, torture, and persecution are acceptable as long as the team keeps on winning.

As usual, Lindstrom and Majer bring a sharp focus onto the real issues buried within the larger story. Majer weighs in on the role that football fans play in the dilemma that’s exemplified at Baylor:

The money a winning football team brings to a school also attracts alumni donations. It’s a loop of sorts: give to the team, win big, get money back to school. If covering up for a star player leads to more wins, which could turn into dollars, a program might be tempted to cover up for a player’s misdeeds.

This is borne out by Baylor’s rise to prominence as a football program. Disgraced head coach Art Briles was hired on the heels of a 3-9 2007 record under former head coach Guy Morriss. Under Briles’s “show ’em a good time” recruiting philosophy, the program thrived, as evidenced by their W-L record during his tenure.

baylorfootballrecord

Still not convinced?

The plans to build a new stadium began in 2011, when Robert Griffin III won the Heisman Trophy.

In July 2012, Baylor’s board of regents approved the building of the new, state-of-the-art McLane stadium. The stadium was ready for the season opener on August 31, 2014 at a cost of $266 million dollars – dollars that had been raised since Briles became the head coach.

You read that correctly. Baylor raised over a quarter of a billion dollars and built a brand new stadium from the ground up in three years. Three. Years. From 2011-2014, right?

Friday’s new lawsuit, remember, alleges 52 rapes committed by 31 football players from 2011-2014.

Every dollar spent on McLane Stadium was blood money, handed over by donors, boosters, alumni and the state of Texas to a university that was busily threatening, punishing, and marginalizing rape victims while issuing self-congratulatory reports about its purpose as exemplified by its mission statement:

The mission of Baylor University is to educate men and women for worldwide leadership and service by integrating academic excellence and Christian commitment within a caring community.

And while it would be devastatingly simple to break down that mission statement word by word, the sorry fact of the matter is that we don’t have to. This mission statement is a bunch of words, jumbled together and spewed out as rote. We don’t have to break it down because Baylor has proven that every single word is categorically and emphatically the direct opposite of what Baylor actually does. And while some fans, like the Finebaum caller we mentioned earlier, may think that since the erstwhile president, athletic director, head football coach, and all the assistant football coaches are gone Baylor has been punished enough, that’s really not the case.

baylor_university_june_2016_69_mclane_stadiumUnfortunately, convincing Baylor fans of the necessity for further penalties appears to be a lost cause. Surprisingly, Baylor fans are continuing to stand by Art Briles, with some boosters and alumni spending thousands of dollars to “protest” his dismissal. Briles, astonishingly, is suing Baylor for his firing. And as more victims come forward and the sheer scale of the program’s horrific actions continues to grow, the definition of a “culture of rape” is shockingly, unbelievably clear.

culture of rape (phrase) – 1. a sociological concept used to describe a setting in which rape is pervasive and normalized due to societal attitudes about gender and sexuality 2. Baylor University

Come on down to Baylor! We’ve got lots of women and they love football players.

There you go, folks. A bona fide, in your face, without-a-shred-of-morality culture of rape.

But here’s where we need to begin drawing the line – not just at Baylor, but at the universities of which we are fans, alumni, or (in the case of our home state schools) supporters via our tax dollars. As fans, we hold the ultimate trump card and that’s the almighty dollar, as Lindstrom remarked:

“Fans as the ultimate consumers can speak with their dollars. Anybody who makes a conscious choice to give money to universities to watch these athletes [is] contributing.”

Which is absolutely true. Majer expanded with another serious consideration:

“Fans, especially student fans, need to see come kind of punishment for athletes who commit crimes. I cannot imagine being a victim of a star player and having to see him get all kinds of attention from the fans and the media every week.”

So the problem isn’t as simple as he said/she said. The issues that are driving the catastrophic rise of student-athletes committing crimes, and particularly sexual assault, are entrenched. They are also not new. Enabling criminal activity has been a part of college football culture for decades. Fans expect wins, and they demand the coaches provide those wins regardless of the cost. Universities rely upon the college football cash cow, and the NCAA does as well. Players are shown as recruits that their personal behavior isn’t a priority for those win-starved coaches, and then undertake criminal activity because they are confident the coaches and the university will either enable those activities or genuinely obstruct any attempts to discipline the player. The administrations are counting on the NCAA not getting overly involved in student-athlete crimes, although they’re paranoid about breakfast buffets and photo ops during official visits by top recruits. And the NCAA believes it is answerable to whom?

Nobody.

But that’s not the case, according to Lindstrom.

At the very least, fans have a right to expect the NCAA to not cover up or actively support anyone who is involved in criminal activity. The question comes in with how much they should get involved when schools dropped the ball. Baylor is a clear example of this. Especially because we’re talking about student-athlete on student violence, it absolutely is in the purview of the NCAA. This is not the Penn State situation.

What it boils down to is this: There’s a serious problem in this country and has been for some time. Athletes at the collegiate and pro levels support and subsidize a system that enables their criminal behavior in return. Not all schools do this. Most athletes never commit any offense worse than a speeding ticket. Not all coaches enable their players by overlooking their actions.

But those programs, those coaches, those players who do are operating within a back-scratching good-ole-boy-network mentality that football fans, boosters, and alumni willfully ignore because all they care about is the win. They reward those wins with dollars, and those dollars reinforce the system that is turning a blind eye to all these behaviors.

brock_turnerAnd then when a young woman is gang-raped in Minnesota by football players while a recruit participates and onlookers text and video the event, or another woman is raped by two football players at Baylor and that event is videotaped and passed around to teammates who were told by a coach during recruiting to come to Baylor because they have lots of women and they love football players, or an unconscious woman is found by a Stanford athlete who rapes her in a parking lot instead of calling emergency services – what’s the first thing you hear from fans?

Duke Lacrosse.

And that, fellow football fans, is no one’s fault but our own.

The one absolute in cases like these is simple, but overlooked: All college students are entitled to a safe, healthy campus where they will not be preyed upon by their fellow students. Everyone from the NCAA down to the fan is obligated socially, morally, and legally to ensure the safety of every single student. If we, as fans, are to demand that the NCAA, universities, and programs guarantee that one absolute, the system we have in place now must be overhauled in its entirety. And we, too, must take a good, hard look at ourselves. By participating financially with the toxic programs discussed in this column, we are supporting the status quo.

That includes hiring coaches.

Since Briles was ejected from Baylor, the rumor mill has been grinding out a list of potential places the disgraced coach might land – both on the collegiate level and in the NFL. But with last week’s latest allegations, what does the future look like for Briles now?

Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse, on February 2, a series of damning text messages from Art Briles regarding victims exploded all over the internet.

When a female student-athlete reported that a football player had brandished a gun at her, the court paperwork said, Briles texted an assistant coach: “what a fool – she reporting to authorities.”

In another case, where a masseuse asked the team to discipline a player who reportedly exposed himself and asked for favors during a massage, the document said Briles’ first response was, “What kind of discipline…She a stripper?”

That, our friends, epitomizes what a “rape culture” is. That sloughing off of the real issues, blaming the victim, contemptuous laughter about the victim’s situation, is exactly what a rape culture is all about. Art Briles’s reaction to the atmosphere he himself had created in the Baylor football program is as much a rape of the victims as the actual assault was.

Interestingly, Briles dropped his wrongful termination suit against Baylor on the same day.

Even before these texts burst onto the internet just days ago, even before we worked them into an article already submitted to the editors as completed, Lindstrom’s opinion about Briles’s potential future in coaching was clear:

Throw in the new allegations that came out January 26th, it’s going to be a number of years before anybody even thinks about [Briles]. He was probably radioactive before today, but now it’s unimaginable. In fact, it’s going to be interesting to see what happens with his assistant coaches that went on to other schools. Back to Briles, never is a long time but on the other hand, he isn’t a spring chicken. There’s a good chance that by the time he rehabilitates himself, if that’s possible, there will be too many good young coaches that he just won’t get work.

Majer agrees.

After this latest report on rape allegations against Baylor (52 rapes over 4 years), I do not think Briles should ever coach again on a college level. He could probably go on an NFL staff in a minor role, but I think he has shown he has no business being anywhere near the college game. Given the most recent allegations, I am disappointed that coaches who were on his staff have been hired to other programs. Clearly, these men are not concerned about the conduct of their players as long as they win games. Coaches with this attitude do not belong on the college coaching level either.

We agree. Our responsibility as fans of the game is to ensure that the poisonous ideologies exemplified by Briles, his staff, and the University of Baylor are never accepted into other collegiate programs. Never.

And until fans do that? Baylor is only the tip of a very toxic iceberg.

The post NCAA Fact or Fanatic: Athletes, Universities, and Crime – Fan Edition appeared first on Blogcritics.

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NCAA Fact or Fanatic: Athletes, Universities, and Crime, Part 4 – NCAA Edition https://blogcritics.org/ncaa-fact-or-fanatic-athletes-universities-and-crime-part-4-ncaa-edition/ Fri, 13 Jan 2017 14:11:49 +0000 http://blogcritics.org/?p=5467609 A look at the role of the NCAA itself in policing – or not policing – college athletes who commit crimes.

The post NCAA Fact or Fanatic: Athletes, Universities, and Crime, Part 4 – NCAA Edition appeared first on Blogcritics.

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Fact Or Fanatic350pixels_use this oneWelcome back to NCAA: Fact or Fanatic, where the season is over but the questions and problems remain. We’ve been taking a look at the staggering number of collegiate athletes who are committing crimes, and the universities’ responses. But there’s another entity we need to factor in here, and that’s the NCAA. How is it possible that the NCAA can cite a school for a violation because of a picture of the coach being too close to a recruit, but not weigh in at all on athletes committing crimes?

For an example, let’s go back to Baylor.

There isn’t a college football fan in the country who doesn’t know what went down at Baylor. New reports from women who were sexually assaulted continue to come out. The Pepper Hamilton report indicated that the university was involved in shaming victims who filed a report, threatening to tell their parents they’d been drinking or promiscuous, and in that manner kept their star athletes in school. The police department buried victims’ reports, thereby obstructing justice in these cases.

Through all this, the players continued to play, the seats in Baylor’s new stadium continued to be filled, and the university as well as the fans and alumni are unrepentant, defiantly pronouncing their support for disgraced and dismissed head coach Art Briles as Baylor kept the entire corps of assistant coaches on staff in 2016.

What do we hear from the NCAA?

Not a damn thing. And that’s the status quo regarding any athlete committing a crime. In December, 2016 17 college football and seven college basketball players were arrested or cited for crimes, according to Arrest Nation. Take a look at the schools involved:

Mississippi State University – 3 arrests/citations/charges
Ohio University – 3 arrests/citations/charges

Auburn University – 2 arrests/citations/charges
Florida State University – 2 arrests/citations/charges

Eastern Kentucky University – 1 arrest/citation/charge
Marian University – 1 arrest/citation/charge
Morehead State University – 1 arrest/citation/charge
Texas A&M University – 1 arrest/citation/charge
University of Arkansas – 1 arrest/citation/charge
University of Florida – 1 arrest/citation/charge
University of Houston – 1 arrest/citation/charge
University of Kansas – 1 arrest/citation/charge
University of Michigan – 1 arrest/citation/charge
University of South Carolina – 1 arrest/citation/charge
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga – 1 arrest/citation/charge
Utah State University – 1 arrest/citation/charge
Western Michigan University – 1 arrest/citation/charge
Youngstown State University – 1 arrest/citation/charge

But that’s just in one month. It doesn’t give you the true scope of the problem. Let’s take a look at Arrest Nation’s stats for 2016. First off, the top eight universities in athletes arrested or cited for crimes:

University of Missouri – 9 Arrests/Citations/Charges

Auburn University – 7 Arrests/Citations/Charges
University of Georgia – 7 Arrests/Citations/Charges
University of Nebraska – 7 Arrests/Citations/Charges
University of South Carolina – 7 Arrests/Citations/Charges

Mississippi State University – 6 Arrests/Citations/Charges
University of Colorado – 6 Arrests/Citations/Charges
University of Miami – 6 Arrests/Citations/Charges
University of Notre Dame – 6 Arrests/Citations/Charges
Washington State University – 6 Arrests/Citations/Charges

University of Florida – 5 Arrests/Citations/Charges
University of Illinois – 5 Arrests/Citations/Charges
University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) – 5 Arrests/Citations/Charges
University of North Dakota – 5 Arrests/Citations/Charges
University of Wyoming – 5 Arrests/Citations/Charges

Baylor University – 4 Arrests/Citations/Charges
Florida State University – 4 Arrests/Citations/Charges
Indiana University – 4 Arrests/Citations/Charges
Texas A&M University – 4 Arrests/Citations/Charges
University of Alabama – 4 Arrests/Citations/Charges
University of Iowa – 4 Arrests/Citations/Charges
University of North Texas – 4 Arrests/Citations/Charges
University of Oklahoma – 4 Arrests/Citations/Charges
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga – 4 Arrests/Citations/Charges
Youngstown State University – 4 Arrests/Citations/Charges

T6. Arkansas State University – 3 Arrests/Citations/Charges
T6. Coastal Carolina University – 3 Arrests/Citations/Charges
Illinois State University – 3 Arrests/Citations/Charges
Lindenwood University – 3 Arrests/Citations/Charges
Louisiana State University (LSU) – 3 Arrests/Citations/Charges
Ohio University – 3 Arrests/Citations/Charges
Purdue University – 3 Arrests/Citations/Charges
University of Arkansas – 3 Arrests/Citations/Charges
University of Hawaii – 3 Arrests/Citations/Charges
University of Kansas – 3 Arrests/Citations/Charges
University of Kentucky – 3 Arrests/Citations/Charges
University of Massachusetts – 3 Arrests/Citations/Charges
University of New Mexico – 3 Arrests/Citations/Charges
University of Tennessee at Martin – 3 Arrests/Citations/Charges
West Virginia University – 3 Arrests/Citations/Charges
Western Michigan University – 3 Arrests/Citations/Charges
Xavier University – 3 Arrests/Citations/Charges

Arizona State University – 2 Arrests/Citations/Charges
Bowling Green State University – 2 Arrests/Citations/Charges
Chapman University – 2 Arrests/Citations/Charges
Colorado State University – 2 Arrests/Citations/Charges
East Carolina University – 2 Arrests/Citations/Charges
Eastern Kentucky University – 2 Arrests/Citations/Charges
Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) – 2 Arrests/Citations/Charges
Montana State University – 2 Arrests/Citations/Charges
Southern Utah University – 2 Arrests/Citations/Charges
Stony Brook University – 2 Arrests/Citations/Charges
University of Arizona – 2 Arrests/Citations/Charges
University of Connecticut – 2 Arrests/Citations/Charges
University of Maryland – 2 Arrests/Citations/Charges
University of Michigan – 2 Arrests/Citations/Charges
University of Nevada – 2 Arrests/Citations/Charges
University of Oregon – 2 Arrests/Citations/Charges
University of Southern California (USC) – 2 Arrests/Citations/Charges
University of Utah – 2 Arrests/Citations/Charges
Utah State University – 2 Arrests/Citations/Charges
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) – 2 Arrests/Citations/Charges
Western Kentucky University – 2 Arrests/Citations/Charges

Boston College – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
Brigham Young University (BYU) – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
California State University, Fresno (Fresno State) – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
Central Michigan University – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
Clemson University – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
Cornell University – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
Eastern Washington University – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
Florida Institute of Technology – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
Gonzaga University – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
Grambling State University – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
Iowa State University – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
Jacksonville State University – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
Johns Hopkins University – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
Kent State University – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
Louisiana College – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
Louisiana Tech University – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
Marian University – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
Marshall University – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
Maryville College – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
Miami University – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
Michigan State University – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
Morehead State University – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
Morehouse College – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
Mt. San Antonio College – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
New Mexico State University – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
Ohio State University – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
Oklahoma State University – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
Penn State University – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
Portland State University – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
Shorter University – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
The Citadel – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
United States Military Academy (Army) – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
University of Akron – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
University of California, Davis (UC Davis) – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
University of Houston – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
University of Idaho – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
University of Maine – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
University of Minnesota – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
University of Missouri – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
University of Montana – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
University of North Alabama – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
University of North Carolina – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
University of Tennessee – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
University of Texas – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
University of Texas at San Antonio – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
Washburn University – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge
Wesleyan University – 1 Arrest/Citation/Charge

national_collegiate_athletic_association_national_office_indianapolis_indiana_2016
NCAA National Office, Indianapolis

The sports breakdown in these 273 incidents are as follows: college football, 203 arrests; basketball 57; baseball 4; lacrosse 2; soccer 2; track and field 2; gymnastics 1; softball 1; and volleyball 1.

Oh, and college coaches? Twelve arrests or citations. Twelve. Just let that simmer for a moment.

The scale of the problem is horrendous, and annually it keeps on growing. Keep in mind that, as we’ve previously discussed, only 1 in 10 sexual crimes are reported to police or the university. These stats also don’t count allegations that university doesn’t follow up on.

You’ll note that the worst offender is college football. But there’s another factor we need to consider. Not included in the stats above is another group that should concern us:

Former players.

In 2016, 97 former college football players were arrested or cited for crimes. Professional football had 33 arrests in 2016. How is that possible? These players got a full ride to their university. They didn’t shell out a single dime for an expensive education. Even if pro football didn’t pan out, they received an education.

Didn’t they?

Not necessarily. Right now, the University of North Carolina is under investigation by the NCAA for academic fraud perpetrated from 1993 to 2011. According to USA Today:

roy_williams_coachWainstein’s report focused on courses in the formerly named African and Afro-American Studies (AFAM) department requiring only a research paper or two while offering GPA-boosting grades. Many were misidentified as lecture courses that didn’t meet.

Wainstein estimated more than 3,100 students were affected between 1993 and 2011, with athletes across numerous sports accounting for roughly half the enrollments.

That means more than 1500 student athletes got college credit and high grades for a course they never attended. One would have to be stupid to believe this sort of thing isn’t going on at other major universities. And this isn’t the first time something like this has happened.

Ever hear of Dr. Jan Kemp?

Kemp was a remedial studies professor at the University of Georgia in the early 1980s. You know – when Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker was there, and Georgia won a national championship. The academic situation was dire in the football program, and Kemp was the whistleblower who brought the whole process to a grinding halt. The university fired Kemp in 1982, after she refused to pass UGA football players in her classes if they hadn’t earned a passing grade.

According to an ESPN article by Tom Farrey:

Leroy Ervin, Kemp’s boss, was secretly taped at a faculty meeting. “I know for a fact that these kids would not be here if it were not for their utility to the institution,” he was caught saying in a staff meeting. “They are used as a kind of raw material in the production of some goods to be sold as whatever product, and they get nothing in return.”

Vince Dooley, at the time the Bulldogs’ coach and athletic director, testified that athletes were admitted with SAT scores of less than 650 out of a possible 1,600. “In order to be, we think, reasonably competitive, we thought that leeway was necessary,” he said at the time.

Kemp won her wrongful termination suit. She was reinstated at UGA, where she continued to teach remedial studies to college athletes until her death in 2008. Kemp’s reasons for speaking up about the UGA football program and its low academic standards was a benchmark moment.

“All over the country, athletes are used to produce revenue,” she told The New York Times a month after the trial. “I’ve seen what happens when the lights dim and the crowd fades. They’re left with nothing. I want that stopped.”

When you look at cases like these, and then consider the numbers of athletes who are charged with crimes, you have to start to wonder: What is going on in our universities? And why isn’t the NCAA doing anything about it?

The fact of the matter is that the NCAA hasn’t changed that much since the 1980s. Back then, in the UGA case:

Georgia would face no NCAA violations. The NCAA, an athletic body that usually lets schools determine if its own academic policies were violated, just was not interested in her information. Kemp recalls an NCAA investigator telling her, “We don’t want to hear anything about grades. All we’re interested in are cars, or trips, or things of that sort.”

She told him she hoped the university did give the athletes cars, since they weren’t getting an education.

So the NCAA had little interest in maintaining the academic integrity of college football programs as far back as the 1980s. But what are they doing now?

For that we need to look at another school: Penn State.

joe_paterno_sideline_psu-illinois_2006In the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, the NCAA was driven to act. They forced Penn State to vacate 111 wins under Joe Paterno, pay a $60 million fine, and accept a bowl ban and scholarship reductions. The problem was that most of the sanctions were lifted. Why?

Because the NCAA was punishing people who had nothing to do with the abuse. Players. Fans. The game. Most of the sanctions were lifted because of the legality of the consent agreement the NCAA had forced Penn State to sign. Kansas State President Ken Schultz serves on the NCAA Board of Directors, and he stated:

“As the board of governors, we don’t have any desire to go in and have to do these sort of actions with any of our colleague institutions ever again,” he said. “This was a truly extraordinary circumstance and the board felt that they had to quickly and decisively put forward a set of sanctions … I hope it is a once-in-a-hundred-year type of occurrence and that we’ll be able to use the regular compliance activities” in future cases.

So what effect does this have on the Baylor case? Or Minnesota or North Carolina? Texas attorney Kevin Lindstrom weighed in.

…we have clearly gotten mixed signals from the NCAA over the past few years. Their actions in the Penn State matter may have an unfortunate chilling effect in situations such as Baylor where they absolutely should be aggressive.

Here is the key differences in the Baylor situation to the Penn State situation. In the Sandusky matter, it was a college employee assaulting children. While awful, I can see why people were critical of the NCAA for involving itself in such a matter that did not involve student athletes. Baylor, on the other hand, was student athletes committing crimes against other students and other student athletes. That screams jurisdiction for the NCAA.

The distinction he makes there is sound. Sandusky’s child abuse occurred in his off-season camps which, while they were held at Penn State facilities, did not involve or include student athletes. The NCAA sanctions against Penn State were a knee-jerk reaction to the horrified response throughout the athletic and academic worlds. And while the sanctions ultimately did a lot of good when that $60 million was distributed to organizations that lead the fight against child sexual abuse, the harm the NCAA inflicted upon student athletes at Penn State, who were innocent of any involvement in Sandusky’s crimes, was unjustified.

art_briles_at_2014_press_conference-1That brings us to Baylor. As Lindstrom points out, NCAA has direct jurisdiction here. These are student athletes who committed crimes, and the university administration, staff, coaches, and even the campus police colluded to keep those crimes from being prosecuted. As a result, victims were more than ignored. They were bullied into silence by individuals who are directly answerable to the NCAA. So here’s our question:

What, exactly, in the role of the NCAA in the Baylor case?

The NCAA may not get involved in the Baylor case at all.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association has notified Baylor that it won’t exert its executive authority to impose sweeping sanctions against the school for broad institutional failings, and will instead follow its normal investigative process, according to people familiar with the matter.

Wait – what?

So although the NCAA self-identifies as having the authority to impose sanctions, it’s not going to? If this isn’t the type of case that falls directly under its jurisdiction, what is? Sure, it can stomp through the minutiae of Ole Miss’s recruiting records, imposing sanctions for feeding recruits breakfast or going to Hugh Freeze’s house. It can raise all kinds of hell about overnights in hotels or a coach’s behavior. But in a case like this involving student athletes, it’s not going to impose sanctions?

To be fair, the NCAA is looking into recruiting offenses by Baylor assistant Kendal Briles. Yes, that would be Art Briles’ son, who still worked at Baylor for the 2016 season. So what violation was so dire the NCAA could sanction Baylor when they refuse to do so in the sexual assault case?

According to the NCAA release, Briles and Wallis tried to find loophole in the rules that allowed them to see more prospects in the spring. This involved attending a recruit’s track meet and turning their backs when the recruit competed so it did not count as an official evaluation. The NCAA stated the two coaches attended the track meets during the spring of 2015 and were in a position to be seen by recruits. This put Baylor over the limit of two evaluations per prospect during the spring recruiting period.

Briles and Wallis were suspended for the 2015 season-opener against Lamar. According to ESPN, the violations were related to the recruitment of Sachse’s Devin Duvernay and Stafford’s Hezekiah Jones.

The NCAA has fined Baylor $5,000 because two assistants went to a track meet. In the meantime, fans have blacked out McLane Stadium in support of Art Briles, paid for full-page newspaper ads in support of Art Briles, and hung signs out of luxury boxes extolling Art Briles. And yet, the NCAA is silent.

Look, there are major problems with sexual assault on college campuses. While Title IX is intended to provide a system through which victims can seek recourse, Title IX coordinators are not law enforcement. The investigation and prosecution of athletes who are accused of crimes must go through proper legal means and due process. You can’t expect a university panel to legitimately determine which cases are important enough to discipline a player.

But in a case like Baylor, when the campus police are actively burying reports, you can’t even count on law enforcement to do what needs to be done.

On many college campuses, the university police are exemplary and genuinely investing in protecting all students.But on some – campuses where the win and the almighty dollar are the most important factors – the system breaks down. When that happens, it’s never in favor of the victims. Never.

That gap, between Title IX jurisdiction and the legal system, is what needs to be bridged. Title IX laws were designed to insure that both genders are treated equitably. In athletics, that means scholarships for both sexes must be equal, and athletes must have comparable privileges. Title IX is not designed to handle sexual assault allegations unless and until the victim has no other options.

If the victim reports the assault to the university and the university police and nothing is done, as at Baylor; if after she reports the assault she is bullied or threatened by the officials who are supposed to be protecting her, as at Baylor; then Title IX is the only option she has left.

That approach is not working. Lindstrom is able to speak authoritatively on this subject as well.

Well, first, we need to reevaluate Title IX’s role in investigating criminal issues between students. It seems that is putting someone who is often unqualified to know the details of something as complex as a rape case in an incredibly difficult position. Even for those who are in the business of investigating, prosecuting and trying rape cases have very difficult challenges, so how do we expect someone who has no experience with such matters to be able to address it fairly to the accused and accuser?

Excellent point.

101016-N-7647G-111 ANNAPOLIS, Md. (Oct. 16, 2010) U.S. Naval Academy quarterback Ricky Dobbs (#4) is tackled by Southern Methodist University linebacker Ja'Gared Davis (#56), defensive end Taylor Thompson (#8), and line backer Taylor Reed (#44) during the first quarter of a college football game at the U.S. Naval Academy. The Midshipmen won the game 28-21. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jason M. Graham/Released)
101016-N-7647G-111 ANNAPOLIS, Md.

In the end, it’s hard to escape the fact that the NCAA isn’t using the authority it already has in cases where it must be used. The same organization that gave SMU the death penalty for paying athletes to play, the same organization that punished football players for abuse that occurred without their knowledge or participation, is sitting on its thumbs regarding a case that’s far more severe than SMU’s and which falls directly under NCAA auspices, unlike at Penn State.

As Laura Leigh Majer, Texas sports journalist with NFLFemale.com and host of “Down and Dirty Sports” on AltConRadio, remarked:

When the schools are not disciplining bad behavior, especially criminal behavior, and it appears an institution is covering it up, it needs to be taken to the next level.

So we find ourselves in a conundrum. The NCAA isn’t doing anything in these cases – remember, the UNC academic fraud case has been ongoing without result or sanctions since 2012  – which emboldens the universities to not do anything either. Meanwhile, Title IX coordinators have offices that are woefully understaffed and underfinanced and sadly underqualified to pursue these cases or to impose any penalties outside of lawsuits. And that leaves victims like the ones in Baylor and Minnesota with nothing.

Apparently Ken Schultz and the rest of the NCAA governors are getting their wish. They have chosen not to act in this case. As a result, they have destroyed any respect the NCAA might have possessed as well as any trust. As for Baylor, it has additional problems. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ Commission on Colleges has given the university a warning that its accreditation is in danger:

The commission found Baylor out of compliance with several accrediting requirements related to the sexual-assault scandal that has plagued the Baptist university in Texas, including a failure to provide adequate support services for students and a failure to have “appropriate fiscal and administrative control” of the institution’s athletics program.

Evidently, the SACS isn’t quite as intent upon non-action as the NCAA Board of Governors and Ken Schultz are.

minnesota_gophersHere’s the thing: In order to really make a difference in the world of college athletes and crime, there must be fundamental shifts of ideology at both the university and NCAA levels. Both must be willing to enforce penalties against student athletes who violate the law and the student code of conduct. When I was in college, if I’d been arrested for a violent crime against another student, what happened next would have been swift. I would have been arrested, charged, and tried for the crime. I would have lost my scholarship. I would not have been allowed to attend the university. And that would have been all she wrote, because at the end of the process I would most likely have served a sentence whose length depended on the degree of the crime. Period.

Same thing if my GPA exploded. If I pulled a 1.7 GPA for the semester because I decided to play video games in the football center instead of going to classes, my scholarship (communications and sports information, by the way) would have exploded as well.

Same for you, reading this column right now. Do you doubt it? Think for a moment. What breaks do non-athletes get when it comes to sexual assault?

None in the communications department. I was a debater. None of us on the team could have committed such an offense and been allowed to compete. Ever.

Texas sports journalist Laura Lee Majer’s answer to this question is direct.

The safety of all students on a campus should be a primary concern for a university.  No one should be above the law or given “special treatment” for being a star athlete if they break a law. I do not think universities are providing safe environments, and support for victims, overall.

We agree with her. What seems to be a point of contention, however, is when it’s the NCAA’s obligation to act. For that, Kevin Lindstrom has the correct answer, in our opinion:

I think it is an NCAA problem from the beginning. If we are talking about a student athlete, the NCAA needs to be kept appraised of it from the start. That transparency, while probably pretty burdensome on both the reporting school and the NCAA, would be essential to ensuring that something like Baylor can’t happen again.

So when will the NCAA act? Or will it continue to put it off like it has the UNC case? That’s the question that we, as taxpayers, alumni, and college sports fans need the NCAA to answer. Considering the NCAA is a tax-exempt organization that accrued revenue of nearly $1 billion in 2014, it is answerable for its decisions regarding cases under its jurisdiction. It might not think it’s responsible…it might not act like it is…

But it is.

We’ll wrap up this series next week with our final area of analysis: the fans. With college athletics generating so much revenue for everybody but the players, how much responsibility do football fans bear for the status quo? How do we impact colleges, players, coaches, or the NCAA? Why is the moral compass never pointing true north when it comes to athletes who commit crimes?

Some of the answers might surprise you.

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Court Documents Regarding All Romance E-Books’ Disturbing Business Practices Surface https://blogcritics.org/court-documents-regarding-all-romance-e-books-disturbing-business-practices-surface/ https://blogcritics.org/court-documents-regarding-all-romance-e-books-disturbing-business-practices-surface/#comments Fri, 30 Dec 2016 19:21:34 +0000 http://blogcritics.org/?p=5467183 The ongoing saga of All Romance E-Books disturbing business practices.

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“The Conscientious Burglar” Punch Magazine, 1920
Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse…

In a previous article about the sudden closing of All Romance E-Books, LLC and the owner’s announcement that she was not going to pay any royalties for the 4th quarter sales of books from the over 5000 publishers and authors with books on the site. The ‘conscientious burglar’ said she would pay ARe victims 10 cents on the dollar in exchange for not pursuing legal action against the company. It was also outlined the somewhat suspect behavior of the owner and the company prior to this announcement and detailed the actions taken over the last twenty-four hours. Thanks to some court documents from Florida, it would appear this isn’t the first case of disturbing business practices associated with the company.

In order to see the whole story, you need to go back to 2014 when a dramatic conflict began between Lori James and her business partner, Barbara Perfetti Ulmer. In fact, Ulmer sued James and All Romance E-Books, LLC in the Sixth Judicial Circuit Court of Pinellas County, Florida – where ARe was established as a legal business entity – on March 2, 2015. Ulmer filed a complaint alleging that James had been “denying access to contemporaneous and current financial information related to All Romance, breach of duties (fiduciary, care, and loyalty) unjust enrichment, inequitable distribution, and judicial dissolution of All Romance.”

The information regarding this lawsuit is easily found thanks to the open court records in the state of Florida, and can be viewed online here. Interested parties do not need to have an account, the records cost no money to view, and every document pertinent to the lawsuit (including exhibits) are indexed and viewable. All you need to read these documents for yourself is one name.

Lori James.

The story that emerges is sordid and disturbing, and certainly seems to establish a tendency on the part of James to capitalize and profit off ARe without concern or fear of legal retribution. Ulmer and James established All Romance E-Books, LLC together as full partners in 2006. Ulmer was the Chief Financial Officer, and as she was resident in Florida that’s where the physical address of ARe was established. (Remember the three addresses in Florida? One was in Ulmer’s town, Safety Harbor, and appears to be a post office box, which would be understandable as she was the CFO.) James was the Chief Operating Officer, and under the terms of their original operating agreement (Exhibit A) both partners owned 50% of the company and all decisions were to be made by “unanimous agreement” while all financial considerations –  both contribution and distribution – were to be equally shared.

According to Ulmer’s complaint, in October of 2014, Dominick Addario, MD – a forensic psychiatrist affiliated with the University of California-San Diego – examined Ulmer to determine whether she was “disabled” and unable to perform her duties under the terms of their operating agreement, which stipulated that if a condition was “permanent or expected to be of an indefinite duration” and prohibited one of the partners from performing their duties, the other partner could assume full responsibility for the company, including all financial and operational decisions.

On November 26, 2014 Dr. Addario sent an email (Exhibit B) to both partners stating that: “…I recommended certain treatment and testing for her and suggest reevaluation in 3 to 6 months at which time she may once again be fit to carry out her duties…”

Obviously this was not a permanent or indefinite condition. However, the lawsuit goes on to state the following:

“On or around November 27, 2014 James unilaterally assumed the power and authority and began making all decisions affecting All Romance. James excluded Perfetti (Ulmer) from any further involvement in All Romance. On or around November 27, 2014 James also unilaterally decided to begin paying herself a salary. In the past while the Members of All Romance had made distributions, neither Member had ever drawn a salary from All Romance.”

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Despite the fact that Addario’s expert opinion (and he is, according to his website, a nationally recognized expert in forensic psychology) that Barbara Perfetti Ulmer was not disabled either permanently or indefinitely, Lori James presented her as disabled and completely cut her off from any decisions, policies, input, interaction, and remuneration from ARe. James began to pay herself a substantial salary, promoted herself to CEO of Are, and cut off Ulmer’s access to company websites, bookkeeping, and meetings.

When Ulmer asked to be included in meetings, James told her no and to “stop being a distraction.” When Ulmer asked to return to work, James said no. When Ulmer protested, James told her that “if she did not like what James was doing, that Perfetti(Ulmer) should go get a lawyer.” The following claims were made by Ulmer as James’s breaches of duty and contract against her:

a. Wrongfully declaring Perfetti a disabled member;
b. Locking Perfetti out of the business operations of All Romance;
c. Refusing to provide contemporaneous and current financial information;
d. Engaging in self-dealing by making excessive compensation and/or distributions to herself;
e. Conducting business matters to the oppression and exclusion of Perfetti, so that it is not practicable for All Romance to continue; and
f. Refusing to take the necessary action to dissolve All Romance and distribute to Perfetti one-half of the value.

So take a minute and think about this. Two years ago, James undertook a coup in which she declared her partner disabled without any corresponding medical opinion, refused her access to all information and access regarding the business or its finances, began paying herself an “excessive” amount, and refused to consider closing All Romance E-Books. 

In other words, she was violating her own operating agreement and taking money out of the company’s capital while painting her business partner of eight years as incapable of fulfilling her duties as Chief Financial Officer of the company.

No wonder Ulmer’s suit further avers that: “James is liable for all damage to property or persons resulting from James’s grossly negligent, reckless, willful, and/or intentional misconduct.”
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How strange, then, to discover that ARe is in such financial straits that they cannot pay authors their 4th quarter royalties for 2016 and is closing its doors with only three days’ notice on December 31, 2016. That means in an approximately two-year period from November, 2014 to December, 2016, Lori James was the sole member of the ARe partnership making business decisions and conducting the financial operations of the business.

During that two year period, she unilaterally and without the agreement of her partner, promoted herself to CEO and paid herself an “excessive” salary. And at the end of that two year period, the company has no capital and cannot continue operating – and in the process is stealing thousands of dollars from thousands of publishers and authors.

After our previous article on ARe, authors who are owed thousands of dollars by ARe left comments to that effect. And authors who published through ARe’s publishing program are being told they can get their intellectual property rights back…but only if they agree to take no royalties at all. But for writers, perhaps the saddest thing (aside from being stolen from) is what’s happened to long-time readers. One reader who is being victimized by this debacle left a comment that we felt we had to share, so that everyone can see the scope of ARe’s actions on a personal level.

I am a long time customer who has approximately 2200 books that I have purchased over the years.

When I started pulling books down to back up to another service, I noticed a gradual trickle down of my numbers in my library – I assume this means that books I have purchased are somehow being taken away from my library. Some of those books – they are not for sale anywhere else!!!!

I have only been able to pull down 230 thus far (backing up to another cloud service). I actually have a job so my time to download the remainder of my books over the next two days will be limited. I devastated that I am potentially going to be losing thousands of dollars in books that I purchased.

I won’t even get in to the ebucks and the group-on certificates that I had planned on redeeming after the first of the year. Or the fact that I pre-ordered a bunch of books.

This whole situation makes me sick.

And now we learn that the foundation for this supposed disaster was laid over two years ago, when Lori James manipulated Barbara Ulmer out of any sort of role in the company they owned together.

There are a few key elements to this series of events that I find personally disturbing. First, James denied Ulmer access to the financial books and any knowledge of or input on the company’s finances while at the same time giving herself a salary which is in opposition to the procedures contractually agreed upon by both parties in their operating agreement. I’m not a lawyer, but to a layman writer with a genuine working knowledge of publishing and contracts I can’t help but feel that is suspicious.

In my opinion, this establishes a prior intent on James’s part to extract and exploit ARe’s finances to her sole benefit. After all, there was no one outside of James who knew exactly how much capital the company had accumulated, or how and for what or whom that capital was spent. James was accountable to no one when it came to the financial status of the company, and no one had access to the accounts that could determine whether the money was being handled responsibly and legally.

Second, why would Barbara Ulmer be examined in San Diego by Dr. Addario, who is an admitted long-time associate of Lori James, to determine a disability that would prevent her from fulfilling her duties to ARe? I’m absolutely certain there are forensic psychiatrists in Florida with comparable experience and expertise. It doesn’t make sense that she would fly to California to be examined by a doctor of James’s choice in such a matter, especially if her continued involvement and profit from a company she co-owned was at stake.

Additionally, although Addario didn’t determine Ulmer to be permanently or indefinitely disabled, James went ahead with her plan to oust Ulmer and block her access to the company as if he had. On the very next day, allegedly, Ulmer’s access to the company was completely severed and employees were told she was no longer associated with ARe.

And third, how does this lawsuit and the allegations Ulmer made against James affect the current situation?

Well, for one thing – this lawsuit was dismissed on August 24, 2016 for lack of prosecution, meaning neither party had actively pursued the case for ten months. Why, after the allegations Ulmer made against her former partner, would she not continue with legal action?

Possibly because James reached a settlement with her out of court. If that is the case, it’s entirely possible that Ulmer forced the closure of ARe according to the terms of that 2006 operating agreement. The profits from the 4th quarter of 2016 might have gone to squaring the books, so to speak. Or in other words, Lori James had to compensate Barbara Ulmer in an equitable fashion – as in two years’ worth of an “excessive” salary and compensations plus the normal distribution of profits established in the 2006 contract. If this is what happened, then James’s management of ARe was indeed “grossly negligent, willful, and reckless.”

We called Barbara Ulmer for a comment or interview. So far, we have not heard back.

But if that’s not what happened, the other options are far uglier. At the very least, this is the result of disastrous management on James’s part. At the most, everything from the day Lori James purportedly stabbed her partner in the back to December 31 when ARe will close its doors and defiantly keep the royalties due to thousands of authors, was part of a plan to exploit the company and extract as much money from it as possible, regardless of the people and businesses who would be damaged as a result.

Either option is sickening. Was ARe destroyed as the result of rank stupidity? Or was it the victim of a pre-planned rape of its capital, profits, and contributors? Only the courts, most likely, will be able to decide.

As we mentioned in our previous article, authors who wish to refuse James’s arrogant offer of ten cents on the dollar should file a complaint with the Florida Attorney General’s Office. If authors or publishers wish to work in coordination with other writers, there is a Facebook group for ARe contributors who are already working with an attorney on a potential case. By joining in their effort and expanding the group, the chances are significantly higher that the state of Florida will be forced to examine the whole stinking mess.

If anyone wishes to research or cite the lawsuit between Barbara Ulmer and Lori James (All Romance Ebooks LLC) it’s Case Number 14-001375-C1 in the Circuit Court of the Sixth Judicial Circuit in and for Pinellas County, State of Florida. You can read the entirety of the original operation agreement from 2006, the complaint against James and ARe, the examination results of Dr. Addario, and all pertinent legal documents by doing a search for any of the litigants; names on the Pinellas County Florida Public Records website.

For readers and customers of All Romance E-Books who are losing years of e-book collections and thousands of dollars, some authors are offering replacement copies of their books free as a courtesy to people who once bought their titles. I Don’t write straight up romance, but I do write fantasy. Any readers who lost copies of their library of books at ARe (and not just my books) can get copies of my books this week to kick off their new collection if they contact me through my website. Maybe that will in some small way help until we get all the answers.

But the thing of it is? I think we all already know the answers. As any good forensic psychiatrist will attest, there’s plenty of research out there about behavioral patterns and their likely results. It’s difficult to imagine that the owner of a company who could force her partner out in such a ruthless and cold-blooded fashion has somehow accidentally screwed over all those authors. The thing about ruthlessness and cold-bloodedness is that neither attribute is spontaneous. These types of actions are not accidental. They are planned well in advance, plotted carefully, and executed mercilessly.

Which leads us to a disturbing question:

How does any author or publisher know that the sales numbers reported to them by ARe in the past two years are actually correct? If this is a serious case of fiscal malfeasance, there’s no way to know if the sales the site reported for a book was actually ten sales or sixty. Without the provenance of a CFO or an external source to examine the ARe books, the numbers reported to authors and publishers could have been wholly compromised.. Considering the circumstances and the background of the situation, it’s a legitimate concern.

And a legitimate question for the authors and their attorneys to demand answers to.

Let’s be frank: at this moment, it’s not known exactly what happened at ARe. But the addition of this previous court case and the alleged actions and behavior of Lori James against her former partner certainly raise a number of red flags for victims of ARe and their legal representatives to consider as they ponder legal action. And it’s certainly reasonable to wonder if Lori James, in order to pay an out of court settlement to her former partner, had to find the cash to do so fast. It’s the end of the year, after all. If the capital had already been eaten up by disbursements outside the original agreement (like an ‘excessive’ salary) then perhaps the only ready cash on hand were the profits of ARe in the final quarter of 2016 – the profits that have now been withheld from the rightful recipients.

Red flags, rotten fish in Denmark, alarms going off – the euphemisms all mean the same thing, really. Don’t give in. Join with the other authors and publishers who are already combining their efforts to fight against Lori James and All Romance E-Books, LLC. Sue for the full royalties you are legally owed by ARe. Use the legal system to force an investigation into ARe’s financial operations since the fall of 2014. Take a stand against the predatory actions of this company, and fight against a system that allows companies like this to steal your money and your rights.

Force the answers out of the predator. I bet they’ll be a lot more interesting than the theories racing through the publishing community right now. As of this writing, it’s December 30,2016…and All Romance E-Books, LLC under sole owner Lori James is still selling books when she has already stated the company will not pay the authors and publishers of those books the royalties for those sales.

Not only a thief, but a thief who tells you she’s going to steal your money before she steals it. A conscientious thief. Nice.

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Publisher All Romance Ebooks: Closing Hits New Low In Stealing From Authors https://blogcritics.org/publisher-all-romance-ebooks-closing-hits-new-low-in-stealing-from-authors/ https://blogcritics.org/publisher-all-romance-ebooks-closing-hits-new-low-in-stealing-from-authors/#comments Thu, 29 Dec 2016 11:20:40 +0000 http://blogcritics.org/?p=5467149 Publisher All Romance E-Books closes down and threatens to renege on royalty agreements with publishers and authors alike.

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kobo_ereader_touch_black_frontThe ebook industry has undergone several transitions in the past few years, where authors have become increasingly victimized by e-pirates, vanity presses, and scams designed to keep writers from making money on their intellectual property. Earlier today, December 28, 2016, the industry hit a new low when longtime e-tailer All Romance E-Books (Are), LLC (with its non-romance genre partner Omni Lit) released a surprise notice to its authors and publishers. ARe’s CEO and owner, Lori James, announced that the retailer was closing its doors in three days’ time.

What makes this so terrible is not the fact that they’re closing. What makes this so terrible is how they’re doing it:

We will be unable to remit Q4 2016 commissions in full and are proposing a settlement of 10 cents on the dollar (USD) for payments received through 27 December 2016. We also request the following conditions:
1. That you consider this negotiated settlement to be “paid in full”.
2. That no further legal action be taken with regards to the above referenced commissions owed.

Wait…what?

Let’s break this down. An online retailer is closing down and cannot remit the royalties owed to authors and publishers for the entire fourth quarter of 2016. In lieu of the agreed-upon percentage of 60% of the cover price for each book sold, ARe is proposing that they pay authors TEN CENTS on the dollar of those owed royalties–for books that have already been sold and the money already collected and presumably deposited in the bank account of ARe.

As an author with books listed at ARe and a longtime ebook editor and managing editor at small presses, I am horrified to see this even suggested. Basically, the owners of ARe are telling every author of the thousands of books that were listed for sale as of this morning that they are planning to steal the majority of the royalties they are legally bound to remit.

So what kind of money are we talking here?

Let’s say I have eight books listed for sale at ARe, and each book is listed at $4 cover price. That means I am owed $2.40 for each individual book sold. If I sell 100 copies of each book, that’s $240 royalties owed for each title, for a total of $1920 royalties due for all eight books.

ARe is proposing that I accept $192 in lieu of the royalties they are legally bound to pay me, thereby keeping $1728 for themselves.

Obviously, no sane person would agree to terms like this. After all, ARe already sold and delivered the copies of those books to the customers, already collected the $3200 for the sales of those books, and has the money in its possession currently (or should). So if they can’t pay the royalties although they already received the money for the sales, where did the money go? And why do they expect authors and publishers to agree to this?

It is my sincere hope that we will be able to settle this account and avoid filing for bankruptcy, which would undoubtedly be a prolonged and costly process.

Well of course. That’s reasonable. In lieu of ARe having to deal with a prolonged and costly bankruptcy process, it will be far easier for them to just steal ninety percent of each dollar they owe to every single author whose books are on their site. What a great solution!

Wonder why Wal-Mart doesn’t do that? “Even though we already sold your product online for the last three months, we have decided not to pay you for the units we sold because we don’t want to have to deal with going through bankruptcy court. But we will pay you ten cents on the dollar! Isn’t that nice?”

Oh, that’s right. Wal-Mart doesn’t do that because it’s illegal.

And we’re not talking small amounts here. Despite the exodus of authors and publishers yanking their titles off ARe since the closure was announced, there are still thousands of titles listed there. Some books may never have sold a single copy. Some may have sold thousands of copies per quarter. In fact, owner Lori James had this to say about ARe:
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Because All Romance stocks titles from over 5000 publishers, from Big 5 to smaller indies to the latest break-out self-published authors, there is something for everyone. Through our Publishing in Partnership program, we bring best-selling original fiction not only to our customers, but those who shop at other retailers as well. Our data-driven approach to publishing means we strive not merely to know the market, but to anticipate the market and ride emerging trends.

Five thousand publishers. Big New York publishing houses, small independent presses, and independent self-published authors.

The big publishing houses will almost certainly get their money. But the small presses and self-published authors are facing a terrible decision. Do writers allow ARe to steal their royalties? Do they submit for convenience’s sake because the owners of ARe aren’t planning to pay those royalties as they are contractually and legally required to do? Or, are writers willing to stand up to this theft and pursue legal recourse, knowing full well they won’t even see that ten cents on the dollar after all is said and done?

Because let’s be for real here. It’s not like ARe’s owners aren’t paying authors because they don’t have the money for the sales. They do have it. They banked all that cash and are now trying to keep it. And by hanging the threat of filing for bankruptcy out there, the company is attempting to threaten authors into agreeing legally to let them retain that money without future legal responsibility.
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And here’s the million dollar question – what did ARe and its owners actually do with all the money they collected from fourth quarter sales? They haven’t paid the authors, obviously. So where is it?

And what about the authors who prepaid for advertising in 2017? What happened to their money? Just last week, ARe sent out notices soliciting ads for 2017. As you can see from their website, advertising cost anywhere from $50 to $2000 per month.

The mystery deepens.

The Romance Writers of America guild released a statement upon hearing of the news which reads as follows:

RWA was notified today that All Romance eBooks (ARe) is closing effective 12/31/2016. The notice states:

  • All Romance eBooks is unable to remit Q4 2016 commissions and is proposing a settlement of 10 cents on the dollar for sales through 12/27/2016.
  • By accepting, authors consider the settlement as “paid in full” and they agree not to take legal action against All Romance eBooks.
  • There is no offer to pay commissions on sales after 12/27, even though the site will remain open through midnight on 12/31/2016.
  • Companies or individuals wishing to deactivate their accounts before 12/31 can do so by logging into the publisher portal.

RWA finds it unconscionable for the owner of ARe to withhold information so long and to continue selling books through the end of the month when the company cannot pay commissions. RWA contacted ARe but has not yet received a response.

Interestingly, despite sending out those notices on December 28, the All-Romance E-Books, LLC website was not immediately taken down, providing us with a great deal of information on who is behind this latest e-publishing fiasco. CEO Lori James and Administrative Assistant to the CEO Maxwell James are the first two names listed on this privately held company that was founded in 2006. The company’s Linked In profile cites 11-50 employees.

But the mailing address on the website (6252 Commercial Way #145 Weeki Wachee, FL 34613) is different from the one on Linked In (2519 McMullen Booth Road NorthSuite 510-199 Clearwater, FL34685). The website address is actually a virtual office, where for $99 a month anyone can set up a storefront that gives the appearance of an actual physical location. The Linked In address is a strip mall in Clearwater, with numerous restaurants, a Scientology outlet, and a UPS store…among other unrelated businesses. On the privacy page is yet another address: 303 Main Street #186 Safety Harbor, FL 34695 – which is the physical address of a United States Post Office.

californiadreaminglorijamesBut when we checked Lori James’ Linked In profile, she’s nowhere near Florida. In fact, she is in the greater San Diego area according to her profile. In a bio she provided to the California Dreamin’ writers conference, she splits her time between San Diego and the mountains by Big Bear Lake which is, of course, a lovely way to spend one’s time. 

Expensive, too.

So how does a corporation exist in the state of Florida when the CEO and owner is on the opposite side of the country? That’s easy. The physical addresses are a front. Everything is online, and there is no physical office per se. For many online businesses, that’s not a big deal. Honestly, to conduct e-business you don’t really need a physical storefront and your business can still be on the up and up. But to cite three different addresses on the company’s website and all three of them go to a virtual storefront, a UPS store, and a post office – is somewhat suspect, particularly when the owner is literally on the other side of the continental United States. Everything you find online about All Romance E-Books, LLC is designed to create belief in the company as a physical entity and therefore to give a sense of trustworthiness to potential customers and affiliates.

That trust is furthered by ARe’s website, which states:

We’ve worked to give publishers maximum control of their books. Publishers will be able to upload novels and have them instantly available for sale. The publisher will set the price, decide when to offer discounts, choose which file types to offer, and select the heat level and categories.
ARe has no set-up fees and no special formatting requirements. Publishers will earn income on their very first sale, and all sales can be tracked in real time using our secure publisher reporting features.
Best of all, publishers will earn 60% of the retail price on each and every eBook sale.

Bolding is ours. Authors who self-publish their works are considered publishers by ARe, and so they are guaranteed 60% of the cover price on each and every book sale. Again, in perspective, that’s $2.40 for a $4.00 title. The FAQs support this as well:

Q: When do I start earning?
A: You start earning with the very first sale.
Q: What percentage do I get?
A: Publishers will earn 60% of every sale.
Q: How often do I get paid?
A: ARe will release payments quarterly, 45 days following the close of the quarter.

Again, ARe’s alleged business practices are right there on their website, and they are bound to that policy. It’s in plain sight and has been for a decade. That cannot be refuted. What also cannot be refuted is James’s intentions as of  today’s mass email, which is clearly stated below:

If you are willing to accept the offered amount and the terms proposed, please hit the reply on this email keeping the history intact. Change the subject to “Publisher Settlement Acceptance” and copy/paste the acceptance statement below into your email, filling in the fields.

Upon receipt of the signed agreement, I will authorize payment of the settlement amount in full by 28 February 2016 via the method stipulated in your publisher account.

James is giving the author/publisher no other options. You either agree, and ARe will pay you on February 28 (And of course, one can hope that 2016 is a typo and not another attempt to steal those last ten cents on the dollar) or you don’t agree and you don’t get paid. Obviously, the only author/publisher James has any concern for is herself. She certainly doesn’t want to hand over the money from the sales of every book ARe and OmniLit sold through October, November, and December of 2016.

But here’s the real killer – there are even more people who are losing potentially hundreds or thousands of dollars this week. ARe has been open since 2006, and loyal customers have whole libraries of books that they access through the ARe site instead of using physical storage on their personal technology. Those customers are being told they have three days to back up their books, because the sites will be closed down in their entirety. Loyal customers for a decade could lose their entire library of books purchased through ARe if they don’t realize that the site is closing at the end of the year.

As for the authors who published through ARe and have publishing contracts that tie up their intellectual property rights, the company has offered them the following choice. They can get their rights back, but in order to do so they agree to not receive a penny of their earnings from the 4th quarter of 2016. To these authors, there really isn’t a choice. If All Romance E-Books,LLC goes into bankruptcy, it’s not just their royalties that are tied up for years. It’s their IP rights also, and they will not be able to re-issue or publish their books until their titles are released by the creditors in bankruptcy court.

So who hasn’t ARe screwed over with this move? Let’s see…Publishing houses will lose a quarter’s worth of profits. Authors will lose 90% of each dollar they earned and that’s only if they agree to the company’s strong arm tactic threatening bankruptcy. If they don’t agree, they lose 100% of their royalties. Customers who stored books they purchased from ARe will lose their entire libraries unless they physically back up their books on e-readers or their computers.

Authors and publishers who paid for 2017 advertising will lose the money they prepaid for those services. And authors unfortunate enough to have published through ARe’s publishing service will lose not only their royalties, but the rights to their intellectual property as well.
Authors who published through ARe can either get the rights to their books back, or ten cents on the dollar of their royalties. One or the other…take your pick.

big_bear_lake_ca_usa_-_panoramio_4
Big Bear Lake California–a beautiful and expensive place to live
In fact, the only involved party ARe is not screwing over appears to be its owner. Lori James, the CEO of All Romance E-Books, LLC will probably continue to write romance under the pseudonym of Samantha Sommersby and urban fantasy as SJ Harper while splitting her time between San Diego and Bear Lake in California, and evidently will do so while the company she owns retains possession of ninety percent of all the royalties earned by thousands of authors in the final quarter of 2016.

ARe must have had a great Christmas holiday, planning for this move. Ho ho ho and bah humbug to you too.

For the average reader, this retailer closing may not seem like a big deal. But for the authors with books listed through ARe – an online retailer who is still selling books at this moment with the clearly expressed intention of never paying the authors of those works their full royalties – this is yet another disaster. Whereas indie authors with the ‘right’ connections at Amazon are cheerfully manipulating the sales algorithms to ensure that their works are given preferential treatment over the thousands of other authors in their genres, a retailer who claimed to be above all that favoritism has closed its doors and stolen hundreds or thousands of dollars from each writer and publishing house that worked with it.

In fact, we may never know how much money ARe and its owners have absconded with exactly. That is probably a matter for the courts to determine. And it certainly seems like there is some strong legal basis here to charge the company and its owners (listed in some places as a partnership) with fraud or online theft. At the very least a breach of fiduciary duty. As ebook sales cross over all fifty states and even international borders, there may be taxation issues as well.

There is an underlying lack of legal protections for authors, their intellectual property, and their income in this country. Publishers, false agents, and retailers continue to run these long-term scams, sucking the unwary into their webs and milking them for every dime. But what makes this case stand out is the egregious bullying tone of its owner’s statement to the authors she stole from, and the utter lack of concern James and ARe display for anyone outside of their own personal interests. And sure, most of the authors whose money just vanished into the ether surrounding those multi-million dollar properties in a Big Bear Lake vacation community may be out ten bucks at most.

But that’s not the point.The point is that a retailer announced today that it was stealing the money it’s received for three months’ worth of book sales and has no intention of fulfilling its fiduciary responsibility to the authors whose intellectual property they sold. A retailer has basically committed fraud and has no evident fear of being challenged or behind held responsible legally, either on a criminal or civil level. And unfortunately, that’s probably true. They’ll get away with it, and Lori James will continue to spend part of her time at Big Bear Lake, where she will enjoy the benefits of running a company who blatantly stole from the authors whose books she sold.

Authors and publishers who are not interested in letting All Romance E-Books, LLC get away with this monstrous scaled theft do have legal options. The main thing they can do is to contact the Attorney General’s office in the State of Florida, the state where the company ostensibly exists as a legal entity, or file a complaint against Lori James and All Romance E-books, LLC here. Authors and publishers can also contact the Department of Justice and report James and ARe for fraud. Authors who published through ARe can also contact the DoJ for intellectual property crimes  as well. Authors and publishers based in California can also launch a civil case against James, as the owner, if they so desire.

If enough of the injured parties in this latest travesty of e-publishing start the wheels turning, the Attorney General’s office and Department of Justice may look into the matter. If that happens, then ARe’s sales records and books will be subpoenaed and authors can at least find out why a company who had the money in hand after three months of sales suddenly determined it wouldn’t be able to pay the royalties it was legally obligated to pay.

Tonight as I conclude this post, I have the ARe site open to multiple tabs. Not just because I’m quoting and citing from their own publicly published material about their business practices and obligations, but because I’m watching the internet store. I’m looking at books from all genres, still available for sale although ARe is refusing to pay the author their share of any sale in the next few days. I’m looking at books that authors paid to advertise on the site, flashing in the sidebars or in special windows – still available for sale, still advertised as if the site will still be up on January 1. I’m looking at the tab entitled “My Library”, where on January 1 customers’ entire libraries will suddenly evaporate into the online ether, never to be found again.

I’m looking at thousands of books by thousands of authors who were informed today that a retailer they trusted to sell their intellectual property has decided instead to steal their royalties, and then dared them to do anything about it.

I’m looking at scores of books I edited for writers ranging from debut authors to NYT/USA Today bestsellers, whose reward for the months or sometimes years of work they dedicated to their craft is to have their royalties stolen by an outlet who was supposed to make them money, not take it.

I was looking at my books before my tech guru took them down from the site. My eight books listed on Omni-Lit, ARe’s non-romance arm. Eight fantasy novels. I released one book per month for the past eight months and that is a LOT of work. And in the past three months, every $4 ARe received for a sale of one of my titles is staying with ARe and Lori James. Not in one of the many addresses they listed as their physical address on their website. Not in the state of Florida, where their virtual storefront was allegedly located. No. In California, splitting their time between San Diego and Big Bear Lake.

Hell no, I’m not agreeing to ten cents on the dollar. I don’t care if ARe only owes me two bucks (which is probably about what they owe me as I do not write romance). I’m not going to agree, legally, to let them steal that two dollars. I’m contacting the Florida Attorney General’s office and the Department of Justice, and if you’re an author with ARe titles, I advise you to do the same. No one looks out for the indie author or the small press author. We’ll have to do it ourselves.

So share this article with your fellow authors. Share the information on your social media. Tell your brothers and sisters what to do, and why they shouldn’t agree like sheep to let ARe keep the royalties they legally owe them. Two dollars or twenty, two hundred or two thousand – it’s time to stand up for ourselves and each other. Enough is enough.

Authors should not be victims. Authors should be advocates. And then perhaps we’ll all get together at Big Bear Lake and throw a party. We may never see a dime of our money after a “long, costly bankruptcy”.  But we can throw one hell of a celebratory bash if by banding together, we finally compel the legal system to come down on one of these publishing predators for the fraud, intellectual property theft, and breach of fiduciary duty they have perpetrated on our entire industry.

In fact, let’s have that party at Big Bear Lake. We may only get to drink water from the lake, but it’ll taste like Dom Perignon as we tell Lori James and All Romance E-Books, LLC what they can do with their ten cents on the dollar. Judging from the responses I’m seeing from writers all over the internet, I’m not the only author with definite ideas on the anatomical probabilities of “shove it up your…”

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NCAA Fact or Fanatic: Athletes, Universities, and Crimes – Emergency Edition https://blogcritics.org/ncaa-fact-or-fanatic-athletes-universities-and-crimes-emergency-edition/ Mon, 26 Dec 2016 03:11:48 +0000 http://blogcritics.org/?p=5467009 The Oklahoma football program made Joe Mixon, who was an 18-year-old incoming freshman at the time, sit out for a season. You know – they redshirted him. That was the punishment the coaches and administrators at OU thought appropriate for a five-star, superbly conditioned, top-tier athlete whose response to a skinny little girl was to punch her so violently that bones in her face shattered.

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fact-or-fanatic350pixels_use-this-oneWelcome to NCAA Fact or Fanatic, where usually at this time of year we should be making bowl game picks and anticipating the Final Four. Instead, however, we find ourselves compelled to write this emergency edition of our current series on athletes and crimes based on what’s happened in just the past couple of weeks and how that, in turn, reflects upon the NCAA, police departments, DA offices, and the universities.

Just in case you thought all of the cases we’ve been talking about are safely in the past and can be ignored as aberrations, allow us to demonstrate why it’s irresponsible to ignore the issue of college athletes and crimes. These stories can never be permitted to lapse from public consciousness, because the problem isn’t going away. It’s growing.

Allow us to lay this out for you with some of the most recent cases. We’ll start with the latest, one that seems to be following the same tragic path as the Baylor nightmare.

University of Minnesota

On September 2, 2016 a Minnesota woman reported that she was the victim of sexual assault – a gang rape if you really want to know –involving four football players who participated and six more who were involved peripherally. None of the players was arrested, although the four alleged perpetrators were suspended for a game. The local DA’s office declined to pursue charges, and the entire matter appeared to have been resolved.

But then the university’s Office of Equal Opportunity And Affirmative Action recommended that the four alleged participants and six other players be suspended for their upcoming appearance in the Holiday Bowl, and all of a sudden the entire football team announced it would “boycott” all activities – practice, travel, and playing – relating to the bowl. The team statement said specifically: “The boycott will remain effective until due process is followed and suspensions for all 10 players involved are lifted.”
2015_citrus_bowl_panorama

But then the football team read the 80-page report the OEOAA had compiled. You can read it here for yourself (fair warning, the content is graphic and horrific in its details). It alleges that the woman was repeatedly raped, not only by current football players but by a recruit on an official visit to the Minnesota campus; that she was held down by some men while others assaulted her; that “a crowd” of men watched and cheered on the action; that as many as 20 men were involved either as witnesses or participants; and that witnesses took pictures and filmed the assault.

The report is difficult for any morally conscious person to read, describing as it does an ordeal that went on for over two hours and in such a public manner. On October 4, before the report was released, the players’ attorney Lee Hutton commented:

Fortunately, the families of these African-American student-athletes avoided a mother’s worst nightmare that their son would be wrongly accused of this type of misconduct. Now, my legal duty is to restore their tarnished reputations.

You may note that the players’ reputations are here considered so much more important than the victim’s. That definitely seemed to be the priority across the board – from the Minneapolis Police Department to the Hennepin County District Attorney’s office to the Minnesota athletic department. And definitely for the players, the teammates of the accused men. That’s triply apparent in a comment by linebacker Nick Rallis:

The most important thing is, this was not a stance about sexual misconduct. It’s not our place to say whether they committed misconduct, and those found responsible will be held accountable. I think now we’re just trying to get people to slowly understand. We are going to go down there to represent those 10 guys and how they were mistreated in the process.

Yes, of course – because the players were mistreated here.

Not the victim.

University of Oklahoma

This story, like so many in the modern age, begins with a video.

Keep in mind that Mixon hit his victim so hard, bones were broken in her face. This incident took place in 2014, but when the video was finally made public last week the resulting furor was enough to rile all of college football up.

Why?

Because Bob Stoops is an idiot.

The Oklahoma football program made Joe Mixon, who was an 18-year-old incoming freshman at the time, sit out for a season. You know – they redshirted him. That was the punishment the coaches and administrators at OU thought appropriate for a five-star, superbly conditioned, top-tier athlete whose response to a skinny little girl was to punch her so violently that bones in her face shattered. 

In other words, Bob Stoops didn’t think the incident merited much more than a redshirt season – which probably benefited Mixon anyway before his first snap the following year. That was then. But now?

shoop

No, really?

Let’s be frank. Stoops had no interest in kicking Joe Mixon off the Sooners’ squad in 2014 because he knew the hotly contested-for recruit would show up on someone else’s team within a matter of days. He wanted Mixon in his backfield. He didn’t give a damn about the injuries Amelia Molitor received. On December 21, 2016, this is what Stoops had to say:

Dismissal is really the only thing that is possible. A young guy having an opportunity to rehabilitate and to have some kind of discipline and come back from it is really not there anymore. Hopefully, that message goes down even to the high school level that these things are just unacceptable to any degree and there’s no recovering, I guess … It never has been acceptable. What I’m saying is there’s no recovering from these incidents really anymore.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LFd9unr-jVg

There’s no recovering from what and for whom? No recovering for the athlete? What a pity. We already know there’s no recovering for the victim in this case, between the injuries she suffered and the harassment she underwent on the Norman campus.

There’s also no recovering for a big-time coach who watched this same video a couple of weeks after the incident and who somehow determined that he, Mixon, and the University of Oklahoma could recover with a redshirt year presented as a punishment. The Sooners’ football team certainly recovered: Mixon has rushed 168 times for 1,183 yards and eight touchdowns, and added 32 receptions for five touchdowns and 449 yards so far this season.

Stoops’s response to Mixon’s actions in 2014 were those of a coach seeking to keep a prized recruit because wins trump morality. His response two years later is so self-righteous, so smug and condescending, that it’s readily apparent that if he faced the same decision today it wouldn’t change.

He’s right. There’s no recovering from these incidents anymore. But it’s certainly easy enough to marginalize the victim in pursuit of the all-mighty W.

University of Michigan

December 21, 2016 wasn’t a great day in Michigan either. That’s when Wolverine WR Grant Perry was arraigned on multiple charges resulting from an incident that occurred in East Lansing on October 15. Perry was charged with one felony count of assaulting, battering, resisting or obstructing an officer, two misdemeanor counts of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct, and an underage drinking charge.

jim_harbaugh_head_coach_university_of_michiganThe following day, the University of Michigan had this to say:

The University was made aware of the arrest of student-athlete Grant Perry earlier this fall. He was immediately suspended from all team activities at that time and missed two games. Based on the information at that time, Grant was allowed to resume team activities pending the outcome of the investigation. Upon being informed that charges would be filed, he was immediately and indefinitely suspended from all team activities until the legal process is completed.

Purdue University

Four Purdue players were accused of sexual assault upon two women, also Purdue students, after an October 13, 2016 incident that occurred in off-campus housing. Three of the accused players have criminal backgrounds: One had been charged with battery involving serious bodily injury, the second faced theft charges, and a third was charged with possession of marijuana.

This alleged assault was the fifth such case in four days reported to West Lafayette, Indiana police around or on the Purdue campus, but it isn’t believed to be related to any other case. So far, no one has been arrested or charged, which leaves the purported victims considering a civil suit. Mario Massillamany, of Massillamany & Jeter LLP, represents the victims.

School officials must move quickly to hold these players accountable for their actions and show these victims that their voices are being heard. Purdue and other schools have an obligation to send a message that this type of activity will not be tolerated. If there are others out there who have been victimized in this manner, we encourage them to contact us to get the justice they deserve.

University of Southern California

kalil_blocked_kick_usc-notredameUSC linebacker Osa Masina pled not guilty on December 16 to charges that he sexually assaulted a friend in Utah. He was charged with forcible rape and two counts of forcible sodomy which are first-degree felonies. Allegedly, Masina gave the victim a combination of alcohol, marijuana, and Xanax and raped her while she was unconscious. A video of the assault was taken by Masina and sent to the victim’s ex-boyfriend through Snapchat.

Deseret News Utah reported: “It wasn’t until her ex-boyfriend’s father contacted her own father, suggesting something may have happened to the woman at the party, that the woman said she reported the assault to her parents. After that, they went to police. Asked on cross-examination why she hadn’t attempted to contact police sooner, the woman said she was scared.”

Masina’s family posted a $250,000 bond. Masina is on interim suspension from USC, has been forced to vacate his campus housing, and cannot enter the USC campus without prior permission and an escort.

Masina and a teammate, Don Hill (also suspended from the university), are also under investigation for a similar incident in California two weeks prior to the alleged rape in Utah, with the same victim and the same modus operandi – the booze, pot, and pills. Masina’s attorney, Greg Skordas, had this to say:

“I haven’t been told anything on the record about the California case, but I’ve been told generally and been led to believe generally there won’t be charges filed on anything that happened in California,” Skordas said.

Though he stopped short of calling the encounter with the woman in Utah consensual, Skordas said, “My understanding of the conduct of what occurred here wouldn’t have constituted a crime under Utah law.”

He added: “I think that the difference in accounts of what happened are maybe not as distinct as you might think, but I think the way both individuals perceived things is quite different.”

For Your Viewing Displeasure

In 2015, Florida State University quarterback De’Andre Johnson punched a woman in the face at a Tallahassee bar. Johnson was ultimately dismissed from the team.

In June, Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen was confronted with a nasty problem caught on a nasty video of his nasty five-star freshman defensive lineman Jeffrey Simmons repeatedly punching a woman lying prone upon the ground:

Mullen and Mississippi State ultimately determined that a one-game suspension against perceived cupcake opponent South Alabama was sufficient punishment for Simmons’s arrest in the March incident. In one of the great beyotch-slaps of karma, South Alabama subsequently upset MSST 21-20.

And Here’s the Latest

Texas A&M WR Speedy Noil was arrested on December 20. Five grams of marijuana turned into an arrest on possession charges, a $2,000 bond, and Noil’s suspension from the team.

Youngstown State RB Martin Ruiz was pulled over on a standard traffic stop after he made an illegal turn. The police detected the odor of marijuana, found a residue suspected to be marijuana – and a loaded gun in the glove compartment. Ruiz was charged with illegal possession of a firearm.

That’s just in the past couple of weeks. We never have to look far to find college athletes being arrested for crimes ranging from possession to full-fledged rape. Every NCAA program will tell you that they have guest speakers, seminars, classes, and meetings with their players to prevent these athletes from breaking the law. And yet, not a week goes by without another report, another arrest, another crime that puts schools in the position of wondering which is the priority – getting the W on the field or selling the university’s soul. All too frequently, the soul is thrown out like refuse and the game, the victory on the field, is more important.

nick_saban_09_practiceAnd make no mistake, the programs that have sold their souls are easy to spot. Nick Saban’s defending national champion Crimson Tide had star linebacker Tim Williams and probable top-five draft pick offensive lineman Cam Robinson both arrested in 2016. Williams was arrested for illegal carrying of a firearm in September, while Robinson and a teammate were arrested in Louisiana for possession of narcotics and illegal carrying of a stolen firearm. It’s not until you read the DA’s explanation for why they declined to prosecute Robinson that you realize how significantly college athletes and the legal system have both been corrupted:

“I want to emphasize once again that the main reason I’m doing this is that I refuse to ruin the lives of two young men who have spent their adolescence and teenage years, working and sweating, while we were all in the air conditioning.”

Neither player was suspended, although both sat out for a game.

Then there’s Baylor.

Might want to consider adding Minnesota to Baylor’s side of the discussion, by the way, because all any reasonable person has to do is read the OEOAAO report on the sexual assault allegedly perpetrated on a single victim by multiple athletes, and it becomes clear that the idea that there’s nothing to prosecute is morally reprehensible. There are text chains, videos, and photographs of the assault –taken by both the perpetrators and witnesses.

Witnesses watched while more than 10 football players allegedly restrained and repeatedly assaulted and raped a woman, and did nothing to help her. They were too busy taking videos and telling their friends to come on over and join in.

But perhaps the most damning evidence from that horrible scene didn’t come from the victim. It came from one of the participants. (Names are redacted from this report by the university.)

[second assaulter] reentered the bedroom and the recruit started to get dressed. [second assaulter] appeared disappointed that the recruit did not ejaculate. [second assaulter]  referred to the recruit as a “recruit.” [victim] asked what [second assaulter] meant by “recruit.” [second assaulter] explained that the recruit was a football recruit visiting for the weekend. [victim] was taken aback and asked the recruit if he was in high school. The recruit said yes and that he was not going to come to the University because “it was too fucked up.” [victim] did not see the recruit again.

You read that correctly. A high school recruit was brought in to participate in all the “fun,” and he learned quickly why he didn’t want to attend Minnesota. Why would anyone, frankly? Especially a young woman who reads this report and the horrific events detailed in it. And her parents, upon learning that for some reason no one in local law enforcement or the DA’s office found a reason to arrest the players, charge them with a crime, or prosecute them.

Keep in mind as well that this same incident sparked the “boycott” by the rest of the Minnesota team. Of course they boycotted, because the witnesses who took those videos, sent those texts, laughed on Snapchat, and shared those photos are part of that team. They aren’t guilty of a crime; they are guilty of callousness and complicity and just sheer bestial cruelty. So guilty that the recruit they were trying to impress with college life at Minnesota left for home with the determination not to attend the university. So guilty that they hid behind terms like “due process” and “justice.”

And the university, police department, and District Attorney’s office hid back there too.

But there’s one part of this horrific problem on our college campuses that we haven’t discussed yet, another participant in the tangled web of laws and sports, schools and money who could and should have a role in finding a way to solve the problems inherent in this flawed process. The NCAA should have jurisdiction over the behavior of student-athletes, coaches, and the programs they’re associated with.

It should do a lot of things, but it doesn’t.

Next time, we’ll focus on the NCAA and ask the questions that need to be asked. The first of those questions is the most obvious.

Why isn’t the NCAA doing anything to discipline athletes who commit crimes, particularly sexual assault, and the universities who shelter them?

Until we have an answer to that question, this crisis will continue to escalate. Consider that in 2016, college football leads all categories when it comes to athletes and crime, with 199 arrests so far and countless cases swept under the rug. After all, it’s just too fatiguing to hold athletes to the same standards as other human beings. They work outside in the sun and heat while the rest of us are sitting in the air conditioning. That’s what the DA said in Monroe, Louisiana, and the cops in Waco, Texas, and now apparently the same excuse holds true up in Minnesota as well.

If the athletes aren’t going to be held accountable, who should be? We know who our vote would be for, and in the next installment of this series so will you.

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NCAA Fact or Fanatic: Athletes, Universities, and Crimes Part 2 https://blogcritics.org/ncaa-fact-or-fanatic-athletes-universities-and-crimes-part-2/ Tue, 20 Dec 2016 21:23:55 +0000 http://blogcritics.org/?p=5466686 it has become patently obvious that at Baylor, the safety of all its students was never the priority. The safety of those who played on Saturdays in McLane Stadium was the priority and the focus of the "culture" at Baylor University, and everyone bought into it.

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fact-or-fanatic350pixels_use-this-oneWelcome to Fact or Fanatic, where today we continue our in-depth look into college athletics and how universities and the NCAA handle the growing problem of corruption, bad behavior, and sexual abuse. This problem is so widespread and so malleable that everything’s gone to pot since we published the first installment.

For example, in our previous column we extolled the Army-Navy game and how it represents everything good about college football.

Sorry about that.

As the Wake Forest spy ring story increases in scale, it appears that Army – along with Virginia Tech and Louisville – received Wake’s offensive game plans in the week prior to those games. So, our bad. We got sucked into the annual pageantry of the Army cadets versus the Navy midshipmen, and completely failed to discern that while the players were everything good about the game, the coaches were not.

For shame.

In fact today the NCAA decided to fine both Louisville and Virginia Tech $25,000. Wow. Those amounts are so huge for programs that make hundreds of millions of dollars annually, we’re sure no one else will ever stop and say no when a disgruntled play-by-play announcer offers a coach his opponents’ game plan. Cheating, at least, hasn’t evolved as quickly as some other faults. It’s not that different from a situation involving Tennessee and Florida, a Kinkos, Ron Zook, and Steve Spurrier two decades ago.

Still lame.

In addition, the past few days have been uber-busy in Minnesota. Ten players were suspended for the bowl game due to a sexual assault investigation. The case, which allegedly implicates six players as participants in the assault, wasn’t prosecuted due to a lack of evidence. All six players were suspended, but so were four more. That on its own is bad enough, but what happened next is worse: The remainder of the Gophers’ football team announced they would “boycott” the bowl game and “stand in solidarity” with their teammates.

Wait – what?

The Minnesota football team announced they would boycott all practices for the bowl game and even the Holiday Bowl itself. For a couple of days it looked like the bowl was in jeopardy, until Saturday when the Gophers finally capitulated. The night before, the players were made aware of the details in the 80-page Equal Opportunity And Affirmative Action report that laid out why the 10 players had been suspended. That report, allegedly, was the catalyst for the players and the university reaching a compromise that would send the remainder of the Gophers to the bowl game.

The players also released a statement in which they acknowledged that sexual assault was unacceptable and that all women should be treated with respect, but – you know. Might have been nice if they’d thought that first BEFORE they decided to take a stand beside their teammates who blatantly didn’t share that point of view.

Both these new disasters play right into what we’re going to break down in this second installment of our series on NCAA athletes, criminal behavior, and who’s to blame. Our guests Laura Leigh Majernik and Kevin Lindstrom will be adding their expertise to our inquiry, and we are hoping to dig even further in our attempts to disinter the real roots of this ongoing disaster.

We last discussed the tragically flawed situation at Baylor, the entitlement displayed by Stanford University rapist Brock Turner, and the impact both situations have had upon college athletics, fans, schools, and media. This time, and with the addition of these two latest scandals, we’re going to expand our focus a bit and concentrate on one aspect that is a constant in all these cases:

The coaches.

The Buck Stops Here

President Harry Truman’s mantra is as applicable today as it was when he okayed the nukes that were dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima to end World War Two. In college athletics, there’s a definite hierarchy of power and the coaches are the first power position in the chain. The coaches know their athletes intimately. They see and interact with them on a daily basis, season and off-season. They establish the code of conduct they expect their athletes to hold to, and if that code is violated they determine the first disciplinary actions.

But in the world of big-money college sports, coaches are kept busy doing all sorts of things in addition to the coaching they must do week to week: practice, scrimmage, meetings, and so forth. Many big-name school coaches have weekly television and radio shows on the local stations, and appear on sports-related media from ESPN to the college newspaper.

They are pseudo-celebrities in the towns that host their schools, and must make an appearance at every important school event. Have to keep both the media and the boosters happy, after all. Even during the height of the season, they are recruiting – setting up trips for recruits and their families to come to the campus, take in a game, hang with the current team in the facilities, and so forth.

And let’s not forget the community service these coaches are expected to do. They invite children with disabilities or challenges to their practices, or meet groups of them on the sidelines before a game. Recently, for example, Tennessee head coach Butch Jones and several of his best-known players went to Chattanooga to meet the kids who’d survived a tragic bus crash the day before. Urban Meyer at Ohio State has paired with the Ohio Treasurer to create a system where the disabled can save money against future expenses. Every school has a story of its coach affecting positive change in its community, and that’s something we cannot overlook.

The positive impact these coaches have upon their communities is indisputable.

But beneath all those shiny PR moments lies big-time coaching’s soft, dank underbelly. Coaches affect more than you might think, and if a coach goes off the rails the program is not far behind.

The Petrino Effect

We write fantasy, so we love epic stories of disaster, love gone awry, and betrayal. Thank all the gods we have Bobby Petrino to keep us amused, because he’s a fantasy epic George RR Martin would revel in. Petrino’s history is one of the most checkered in college football history, between job-hopping, recruiting weirdness, and bimbo biking. But no one could have seen adding cheating to that list. The fact that no one could have seen it means that someone should have suspected it, because Petrino is that kind of coach.

Yes, we know Cardinal fans. Louisville hired Petrino the first time, and he got the school to the Orange Bowl and thinking big before he jumped ship to coach Atlanta (where he managed to last only 13 games before bailing out and returning to the college game at Arkansas). After a motorcycle accident shamed Petrino out of the SEC, he managed to last one season at Western Kentucky before getting re-hired by Louisville.

Here he is once more, ready to launch his Cardinals against LSU in the Citrus Bowl, and what happens? His staff (yeah, right) accepted information from a disgruntled former Wake Forest assistant-turned-play-by-play-announcer without his knowledge (like we’re going to believe that) and got poor old Bobby stuck in a brand new mess.

Of course.

Bobby Petrino is the poster boy for why neither the fans nor the media can wholly trust a college coach anymore. In the days of yore, no one would have dreamed of questioning iconic coaches like General Robert Neyland, Bear Bryant, or Bobby Bowden. But the birth of the 24-hour news cycle and the instant reporting capability of online new sites has made it correspondingly more difficult for coaches to have that nod-nod wink-wink relationship with the press that some of those old-school coaches claimed as a benefit to their offices. We no longer trust our coaches and we have no reason to.

Fans monitor flight traffic sites to see who their coaches are going to see – or conversely, which coaches are coming to be seen. Every minute of a coach’s press conference is covered on live stream, which gives the media the chance to color or taint the coach’s message at will – while the coach is still talking. And for a coach like Petrino, everyone becomes a journalist ready to break a new scoop.

This kind of sports media free-for-all is prevalent throughout college football, except for one place.

Waco, Texas

Waco is a small city, with fewer than 130,000 residents and a pleasant blend of small-town virtues and big-city amenities. Trip Advisor’s list of things to do there includes several museums, the Cameron Park Zoo, and the Texas Rangers’ Hall of Fame. At #9 on that list is a place that may sound familiar: McLane Stadium, home to the Baylor Bears, almost literally the “house that Art Briles built” at an astonishing cost of $266 million. The stadium is a fitting home for one of the nation’s elite programs, and an equally fitting monument to one man’s ego and power in this otherwise friendly and deep-rooted city.

For some reason, that 24-7 monitoring wasn’t going on in Waco. While Baylor football players were committing crimes and perpetrating sexual assaults, not one member of the local media reported on what was obviously a systemic problem at the university. And although alleged assault occurred as far back as 2011, it wasn’t until August of 2015 that Texas Monthly broke the story with “Silence at Baylor.”

A must-read article, by the way.

Not until that article was it confirmed to everyone who was whispering uncomfortably about the Baylor scandal (and in specific the Sam Ukwuachu case) and to the world at large that yes, the coaching staff at Baylor knew exactly what was going on, and didn’t give two shakes of a dog’s tail that they were bringing a sexual predator onto their campus. After all, why should they? The curtain of secrecy was drawn so tightly around the Baylor campus that everyone from the local media to the boosters to the alumni to law enforcement seemed to be in on it.

Let us be frank. Regardless of the full-page ads, the banners of support hanging from luxury suites at McLane, and the fervent protestations of anyone even peripherally involved with Baylor football, the chances of any coach, athletic department employee, or administration employee being unaware of the ongoing problem are slim to non-existent. The legwork required to hide such criminal acts is prodigious, which makes the Baylor Campus Police and the Waco Police Department also suspiciously negligent. In fact, PBS reports that a 60 Minutes report claimed an alleged “history of Baylor campus police and Waco authorities burying reports of sexual violence.”

Former Title IX Coordinator Patty Crawford sent a request to the Waco Police Department, asking for the records of any reported sexual assaults on Baylor students. She received an email from the Baylor Vice-President of Campus Safety that the WPD “do not want the actual police reports turned over to Title IX” – another example of university obstructionism that led to her very public resignation in October.

That VP is Reagan Ramsower and here’s what he said to CBS Sports about Crawford’s claims:

Ramsower said the Baylor campus police department he oversees had a history of burying sexual assault complaints that came to them.

Keteyian asked Ramsower about the investigation into the incident report. “Nothing ever happened for well over a year. What happened there? Was there an investigation? And if not, why not? You have a police report – ”

“There was a police report; I suppose it stayed with the police department,” Ramsower said. “It never came out of the police department. That was a significant failure to respond by our police department, there’s no doubt about it.”

Doesn’t it make you wonder?

Doesn’t it make you think about how the university was able to keep all this under wraps? And if Art Briles had avoided just one mistake – offering Sam Ukwuachu a position at Baylor after he was off Boise State’s team for being abusive to his girlfriend – he might still be sitting in his office today, the gloried head coach of an elite program, and no one besides the victims, the perpetrators, and the officials involved in the cover-up would have any idea that the Baylor athletic department was manufacturing not ways to win on the field, but ways to encourage players in their entitled behavior, and teaching them that with enough money and power anything can be made to no longer exist.

Baylor wasn’t producing future pro football players. Baylor was producing serial rapists and batterers. And the coaching staff and administration were in it up to their eyebrows, especially Briles.

As Laura Leigh Majernik points out, “The alleged crimes happened under his watch. For him to build the success of the Baylor football program to the level he did, he had to have a close watch over all the activities of the program. Consequently, he has culpability for the alleged crimes. He allowed this behavior to continue. He accepted transfers who were known to have abusive pasts.”

Her opinion gels with what Brenda Tracy, sexual assault victim of the 1998 Washington State gang rape case and advocate for tougher sexual assault penalties, observed during her visit to Baylor to talk to the football team about the victims of sexual violence. It wasn’t until after her talk with the athletes that a Baylor assistant coach pulled her aside and once again exposed that curdling, rotten underbelly of Baylor’s real agenda.

“He said this wasn’t a football issue. This was an issue on the rest of the campus. And he just went on and on that [former head coach] Art Briles did absolutely nothing and this was all unfounded and nothing happened and they were being treated unfairly and there was some conspiracy going on against Baylor football.”

This “conspiracy” was evidently huge. Ousted Baylor President Ken Starr claimed in August that Art Briles was the real victim of the Baylor rape scandal.

“A grave injustice was done to Art Briles,” Starr said of the coach’s firing, going on to say that he takes issue with media descriptions of Briles’ behavior. “Coach Briles has been calumnied…it’s completely unfair.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AeXnNsnnwcQ

Briles himself seems to agree, if you take his “apology interview” with ESPN as anything other than a blatant ploy to render him a legitimate candidate for a big-time coaching hire. An interview, we might add, where he never uttered the words “rape” or “sexual assault.”  His lawsuit against Baylor last week asserts that the university and Baylor officials entered into a conspiracy to libel him and make him into the scapegoat of the ongoing scandal. The suit also contends:

that purported lies about him reflect a media strategy hatched by “spin doctors” at the public relations firm G.F. Bunting & Co. This company, which Briles not so gently directs the Texas court to observe is from out-of-state California, has “embarked upon a campaign of malice” against Briles, a native Texan. This “campaign,” Briles insists, “includes re-creation and invention of facts to manipulate public opinion and to cover the past and ongoing wrongdoing, mistakes and failures of the Baylor University Board of Regents.”

Briles also asserts that his inability to secure a new coaching job reflects a conspiracy by the defendants to dissuade other schools from hiring him.

Texas attorney Kevin Lindstrom offered his perspective on Briles when we asked about the coach’s potential culpability. “Unless the published information from the Pepper Hamilton Report is significantly inaccurate, he certainly contributed to the environment that led to the problem being systemic. If nothing else, it appears that his protection of the football program impeded investigations, and he certainly was not proactive about disciplining his players or coaches.”

We also asked if the response of the university, alumni, boosters, and fans was detrimental to both Briles’s case individually and the school’s. “To the second part, absolutely. We have seen it in multiple situations where cover-up and denial are making the efforts for justice more difficult, whether it be Penn State or Watergate. The aggressive nature of their denial of any wrongdoing by Briles, when compared to the suffering of the victims, is astounding to see.”

Coaching Pedestals with Feet of Clay

The local media in any big college town has dual allegiances. First off, if they want to survive in the post-print digital age, they must be able to attract the most views from their fan base. If you don’t think that absolutely impacts media coverage of college sports, then we’d courteously recommend a gut check – one thoughtfully provided by the International Business Times in its article “Sports Journalism in the Digital Age”:

With this explosion of information, however, come profound questions for the sports media industry and those who rely on it for news and entertainment. Technology has massively disrupted online sports journalism, bringing fans an unprecedented range and volume of content choices while simultaneously altering legacy business models in sports media. At the very least, sports journalists will continue to face powerful new competitors with unbeatable access. And one way or another, their old prerogatives will be challenged.

The Baylor case is one such episode, when old school journalism directly confronted new age media. During the five years of the alleged cover-up, local media never once undertook the investigative journalism that would have easily revealed what was going on. In fact, as late as this summer, Waco local television station KWTX-10 was still releasing articles with a decidedly pro-Briles and pro-Baylor slant. Apparently, “anonymous sources” report that:

Pepper Hamilton, the independent law firm the university hired to investigate the sexual assault scandal that engulfed the school’s football program, fumbled, according to university insiders and secret recordings of meetings with athletic staffers obtained by KWTX, which suggest that the firm’s investigators came to Waco with an agenda to purge members of the football program and had a racial undertone in their line of questioning.

Yes, you read that correctly. Apparently there are racial overtones present when a woman says “No.”

But here is where the flaws of the journalistic model are grossly apparent. In an age of mega-monster journalism like ESPN or Fox Sports, so many stories are reliant upon first being reported by local media. If the local media is on board with the university and the football coach, then those stories that can cause a winning program to implode are not filed. It’s not until an external media source, like Texas Monthly, breaks the story that the national outlets get involved. And when that outlet is ESPN and Outside the Lines, the story isn’t just broken, it’s nuked.

Waco media isn’t alone in this type of turn-the-other-cheek behavior toward a big-name coach for a national football powerhouse. That’s the way it’s always been in college football, unless a coach’s transgressions are so huge that they can’t be hidden. Think of Ohio State coach Woody Hayes’s little faux-pas in the 1978 Gator Bowl, when he punched a Clemson player.

Those mistakes you can’t hide from anyone.

But in 1978, it took a coach hitting a player on national television for the public outcry to be loud enough for a legendary coach to get fired. Not until 1987 did the sports world learn what it would take for an entire program to get nuked by the NCAA, when Southern Methodist University received the “death penalty” for paying its players. The story was broken by the local ABC affiliate in Dallas, WFAA, and investigative journalist John Sparks. The ongoing activity at SMU was an open secret in Dallas, especially as it involved big-name players like Eric Dickerson and a cadre of wild and woolly boosters working in conjunction with the coaching staff of the Mustangs. As Sparks himself said in 2011:

The story culminated more than two years of work. SMU’s president, athletic director, head football coach and recruiting coordinator abruptly resigned, and by the time the dust had settled, the NCAA handed down the death penalty that led to the cancellation of SMU’s 1987 and 1988 seasons, the university changed its form of governance, boosters were banned for life, the Methodist Bishops investigated and the trail led to Texas Governor Bill Clements – who admitted he had known about the payments and had ordered that they continue even while SMU had been on probation.

So the behavior of Baylor alumni, boosters, and fans along with that of university administration, officials, and coaches perhaps isn’t that shocking. Perhaps that’s just the way it is in Texas, or the South, or college football in general. Perhaps the golden rule of CFB coaching is “don’t get caught” – advice Petrino obviously is incapable of following. Or “don’t fib about emails,” like BCS-championship winning coach Jim Tressel did at Ohio State. Or maybe even “best not take that recruit to your house for breakfast,” like Ole Miss’s embattled head coach Hugh Freeze did. But a lot has changed in our society since SMU got the first, last, and only death penalty administered by the NCAA to date. As Sparks remarked:

After it became clear that the death penalty decimated SMU’s football program, the conventional wisdom was that the NCAA would never again hand down such harsh punishment. So an atmosphere where no one was going to let the death penalty happen again provided the perfect haven for “anything goes.” No one was going to do anything about it. What better environment for those who would cross over the line to operate in?

Indeed. And now once again, the college football world is looking at a private, church-affiliated university in Texas and wondering if obstruction of justice for elite athletes who commit crimes merits the same punishment that another private, church-affiliated Texas school received 30 years ago for their blatant payment arrangement with its players.

But there’s an element to the Baylor case that sets it apart from the SMU case. While coaches were involved in the Pony Excess scheme, the impetus and financing came from boosters, and the case was broken by local media looking into the story for over two years.

At Baylor, the impetus for the alleged cover-ups originated within the university itself, aided and abetted by local law enforcement and ignored by the local media for five years.

“Let me first state my personal bias as a woman from Dallas who was in junior high when SMU was given the death penalty,” Majernik begins. “That said, let me also state that the accrediting agency claims Baylor failed to provide ‘appropriate fiscal and administrative control’ over their athletic programs.  Conclusion: YES, in my opinion, Baylor should receive the death penalty from the NCAA. SMU’s transgressions were nothing by comparison. The unfortunate part of such action is, of course, the players who did not commit any crimes but have to pay the penalty.”

Counters Lindstrom, “They have fired the enablers in the big leadership positions, which was not insignificant. We saw the president, athletic director and head football coach of a major college program resign or be terminated. How often has that happened? So to the extent that they recognized there was a significant issue and that current leadership not only wasn’t going to solve the problem, they were clearly contributing to it, they made very legitimate efforts.”

As an aside, we know two other places where the termination of the president, athletic director, and head football coach took place. One was SMU in the 1980s, and the other was Penn State just a few years ago when university president Graham Spanier, AD Tim Curley, and HC Joe Paterno all resigned or were fired. So it’s happened at least twice before. That being said, look at the gravity of both cases – and the Penn State case is one we’ll examine in depth in our next installment of this series – and that should reveal the scale of the Baylor situation comparatively.

Lindstrom continued: “On the other hand, clearly they have not been as aggressive about their Title IX program as they should have been, and they made a very selfish decision to keep the remaining coaching staff on board in order to not lose their players. While they are paying the price for that in some ways now, I sincerely hope that there were no other assaults or issues that any of those coaches could have impacted negatively, both for the victims’ sake and for Baylor’s.”

It didn’t quite work out that way, unfortunately. And Baylor’s lack of punishment for the assistant coaching staff under Briles’s regime has resulted in more embarrassment for the university in the wake of Baylor’s claim that Briles and other athletic department officials knew of a 2011 gang rape but didn’t report it.

Earlier in November, Briles’s son Kendal, the Bears’ offensive coordinator, and other members of the team’s staff issued a statement in which they claimed that the student-athlete’s coach had reported her rape to Judicial Affairs. They quoted that coach as saying that Art Briles had “handled the matter honorably.”

The Baylor “Culture”

Wow. The arrogance and insensitivity involved in Briles’s former staff releasing such a statement when confronted their current employer’s report is mind-boggling. If there were, for some reason, any lingering doubts that Art Briles’s influence permeated the entire investigative process during these events, or that it still hovers over like Waco like a miasma of doom, go ahead and set them aside.

There’s been a lot of talk about “culture” when it comes to the burgeoning disaster of sexual assault cases on American college campuses. In particular, culture is a hot-button word being utilized in cases allegedly involving student-athletes. But culture is a nebulous word, here used as a kinder way of saying cesspool or pigsty – a euphemism for what people are hesitant to come out and say.

art_briles_at_2014_press_conferenceAt Baylor, however, the euphemism “culture” is very specific. Baylor University was so invested in winning football games, in having top-tier facilities, in playing the big-money game of recruiting top tier athletes, in gaining the prime time television slots, in having Heisman trophy winners, in beating arch-nemeses like TCU or Oklahoma, in straddling the top of the CFB world, that the university created a culture where it was all right for their players to assault “just a few” women sexually, where it was all right to threaten a victim with disciplinary action if she didn’t play ball, where it was all right to make a quiet phone call to the Waco PD about those inconvenient little matters, where it was all right to obstruct justice in order to get those wins, get those top draft picks, and hoist those trophies.

In case you had ever wondered what the “culture” part actually means, there you have it. And no, we don’t have to backtrack and tuck an “alleged” in there before the word assault, because Baylor players have been convicted of those crimes already. The culture isn’t created by the music played at games, or the uniforms, or the nightclubs that let athletes in for free, or the palatial facilities big-time programs have for their players. The culture is created by the head coach and the assistants, the athletic department the coaches answer to, and the administration that oversees the athletic department.

At Baylor, the culture was solidified when in June of 2014, Art Briles defiantly accepted Sam Ukuawachu as a player on his football team in the full knowledge that the athlete had been dismissed from Boise State because of domestic violence – and then that player sexually assaults a Baylor student just four months later. That one move by Art Briles sealed his “culture” and his legacy, and the resulting disaster has unfolded as a result.

Because what did that one action express?

Come to Baylor, where we don’t care about your past and will help you evade future punishment by enabling and protecting you in the present.

“The safety of all students on a campus should be a primary concern for a university. No one should be above the law or given ‘special treatment’ for being a star athlete if they break a law. I do not think universities are providing safe environments, and support for victims, overall.”

Majernik’s point is a good one, and one that plays right into how we want to close this article. Because it has become patently obvious that at Baylor, the safety of all its students was never the priority. The safety of those who played on Saturdays in McLane Stadium – that was the priority and the focus of the “culture” at Baylor University, and everyone bought into it.

Except, perhaps, for the 17 women who are claiming to have been sexually assaulted by 19 football players. But certainly, Art Briles and his staff and the university they represented handled the matters honorably. Or as Shakespeare brilliantly put it in Marc Antony’s funeral oration in Julius Caesar:

The noble Brutus
Hath told you Caesar was ambitious:
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath Caesar answer’d it.
Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest–
For Brutus is an honourable man;
So are they all, all honourable men–

Unfortunately, there’s one more piece to this puzzle we have to investigate, one more element to factor into this issue, and that’s the role of the NCAA. Can we all at least agree on one thing? Regardless of the ominous silence resonating from the NCAA offices, the governing body of collegiate athletics must play a role in what happens next.

And to do that, there has to be a meeting of the minds between two diametrically opposed ideologies: big money sports, and Title IX.

The post NCAA Fact or Fanatic: Athletes, Universities, and Crimes Part 2 appeared first on Blogcritics.

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NCAA Fact or Fanatic: Athletes, Universities, and Crimes Edition, Part 1 https://blogcritics.org/ncaa-fact-or-fanatic-athletes-universities-and-crimes-edition-part-1/ Wed, 14 Dec 2016 19:53:07 +0000 http://blogcritics.org/?p=5466514 Army and Navy represent everything good about college football, and that's why their annual post-season game is such a pleasure to watch. But 2016 hasn't been a big year for the good side of NCAA athletics. Let's talk about Baylor.

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Welcome to NCAA Fact or Fanatic, where we’re fact-or-fanatic350pixels_use-this-onestoked that Army just broke the 14-year-old streak against Navy. It was a great game, and if your last name is Poe, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with naming your son Edgar. (Go Army! He had a great game too.)

Watching the military academies play is an annual don’t-miss pleasure for me. The teams respect each other. The attending cadets from West Point and the Midshipmen from Annapolis are polite, they are competitive but respectful, and their joy when they win is unvarnished and unrestrained. You don’t see a player punching a fan in the face (and then getting rewarded by being a Heisman finalist) or a coach stomping off the field without shaking his opponent’s hand.

Army and Navy represent everything good about college football, and that’s why their annual post-season game is such a pleasure to watch. But 2016 hasn’t been a big year for the good side of NCAA athletics.

For many reasons.

At several major universities with high-profile athletic programs, the news in the past few years has been embarrassing. The University of North Carolina’s academic fraud was exposed two years ago. Ole Miss’s academic fraud was supplemented by special benefits and illegal recruiting. Notre Dame recently self-reported its own academic fraud, and in August had six players arrested on the same day. The University of Alabama just this season had two star players (Cam Robinson and Tim Williams) arrested for drug and/or gun charges at different times.

Four different universities. Four different types of violations or crimes. And four times that college football fans have questioned the NCAA’s response to each specific situation. UNC has yet to receive any sanctions or punishment for the decades-long scam that allowed athletes (and other students as well) to skate past required GPA totals. Ole Miss voluntarily sacrificed scholarships – 10 to be exact – but the NCAA has so far been mum, and word is the Rebels are about to be slammed for allegations of a far more serious nature. Notre Dame was forced to vacate all wins from 2012 and 2013. As for Alabama, its stars sat out one game each against inferior opponents.

And then, there’s Baylor.

Let us be clear. Sexual assault on college campuses is a skyrocketing national problem. According to the Office of Civil Rights, which is part of the US Department of Education and is responsible for Title IX enforcement, 347 US colleges have been reported for Title IX violations. Of those cases, 57 have been resolved, leaving 290 open. (If you’d like to see the schools on the list, head to their website. Some of the schools are surprising.)

That’s a staggering number. But it doesn’t reveal the entirety of what we’re looking at here. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center tells us that one in five women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college. More than 90% of sexual assault victims on college campuses do not report the assault, while 63.3% of men at one university who self-reported acts qualifying as rape or attempted rape admitted to committing repeat rapes.

It’s an indisputable fact that Baylor’s not the only school with Title IX issues. What makes Baylor stand out is the prominence of its football program paired with probably the stupidest, most self-destructive behavior the school, its staff and administration, and fans could have demonstrated after the story broke. Considering that Baylor is a Baptist-affiliated private university, the outrage was proportionately higher. And as more details pile up and more women – including victims of at least four alleged gang rapes involving football players since 2011 – are added to the Title IX lawsuit against the university, we felt we needed better perspective on the Baylor case and the environment that incubated such behavior.

So we have brought in a pair of experts for their take on the issue: one male attorney and one female sports journalist.

Kevin Lindstrom received his journalism degree from Texas A&M and his law degree from SMU. He worked as a journalist for the Temple Daily News while getting his degrees and is now an attorney in Dallas.

Laura Leigh Majernik graduated from the University of Texas-Austin with a Bachelor’s degree in History, and received her Masters of Public Administration from the University of North Texas. She is an NCAA Special Contributor to NFLFemale.com and host of “Down and Dirty Sports” on AltConRadio. She lives in Dallas.

Some of our questions were sent to both Lindstrom and Majernik. A few were individual and pertained specifically to the insight they are best qualified to offer. We thought it important to have both a male and female point of view, one that answered to the law and the other to the media – and we feel the credibility each offers to the tangled Baylor web of disaster is necessary in helping to disentangle the web of craziness surrounding not just Waco, but the entirety of college sports.

Obviously, it’s going to take more than a single column to dig our way through everything, so this is the first component of our approach to the complex dilemma. This series of articles will be focusing on Baylor University primarily, but make no mistake: This is a national problem, and one that has reached unacceptable levels of prevalence.

“I find the Baylor football scandal a disgusting outrage and how it has been handled to be a travesty.”

art_briles_at_2014_press_conferenceMajernik didn’t mince words with her first assessment of the ongoing scandal. Lindstrom agrees.

“As background, I think big time football came to a small private college and no one was ready for it. There were not enough safeguards, whether that be in making sure the police departments knew the correct protocols, or Baylor’s Title IX office, or the athletic department. Add to that a win-at-all-costs mentality and some conscious decisions to bring in players even though there were legitimate questions about their background, and you have a recipe for systematic problems. As crimes were committed, the focus was on protecting the football program, not protecting the victims.”

We’re talking about a university where 17 women have reported domestic violence or sexual assault involving 19 football players in the past four years. So this isn’t some fluke we’re talking about. Baylor regents recently admitted there are 125 cases of sexual assault or harassment the university is currently investigating. 

One hundred and twenty-five. How is that possible?

It’s important to understand that Baylor University has been in active conflict with the requirements of Title IX for decades, as the Dallas Morning News reported in May.

Baylor has had a history of resisting Title IX, the 1972 law which barred sex discrimination on campuses that receive federal money. In 1974, when Baylor women couldn’t wear pants on campus, the school’s president called the law “the grossest grab for power in federal history.”

You couldn’t dance on campus at Baylor until 1996, couldn’t be part of a consensual sexual relationship or be homosexual until 2015. The university’s resistance to equitable treatment of male and female students is further complicated by a student code of conduct that is guided by restrictions on drunkenness, lewd or indecent behavior, students living together outside marriage, and

Expression that is inappropriate in the setting of Baylor University and in opposition to the Christian ideals it strives to uphold.

Yes, we’re choking on that last one as well. Baylor’s policies emphasize a “boys will be boys” mentality, while expecting girls to “act like ladies” – a pair of outdated, unrealistic ideologies for the 21st century. Its sexual conduct policy is equally out of touch:

Baylor will be guided by the biblical understanding that human sexuality is a gift from God and that physical sexual intimacy is to be expressed in the context of marital fidelity. Thus, it is expected that Baylor students, faculty and staff will engage in behaviors consistent with this understanding of human sexuality.

Why are these rules so important? Because while students and athletes alike are expected to follow them, they are the same rules that were used to browbeat sexual assault victims after they reported the rapes to the administration. In order to have an athlete dismissed or otherwise punished, the victim would be dismissed from the university as well.

“There is still a blame-the-victim mentality, and unfortunately, because there are a few very dramatic cases of false reporting, I think it’s harder to fight against it,” Majernik said.

Blame The Victim

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center:

A multi-site study of eight U.S. communities including 2,059 cases of sexual assault found a 7.1 percent rate of false reports (Lonsway, Archambault, & Lisak, 2009). A study of 136 sexual assault cases in Boston from 1998-2007 found a 5.9 percent rate of false reports (Lisak et al., 2010). Using qualitative and quantitative analysis, researchers studied 812 reports of sexual assault from 2000-2003 and found a 2.1 percent rate of false reports (Heenan & Murray 2006).

Obviously the true numbers of false reports are well below 10 percent. But that slim chance seems to be applied to almost every case of a star athlete accused of an alleged sexual assault. Not just at Baylor, either. Since the 2006 Duke lacrosse team rape case, every alleged assault by a star athlete is considered by the fans of that particular school to be a false claim by “cleat chasers” or “gold diggers” who entrapped the athletes into consensual sex and then reported the encounters as rapes.

brock_turnerOne of the more egregious examples occurred with Stanford University’s star swimmer, Brock Turner, who found an unconscious girl and raped her. Turner’s family inundated both mainstream and social media with statements like this (bolding mine):

His life will never be the one that he dreamed about and worked so hard to achieve. That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life. The fact that he now has to register as a sexual offender for the rest of his life forever alters where he can live, visit, work, and how he will be able to interact with people and organizations. What I know as his father is that incarceration is not the appropriate punishment for Brock. He has no prior criminal history and has never been violent to anyone including his actions on the night of Jan 17th 2015. Brock can do so many positive things as a contributor to society and is totally committed to educating other college age students about the dangers of alcohol consumption and sexual promiscuity. By having people like Brock educate others on college campuses is how society can begin to break the cycle of binge drinking and its unfortunate results.

That shifts the focus from Turner, the rapist, to the victim’s drunkenness and promiscuity in a classic “blame the victim” tactic that unfortunately has been successful in US courts for centuries. Turner’s sentence was correspondingly light. Six months in prison (he served three and was released), three years of probation, and lifelong registration as a sexual offender add up to a mild price to pay for a man who found an unconscious woman lying on the pavement and whose first thought was not to call 911 like any normal person would, but to remove articles of her clothing and have sex with her without her knowledge or consent. And as the victim said in her statement to the court (which we advise you to read in order to understand the horror of the process for victims of sexual assault):

It is deeply offensive that he would try and dilute rape with a suggestion of “promiscuity.” By definition rape is the absence of promiscuity, rape is the absence of consent, and it perturbs me deeply that he can’t even see that distinction.

We have to agree. It’s hard to call an unconscious woman promiscuous by any stretch of the imagination. The only thing more difficult to imagine is Brock Turner having a positive impact on anyone. Even the thought of him talking about alcohol and promiscuity is nauseating, and burgeoning with a self-righteous sense of entitlement that is apparently wholly genetic.

Apple…tree.

So inherently, there are societal issues in dealing with sexual assault, the criminal process, and particularly the status of being a star athlete at a large university and how that impacts investigations. As Lindstrom pointed out: “To be fair, because athletes are on a pedestal, there is the possibility of them becoming a target, and so to the extent that there should be safeguards against that, that makes sense. But surely there is a way to protect both the athletes and the general student population without allowing one side to get away with abusing the other.”

If there is a way to do that, no one has found it yet.

At Baylor, whose strict Christian code already forces the student body to try and disguise the normal pastimes and pleasures of young adulthood, victims were browbeaten into silence after reporting alleged crimes to the administration. As USA Today reported:

Investigators with the Pepper Hamilton law firm who dug into Baylor’s response to sexual assault claims determined the school’s rigid approach to drugs, alcohol and sex and “perceived judgmental responses” to victims who reported being raped “created barriers” to reporting assaults. Some women faced the prospect of their family being notified.

“A number of victims were told that if they made a report of rape, their parents would be informed of the details of where they were and what they were doing,” said Chad Dunn, a Houston attorney who represents six women who have sued Baylor under the anonymous identification of Jane Doe.

It’s no wonder that an estimated 90% of women who are the victims of sexual assault never report their rapes. It’s an easy defense strategy to claim a victim “asked for it” by the way she behaved, the way she was dressed, the way she talked, the way she presented herself – and somehow, legally, that translates into a examination of her past sexual history, a gauntlet the alleged rapist doesn’t have to face.

Reactions and Consequences

What really sets Baylor apart from the more than 200 other universities and colleges currently dealing with Title IX sexual assault claims is the incomprehensible support that the school, staff, football players, boosters, and alumni have given to the university – support that clearly demonstrates the ideology that wins are more important than students’ safety. Although the university president, athletic director, and head football coach were all fired or encouraged to resign, there’s been very little effort on the part of the university to rectify the culture of its campus – a culture where it’s a known fact that star athletes are going to be protected from the consequences of their own actions.

That culture is what led Baylor’s Title IX Coordinator, Patty Crawford, to resign in October. As Diverse, a website dedicated to documenting diversity in higher education, reported on October 5, 2016:

Patty Crawford told CBS This Morning that the university set her up “to fail from the beginning.” Crawford, who resigned Monday from her role enforcing the federal standards meant to prevent discrimination based on gender, said she received “resistance” from senior leadership but did not identify those leaders.

Baylor officials marginalized her by leaving her out of meetings, undermining her authority and making decisions that should be left to a school’s Title IX coordinator, she said. The treatment led her to file complaints with both the university and U.S. Department of Education’s office for civil rights. Charges that she was the victim of retaliation are included in those complaints.

“I never had the authority, the resources or the independence to do the job appropriately,” she said.

The events that have occurred since the firing of Coach Art Briles and the resignation of former Baylor president Ken Starr seem to bear this out. Although Briles was forced out, his entire staff (including his son and son-in-law) remained through the 2016 season.

Prominent Baylor alumni ran a full-page ad in two Texas newspapers in June, thanking Starr for his “integrity, leadership, character” and “exceptional care for students and their well-being.” And believe it or not, they didn’t stop there. You can go to the website and personally send Starr a letter of gratitude and support.

Ten days later, alumni and boosters began a movement to bring Briles back as head coach. Briles was fired on May 25; the meeting of the regents where this movement was considered occurred about two weeks later.

baylor_university_june_2016_69_mclane_stadiumAnd let us not forget the Baylor-TCU game on November 5, to which fans were urged to wear black – and more specifically “Bring Back CAB” (“Coach Art Briles”) shirts. SBNation’s article showed long lines of people waiting to get their shirts, as well as Tweets from players.

Lindstrom weighed in on the matter with some strong words. “We have seen it in multiple situations where cover-up and denial are making the efforts for justice more difficult, whether it be Penn State or Watergate. The aggressive nature of their denial of any wrongdoing by Briles, when compared to the suffering of the victims, is astounding to see.”

Majenik agrees. “I look at the support for Briles from alumni and boosters with incredulity. I’ve said many times that if this happened at my alma mater, I would be outraged and would expect full reporting and the harshest punishments for those involved. I do not understand how a fan base can place the success of a football team over the survivors of crimes committed by the players.”

Let’s be frank. The odds of Art Briles not knowing what his players were doing, and particularly at a college with a set of the most ridiculous and unrealistic expectations for young adults’ behavior, are slim to nonexistent. This is borne out with the recent revelation that both Briles and former athletic director Ian McCaw were made aware of a gang-rape perpetrated by football players against a female athlete in 2012 – and neither did anything regarding the report.

Haven’t hit your outrage quota for the day yet? Liberty University just hired McCaw as their athletic director. Both Liberty and Baylor are Baptist-affiliated schools.

And Briles just last week sued Baylor for making him the “scapegoat” in the gang-rape case, a case where five football players assaulted a female athlete. The former head coach doesn’t appear to have any sort of regret or sense of personal responsibility when it comes to what happened on his watch. Apparently, he’s more concerned about his future in coaching, seeing as his lawsuit claims that Baylor officials are conspiring to keep him from getting another job.

Says Lindstrom: “Right now, it seems it is incredibly too easy for a school to do what Baylor did for FIVE YEARS. Five. YEARS. If you want to talk about potential liability, once you establish that there is a pattern, anything after when a reasonable person should have been aware that the system is allowing crimes to happen with impunity, I know I wouldn’t want to be in front of a jury trying to explain why I had enabled a football player to be involved in a gang rape of a student. That is the sickening thing, frankly, that it wasn’t just a one-off. This was a consistent pattern that involved more than ten students and more than 10 student athletes.” The truth of his statement is frighteningly, despicably clear.

Those five years were the most successful years in Baylor football history.

Those five years bankrolled the $266 million dollar McLane Stadium, where on November 5, 45,000 Bears fans blacked out the game just to receive a 62-22 ass-kicking from the Horned Frogs in a powerfully karmic manner.

Those five years saw Baylor’s first Heisman Trophy recipient, quarterback Robert Griffin III.

Those five years saw Baylor institute its Title IX office – in 2014, three years after having such an office was made mandatory by the Department of Education. (See Pepper-Hamilton’s report summary for more insight.)

College athletics aren’t blood sports, but they can create a few – and clearly did so at Baylor. The blood isn’t on display for everyone to witness. It’s a private exsanguination that occurs after the very public assassination of a victim’s character. It’s a bloodletting where the image of the university’s branding or the image of a star athlete takes precedence over doing what is not only right, but required by the law and by basic human decency. And while there are multiple universities who must accept responsibility for the blood spatter on their own campuses, Baylor University stands out as a coven of vampires, feeding from its victims, while hiding behind the mantle of the Baptist church to shield its transgressions.

A parasite.

“What is really frustrating about the Baylor matter to me, personally, is that everyone dropped the ball,” Lindstrom adds. “The media, the police, the school and the football program all failed the victims, and when it became a clear pattern, how can those involved not feel a sense of responsibility for the later victims would probably would not have been victims had they been doing their jobs?” Lindstrom’s comment leads to questions that cannot or will not be answered, which makes his vexation easy to understand. That’s why we’ll explore them more fully in the next installment.

But Laura Leigh Majernik expresses her dilemma in words that resonate with us, and probably will with you as well.

“I no longer look at the game of college football the same way,” Majernik commented. “I had very little joy in the 2016 season. Instead, I pulled the curtain back and saw what it is: a big money-making game. If any changes in the culture are going to be made, it will be on so many levels, from the field, to the school, to the press box. There are still a lot of men who don’t like women covering sports, especially football.”

“I had very little joy.” 

For some, those five words might apply to a disappointing season, or a loss to their school’s most hated rivals. But Laura Leigh Majernik is not only a true fan of the game, but a member of the sports media as well – and she states unequivocally that she can no longer enjoy the sport she loves so much. We know exactly what she means.

We opened this column talking about the Army-Navy game and why it was mandatory viewing for us because of the unvarnished joy the academies have when they win, and because they represent everything that is good about college football. In a year where there is an ongoing saga of athletes accused of committing crimes, it’s hard to come up with a way to reassure Laura that there are still joys to be found in college football.

Mostly because we can’t even convince ourselves. Or our daughters.

We will continue this ever-changing and ever-horrifying story in our next column, where we will evaluate the culpability not only of the universities, but of the NCAA in general. Ms. Majernik and Mr. Lindstrom both have more to say, and so do we. We realize this article is long, but the subject is too important to skim over. And when it comes to student safety on American college campuses, there’s no such thing as digging too deeply into these parasite-infested waters.

And that’s a fact.

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NCAA Fact or Fanatic: Championship Week Edition https://blogcritics.org/ncaa-fact-or-fanatic-championship-week-edition/ Thu, 01 Dec 2016 21:30:19 +0000 http://blogcritics.org/?p=5465782 How do you get to the playoffs without really trying? Lose one regular season game, and then sit at home and watch the conference championship game while resting your legs and preparing for whomever your ultimate opponent is in the playoff semifinals.

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Fact Or Fanatic350pixels_use this oneWell, glory be to Knute Rockne, it’s Championship Week! You know, the week when the conference champions are decided, and the bowl bids, and the playoff berths.

Usually, that would make this a very important week. But this year, that’s been diffused, thanks to a blocked field goal and an illegal play, which makes the conference title game rather meaningless in some cases.

That being said, this is the week where every single play might be the play – the 10 seconds that make the difference between a team meeting its preseason goals and returning home in utter and abject misery after failing to do so.

Makes it all sound so important, doesn’t it? This is also an important week for us, as we make our first picks of the postseason and look ahead to bowls and the playoff. Our picks record was at 39-16 after last week, which is none too shabby. For Rivalry Week, we selected 19 games to preview and predict, and ended up with a 14-5 record. So we’ll happily rest on our laurels with a 53-21 record for the regular season. Getting over 60% of one’s weekly picks correct is a record most pundits would be satisfied with.

But now, it’s a whole different ballgame. Now every game matters more than ever, because everything is on the line.

clemson_footballACC Championship: Clemson vs Virginia Tech

Make no mistake, Justin Fuentes has revitalized Blackburn, and the 23rd-ranked Hokies are on a tear. Fuentes looks poised to recreate the magic he made at Memphis, by bringing the excitement and vigor back to Virginia Tech. But this week, they’ll face their toughest competition yet – a title match against Dabo Swinney’s Clemson Tigers.

You folks know how badly we want to go with the upset here. Clemson has looked vulnerable this season, and the young, opportunistic Virginia Tech team is well-suited to capitalize on the Tigers’ mistakes. But in the end this game will come down to which offense is better on the field, and Deshaun Watson is a hard quarterback to doubt in a game this big. He’s been there before, something none of the Hokies can boast. So we look for Clemson to win the conference title and keep itself squarely in the playoff mix.

Clemson 31 Virginia Tech 28

B1G Championship: Wisconsin vs Penn State

Is there a bigger letdown for a championship game than what the B1G is facing? The only one-loss team in the conference is staying home to watch a pair of two-loss teams play for the title and then most likely going straight through to the playoff.

Must be nice to be “the” Ohio State University. You don’t even have to risk your players or your record on that 13th game. Basically, it’s the equivalent of resting your starters during the conference basketball tournament because you already know you’re going to the big dance. Nice, huh? There’s a chance that if Penn State wins, it’ll be put through. But most likely, the B1G conference champion will be headed to a New Year’s Six bowl, and not the Final Four.

This game is difficult to predict because neither team has been consistent this season. But Wisconsin has played a stronger schedule with better opponents and its defense is ridiculously good. Ever hear the old saw “defense wins championships”? It’s our opinion that won’t change in Indy this weekend.

Wisconsin 21 Penn State 10

oklahoma_state_football_-_bryant_ward_jeremy_smith_and_kendall_hunterBig XII One True Champion: Oklahoma vs Oklahoma State

Yeah, we know. The Big XII doesn’t have a championship game yet. If it did, it’s probable that one or both of these teams would be in it. What makes this game fascinating begins with the Oklahoma State-Central Michigan game, where an illegal untimed down after time had expired gave CMU the chance to win the game. If you want to be technical about it, the Cowboys are a one-loss team.

But both Oklahoma schools share a 9-2 overall record. The only difference is the the Sooners are undefeated in conference play, while the Cowboys lost one conference game. So we’ll call this a de facto championship and let it go at that.

In the long run, it probably doesn’t matter. The chances of a Big XII team making the playoff is slim, so what they’re really playing for is a Sugar Bowl appearance versus Auburn, the second-best SEC team. Statistically, these teams are nearly identical. Both have big offensive firepower, averaging over 500 yards per game, and porous defenses allowing over 400 YPG. So whom do you pick, then? We’re feeling scrappy, so we’re going against conventional wisdom and taking the Cowboys in a wild one.

Oklahoma State 44 Oklahoma 41

PAC-12 Championship  Washington vs Colorado

Okay, let’s have it. If you picked these two teams to meet in the title game, raise your hand.

Both of you.

The Huskies have rolled through the PAC-12 this season, knocking off teams no one expected them to. Despite a baffling loss to USC, their record is unblemished. Colorado, on the other hand, has two losses, one to B1G team Michigan and one baffling one to USC. Sound familiar? These teams, too, are almost identical statistically in offensive production. But their defenses have opposite strengths. Colorado has a lights-out run defense, and Washington’s high-flying secondary is stout against the passing game.

colorado_ralphie_iv_ksu_2006With ESPN’s FPI indicating that Washington has a 71.7% chance of winning the game, you have to wonder if they know something we don’t, because that percentage seems awfully high to us. Vegas has the Huskies as a 6 1/2 favorite as of this writing. We’re going to buck the trend.

Colorado 24 Washington 21

SEC Championship: Alabama vs Florida

What a shame. Although Florida has surprised college football for the second consecutive year and earned a trip to Atlanta, let’s be frank: sending the team in to take on a Crimson Tide squad that’s undefeated, is looking to repeat as national champions, and has one of the best defenses in college football history is kind of like sending a five-year-old as a tribute to the Hunger Games. Yeah, it’s a warm body, but it’s not going to survive the bloodbath at the cornucopia.

Jim McElwain, who is from the Saban coaching tree and was an offensive genius with his Colorado State program, hasn’t had a quarterback worth a darn thing the last two years. He’s got a couple percolating in redshirts right now that we’ll be interested to see this spring, but neither Austin Appleby nor Luke Del Rio is going to lead the Gators down the field against this Tide defense. Add to that the true freshman Bama QB Jalen Hurts, and you have a recipe for disaster.

Florida’s secondary is fond of bragging, but light on proving anything other than its vulnerability to the big pass play. The only way this game is close is if Saban takes pity on the Gators, and as we all know, Saban doesn’t even know what pity means. He thinks it’s a synonym for “style points.” An ugly, vicious, high-scoring beatdown of Florida is on tap for the least interesting title game of the season.

Alabama 56 Florida 9

Score of the Week

How do you get to the playoffs without really trying? Lose one regular season game, and then sit at home and watch the conference championship game while resting your legs and preparing for whomever your ultimate opponent is in the playoff semifinals. Who needs a B1G championship anyway? At this point, it’s just another banner.

Ohio State 85 CFP Playoff Committee 0

We’ll be back next week to analyze the bowl bids and playoffs and get a jump start on bowl season. Until then, kick back, relax, and watch the chaos kick in. As you know, we’re all about chaos. By the bowl selection show this weekend, you will be too.

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