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?
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.