Baylor Saga: Storm’s Comin’, Pa

I hope you won’t begrudge me the subtitle above or the fact that it’s been awhile since we’ve had a whole lot of new content. I have been waiting for the situation at Baylor to grow legs more than it had two months ago.

And now, it has.

It was last summer when the Texas Monthly story about Sam Ukwuachu broke. At the time, Sam was not a convicted rapist, though the evidence was damning. He was on trial for raping a Baylor soccer player, but his innocence was presumed. In some ways, the Baylor coaches presumed too much. The line to the public–and likely the board of regents–was that Sam was expected to play ball in the fall for Baylor. Turns out, there’s not a work release rider in the NCAA Rulebook.

The story indicated above broke out of the blue, partly because of the titular issue, Baylor’s silence. It was the seminal story that led to major outlets like Fox Sports, ESPN, Bleacher Report, and even Deadspin taking notice. While I won’t speculate on the motivations of these parties, it served to shine some of the brightest spotlights on Waco since the days following the siege of the Branch Davidians.

Over the course of the offseason, extensive facts have come to light regarding Baylor’s disgraceful handling of reports of sexual violence by its students; to wit: it’s football players. Several women have come forward alleging crimes of a sexual nature against Baylor athletes. The Dallas News has done a excellent job building a chronology of all the incidents. The sad reality is: there’s too much of it to keep track of. As of today, the Baylor Board of Regents is finally fed up (which is sad that it took all this to do it).

Art Briles, the head football coach, was fired today–technically, suspended with intent to terminate. Either way, the man is a greasy spot on the road in Waco.

Unfortunately for Baylor, there is blood in the water and Art’s scalp will not satisfy anyone who is half paying attention, nor will it absolve Baylor of any further obligations. The school has since self-reported these issues to the NCAA and Big XII. Now, the Committee on Infractions and Commissioner get to put it into high gear.

In cases of self reporting, most schools impose sanctions as a method of sidestepping the NCAA’s hammer. In most cases, it somewhat works. This is not most cases. Below is a list of things that I believe will happen to Baylor.

Death Penalty

Ok, sorry for being misleading. Baylor is not SMU 2.0. They are not getting the NCAA’s Death Penalty. While my personal feelings set on the belief that a suspension of all football for a calendar year would do the school some good, it’s just not in the cards. You see, te Death Penalty has an actual name in the Rulebook, the Repeat Violator Rule. And no, it is not deployed for when a team had players who repeatedly violate the law. Instead, the Rule aims to severely punish teams that are already on the receiving end of NCAA sanctions. If it did apply to criminal acts, the big three in the state of Florida would be FAU, UCF, and JU. Urban’s Florida, Bobby’s Florida State, and, well, Jimmy’s Miami would all have been dealt ample helpings of this, with some coming back for seconds. Moreover, consider Penn State and Sandusky. With all that happened, they lost scholarships, received a postseason bowl ban, and received a green light for athletes to transfer without having to sit out. Scholarship football was not suspended. It’s not in the cards either as Baylor hasn’t been sanctioned. Let’s talk about what will probably happen.

Show Cause

Briles has been fired, so we’re good, right? Not quite. Baylor exhibited an egregious lack of institutional control and this will likely be one of the citations from the COI. Briles’s termination has little to do with Baylor’s punishments, but you can believe they would be more severe if he retained power through this–I’m sure they tried every way possible to keep him.

However, with Briles fired, it seems like he can’t be punished because he has no scholarships to take away, no games to vacate.

“But wait!” you say, “He can’t just be allowed to start over scot-free.”

Not to worry, Straw Man Reader, he won’t. The first thing the committee will do is sanction him in the form of a punishment called a Show Cause. The Show Cause is my favorite NCAA punishment because it puts the onus of responsibility on the people in power. I’m a big advocate of holding athletes more accountable where they falter, but we do too little to punish their enablers.

The Show Cause does just that. This is a black mark that follows a coach around for a predetermined amount of time. The name comes from the definition in the sanction, as in the University who seeks to employ this person during their suspension period must show just cause to the NCAA as to why this person should be employed. Very few schools are willing to bear the stigma of hiring a coach during his sanction period. Fewer still are willing to endure the rigmarole that amounts to an appeal before the entire corpus of the Committee on Infractions to argue for the blessing of the NCAA to hire this person. This is a grown up timeout, and Briles has more than earned this penalty. He may have a Show Cause period of 5 years or more. Nothing but the worst for a man who met with alleged victims and then didn’t report the misconduct. Solid move, Art. Enjoy retirement.

Reduction of Scholarships

Too often the social just warriors who love sports decry punishments regarding the players because these kids weren’t the ones who committed the crimes. Well, that dog won’t hunt in this case. While the extent of the team’s awareness and involvement may never be known, the fact of the matter is that these allegations describe the actions of the players. The players must be held accountable, and the sport the school sought so strongly to protect that it traipsed right over the victim’s rights must be punished. A pound of flesh is owed here and the best way to do it is to hammer the school on their allowable scholarships for football players.

To limit collateral damage, the NCAA and DOE likely will not weigh this reduction against Title IX. Simply put, Title IX requires that schools work towards having the same number of scholarships for men as women. Most dual gender sports offset each other–baseball/softball, basketball, track. However, football is the sport that offsets the most women-only sports at bigger schools–volleyball, gymnastics, rowing–which is a cruel irony given the alleged actions of the Baylor football players.

The scholarship reduction will likely be at both the yearly level and global level. For instance, say there are 50 players allowed on football scholarship at any one time and that you get 15 scholarships per year to add new players to the pile. The NCAA could reduce these number to 35 total on scholarship and only 7 new players each year for the duration of the suspension. This hobbles the team for an extended period of time as recruiting is the most important element for building a multi-year team. This has the impact closest to the dreaded Death Penalty.

Transfer Waiver

The NCAA COI also has a tendency to allow players caught amidst sanctions to abandon ship without penalty. This takes the form of waiving the undergraduate transfer holdout requirement. So, Baylor players would be able to transfer as early as this summer, assuming this judgment comes soon. With the committee’s blessing, they would be eligible to play in Fall of this year.

Postseason Bowl Ban

This is pretty self explanatory. Baylor won’t be playing in a bowl game until Jesus comes back, and that’s a generous estimate.

Baylor took several steps to improve the situation today. The issue is whether this will be enough. Embattled Baylor President, Ken Starr–yes, that Ken Starr, has been reassigned by the regents and is now Embattled Baylor Administration Member Ken Starr. While he has been on the mob’s scalp list as president, the details are still unclear regarding how much he knew and when. He may not have know , but, as President, it was his job to know. I expect him to ultimately separated from Baylor, but the timeframe is unclear.

Almost all of the above has yet to happen, but firing Briles is the first major crack in the dam. The flood waters are building over it, and it’s only a matter of time before the wall fissures and gives way to the weight above it. For now, the university will be forced to bear the brunt of the deluge. But, actions have consequences, and Baylor, it seems, deserves to get crushed by this.

Some things are just more important than football.

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