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Baylor Football: Why we should not expect a major punishment despite new lawsuit

The revelation made this past week about Baylor University fills another shadowy chapter in the annals of collegiate athletics, something that’s supposed to revolve around games meant to be fun.

However, what’s fun eventually involves money and where there is money, there is typically sex and power. Money, sex, and power are the three basic motives for wickedness and Baylor has all three involved in it.

To make money and turn a struggling football program around, former head coach Art Briles and the entire football program allegedly made the attractiveness of Texas women at Baylor University, implied promises of sex, and in some cases actual sexual favors as key elements in their pitch to bring recruits to Baylor.

The allegations include as many as 52 sexual assaults according to the anonymous plantiff, Elizabeth Doe. Baylor only admitted to 17 several months ago. So at a minimum (including ones that we can assume weren’t reported or known to Elizabeth Doe) Baylor is accused of concealing two-thirds of the truth.

Some of the details may be exaggerated and some have already been questioned officially, but this objectivication of women is quite outdated and disgusting. Baylor is an accredited and prestigious school in the state of Texas and expected to living up to its reputation of being a Christian school of good values. Instead, it turned into the Bunny Ranch and said to players: Do whatever you want.

The question that follows is what happens to Baylor’s football program? Most wonder if the death penalty (the NCAA’s version of eliminating the football team from a year of competition) will be applied. Other punishments included removed wins, Bowl games nullified, scholarships redacted, money given to victims or even indictments for crimes filed etc.

First, what has to happen is the charges are proven to where it’s believable that they happened to the NCAA. This isn’t a court of law with prison time at the end so the burden of proof level of “beyond a reasonable doubt,” isn’t the standard. Now, because the five-year statute of limitations of rape and other sexual assault crimes has not fully expired for the Briles era, criminal trials could theoretcially happen and then “beyond a reasonable doubt,” will be the standard burden of proof then.

I certainly attest that Baylor will most likely settle the lawsuit versus letting it drag out for years, especially since they are definitely guilty of at least a percentage of what’s been alleged. However, that is the only guarantee I can give to this scenario because quite frankly, this case was (and somewhat still) quite unique and frankly, a tad out of my depth.

To gain height so to speak, I spoke with someone in said depth. AKA Professor Michael McCann, who on the side is Sports Illustrated’s legal contributor. I’ve read McCann’s work for numerous years on a variety of legal topics involving sports and his skills at brevity and clarity are public gifts. Thankfully, I caught him while he was on Twitter and we had a brief social interview.

There you have it. Criminal charges are unlikely since there’s already been an investigation and sex crimes are hard enough to prove with physical evidence let alone without. Without new evidence, no one is going to prison as a result of the lawsuit (Shawn Oakman, one of the Baylor defensive linemen, is facing prison in a separate incident).

As to other significant punishments? Well, McCann gave reason to believe that the NCAA will significantly limit punishment. Sports organizations are notoriously lax on punishment; that’s just a fact because why would they sabotage the programs that make money? To be politically correct, they’ll make punishment, but will try their absolute hardest to justify a limited punishment. However, in this case, McCann presented logic that’s quite justifiable.

 

Now, I remind any and all readers that Prof. McCann’s thoughts were from a legal standpoint, not a personal one. I was not conducting a personal interview, so I didn’t ask his personal feelings. I wanted everyone to understand that his opinion is neutral while the public’s emotions about sex crimes involving children or collegiate students is charged. He is not saying that the molestation of children at Penn State didn’t warrant such reaction. But the NCAA used such an unprecedented reprimand and unprecedented things are often questioned because the essence of law is that no organization has too much power because power, in the wrong hands, does significant harm.

The NCAA got egg in their face and lost a lot of respect because four years later, Paterno’s wins were restored. The school is still arguably delusionally devoted to his “legacy” and Penn State football suffered for a while until this previous season. America forgot to stay angry at Paterno or rather didn’t get a chance to convict him for his crimes because he died when the Freeh report was announced, detailing his role in it. So how did Penn State’s punishment help the victims or hurt the people responsible?

Answer it didn’t really and another Twitter user, Samuel Stowers, submitted this to the conversation.

Stowers’ additional comment gives insight that was quite helpful to not invoking the death penalty. What happened at SMU was the school got the death penalty in 1987 and missed the 1988 season for illegal payments to players. The punishment wiped the slate clean and SMU football didn’t play in a bowl game until 2009 as a result. McCann agreed and I asked for permission to quote and received it.

Prof. McCann is right. It’s in the NCAA’s best interest to be careful. While the NCAA isn’t technically the United States government (even if it was established by Teddy Roosevelt), it still functions as a governing body for student athletes and like other organizations or businesses, it is still susceptible to the authority of the federal government and the Supreme Court. That’s why Title IX is applicable and why the NCAA doesn’t swing its weight around too much or else a lawsuit could get filed, end up in federal court, and a judge or a panel of judges could rule against them.

Life is not fair, but in their own particular way, the laws in the United States try to be fair and the NCAA follows suit. Whatever punishment is given, the NCAA wants to ensure that it is Briles, his conspirators, and the criminal athletes who are punished. Not the innocent student athletes. Not the innocent student body or academic departments of Baylor. Not the innocent community of Waco.

Sure we can sneer and act as if they had inclinations of knowing or everyone knew or what not. First, I guarantee you that not everyone knew. The more people who know, the overwhelming chance that it is found out and exposed. Second, it doesn’t matter because new students, student athletes, professors etc. who come through over the next few years shouldn’t be penalized necessarily for something they had no part of.

No no. What the NCAA could do, but I still doubt because of politics, is to ban Briles and the coaches they believe were involved in all this to a great degreee. But I’m not even sure if the NCAA has the authority to do even that. In the pros, there’s been cases of it. Donald Serling from the NBA, Gregg Williams from the NFL (though he was re-instated), and Pete Rose in the MLB, but those are professional organizations, not amateur athletes and their coaches. In my research, I cannot find one example of an NCAA ban of a single person. Not even Woody Hayes got banned for punching an athlete during a game.

However that’s the precedent that really should be set. These coaches used the female students as catnip and that is inexcusable and unforgivable. It shouldn’t be Baylor alone getting the brunt of this. Baylor is a school that changes staff. The specific staff behind all this needs to be addressed. Briles could theoretically get another job and several of these men have jobs in other football programs at other universities where there are attractive women residing. There’s the injustice of it all, folks. Ban them first.

If the NCAA can’t, it needs to go about adding such powers to do so because the corruption of collegiate athletics is not going to stop. Welcome to the future. Social media can shine light on the darkest of corners and there’s more money than ever before involved in college football so there’s your motive right there. Sex is always going to sell and power is always going to give certain people a rush. So the NCAA should look to addressing the realistic probability of future scandals that the public will want justice for by finding a formula that will present reasonable, legal, and strict punishments on those who commit offenses. Especially of the sexual nature.

 

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