Five years ago, Baylor Football head coach Art Briles was fired after reports broke out that he failed to properly address a sexual assault claim from a student. Half a decade later the NCAA has announced that after completing an investigation into the matter they have decided not to punish the school or any of the staff involved.
According to an NCAA review board, Briles and the university didn't violate its rules by their inaction.
Baylor was also faced with several other charges such as impermissible benefits and improper recruiting practices involving a female hostess group. For these charges, the University was placed on 4-year probation and had other recruiting restrictions placed against them.
The Bears are still allowed to compete in playoffs this year and did not lose any scholarships. Former assistant director of football operations Odell James was given a 5-year show-cause order as a result of his lack of cooperation in the investigation.
This is not the first time the NCAA has decided not to punish a school for not reporting a sexual assault claim.
In 2018, Michigan State women's gymnastics head coach Larry Nassar faced several charges of sexual assault. Nassar was found guilty and sentenced to 175 years in prison, however, both the school and program were not punished by the NCAA.
"Baylor admitted to moral and ethical failings in its handling of sexual and interpersonal violence on campus but argued those failings, however egregious, did not constitute violations of NCAA rules," the committee reported. "Ultimately, and with tremendous reluctance, this panel agrees. To arrive at a different outcome would require the [committee] to ignore the rules the Association's membership has adopted -- rules under which the [committee] is required to adjudicate. Such an outcome would be antithetical to the integrity of the infractions process".
The panel claimed that despite their personal feelings towards the incident, in order for them to punish the University they would have to go against the punitive bylaws.
Former Head Coach Art Briles, who was at the heart of the incident, has been cleared of all NCAA violations against him according to his legal team. According to Briles’ lawyer, “The NCAA's decision today clears the way for Mr. Briles to return to coaching college football”.
The report cited the culture of non-reporting and ignorance as to the reasons why no individual was directly found guilty. It seems like the entire program had taken keen to turn their backs on any sexual assault claims. The report did state that Coach Briles and others did not meet the minimum expectations of how any leader should react to claims of sexual assault in their organization. Despite this, they could not find any offense that constitutes a level I or II NCAA violation.
Despite not being found guilty of any NCAA violations, the findings, in this case, create a deeply disturbing image of the culture of the Baylor Athletic Program. Both Baylor and Briles will need to work tremendously hard to help earn back the trust of the college sports community.