Accused players not interviewed during lengthy BU investigation

(Baylor University photo/file)
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) The scathing report by the Pepper Hamilton law firm after its eight-month investigation of the sexual assault scandal that engulfed Baylor’s football program refers to a “potential pattern of sexual violence by multiple football players.”

But KWTX has learned that none of the players that the law firm’s attorneys named in their interviews with various athletic department employees was ever questioned in connection in what was described as a “detailed, thorough and rigorous” investigation.

In fact, sources with inside knowledge of the football program told KWTX that to their knowledge, the investigators didn’t interview even a single player.

Although the law firm expressed concern about the “tone and culture” of the football program, sources with direct knowledge told KWTX that the firm’s investigators never spent any time around the team or at the football facilities, and instead conducted all the interviews in a room in Pat Neff Hall on campus.

”Pepper Hamilton didn’t ring a bell”

One source said he told the investigators during an interview that he had no knowledge of accusations involving football players, and then asked the investigators if they had talked to any of the accused players.

One investigator responded, “No we haven’t, but we know it’s true,” the source, who asked not to be named, said.

Sources interviewed by Pepper Hamilton provided KWTX with the names of the players whom investigators identified as having been accused of sexual assault.

Several of them were linked to an incident in which our sources confirmed that no complaints were ever filed.

KWTX contacted all of the players the investigators identified during the interviews and each of them said he was never contacted during the law firm’s review.

One player said he didn’t even know he’d been accused of an assault.

Another said he wasn’t interviewed, and added that “The name Pepper Hamilton didn’t ring a bell.”

Nor did investigators identify either of the only two players ever convicted of rape during Briles’ eight and a half-year tenure.

Tevin Elliot was convicted of two counts of sexual assault, for raping a former Baylor student in 2012.

Elliot was kicked off the team shortly after coaches learned about the first sexual assault allegation, in April of 2012, three days before he was arrested and charged with the crime.

Sources told KWTX that head coach Art Briles made the decision to remove him from the team.

After his arrest, the NCAA allowed Elliot to transfer to Central Arkansas, where the head coach said he’d be suspended one game for the incident at Baylor. It was that August, while Elliot was a player at Central Arkansas, that the McLennan County Grand Jury indicted him.

Sam Ukwuachu was convicted of sexually assaulting a Baylor female athlete in 2013.

A jury recommended probation for the former player, but a judge also ordered him to serve 180 days in jail.

Some regents were moved to tears

Exactly whom the investigators interviewed hasn’t been disclosed, but information released on May 26, when the school’s Board of Regents voted to suspend head coach Art Briles with intent to terminate, said the law firm talked to more than 65 people “including current and former employees and students, noting that the current and former students included individuals who identified as victims or survivors of sexual assault or dating violence.”

The announcement that Briles would be fired, Athletic Director Ian McCaw would be suspended and that Chancellor and President Ken Starr would be reassigned, came after the board heard a lengthy oral presentation from Pepper Hamilton.

Sources told KWTX the lengthy presentation was graphic, detailed and included multiple alleged incidents.

The presentation was so emotional that some board members were moved to tears, sources said.

One source with direct knowledge of the presentation said regents asked for notes, but were not provided with them.

No written report was provided by the law firm, but the university did release a 13-page “Findings of Fact” that summarized the firm’s conclusions.

Sources said Pepper Hamilton partner Leslie Gomez headed the team of investigators.

Gomez, according to her online biography, served as an assistant district attorney in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office for 14 years, specializing in sexual assault cases for more than 11 years.

Athletics was not the main concern

The “Findings of Fact” says investigators conducted a “high-level audit’ of “all known reports of sexual harassment and sexual assault reported through Baylor’s student conduct processes” during the 2012-2013, 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 academic years and found only a few cases moved forward to adjudicative hearings.

But the document focuses primarily on “reports of sexual assault by multiple football players,” and says, “The choices made by football staff and athletics leadership, in some instances, posed a risk to campus safety and the integrity of the university.”

In fact, however, as KWTX learned during our lengthy investigation, in a meeting with athletic staffers in late July, the first the university had with them after the scandal exploded, Baylor’s Title IX coordinator, Patty Crawford, said athletics was not the main concern.

“A very small percentage of our cases have anything to do with athletics”, Crawford said in the meeting, of which KWTX obtained a recording.

“And I've made that very clear to our leadership. This is not an athletics issue in the sense of violence and all these things, this is a human issue.”

Crawford pointed out to the staff that just two football players were of sexual assault during Briles’ tenure at Baylor, a fact that those we spoke with say was lost in the media frenzy.

In fact, the athletic department and university sources with whom KWTX talked say no player ever played football for Briles while accused of sexual assault.