WACO, Texas (KWTX) For the second time in less than three months, a national sports radio host and activist is in Waco to talk to the Baylor football team marred by the school’s sexual assault scandal.
(Photo by Rissa Shaw)
Rachel Baribeau, host of SiriusXM’s College Sports Nation, held a meet-and-greet at Vitek’s BBQ ahead of her second meeting with the team she’s come to defend.
"I kinda joke and say I've become an unofficial mascot for Baylor football,” said Baribeau. “I don't think it's that so much as I was one of the only national people that was willing to come in here and dig deeper and find out what was really going on with the new administration and these players, and I was willing to find gold in them, ya know anybody can find dirt on somebody, I wanna be the person that finds gold."
Ironically, Baribeau is in Waco the same day Baylor announced Dr. Reagan Ramsower, the Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at the center of the school’s Title IX controversy, was stepping down.
Baribeaus said she wants change for Baylor, and she wants to be part of it.
“I want the players to be proud of that Baylor name,” she said.
The radio host calls herself an activist for “changing the narrative,” a movement she created a year ago after being ‘heartbroken’ by college football and all the negative news coming out of universities all over the country including Baylor.
“Instead of just sitting in my radio booth and talking about it, I’m a girl that does something about it, I’m a doer, I like to fix things and be a part of the solution,” she said. “Let’s take back the headlines for good, let’s set the world on fire with our good deeds.”
Her first football team to counsel was Florida State University, the next was Clemson two weeks before they beat Ohio State on their way to win the national championship against Alabama.
After Matt Rhule was hired as Baylor’s new head football coach in December of 2016, Baribeau reached out to him to share her message with the team.
“He and I had been talking since he first took the job trying to make this happen,” she said.
Months later it did happen, with Rhule inviting Baribeau to talk to his players in June.
"I said (to the players) ‘I’m sorry that you've been lumped-in, I'm sorry you've been called a rapist and all the things you've been called, and that your families have been bullied, I’m sorry,’ and I said ‘I believe in you, I believe that you are good men, I believe you're gonna change the world,’ and I'll tell you what, if you could literally see walls fall down in someone's soul, that's what I saw that day,” said Baribeau.
Following her speech, she said one of the players wrote a note to her.
“He said ‘thank you for coming for us, I thought everybody had forgotten us,’” she said. “I found young men that blew my mind.”
She said several of the players embraced her and sobbed because of what they had suffered through at the faults of others.
“Just for being associated with Baylor,” she said. “It’s been proven there are no players on this team that had anything to do with the atrocities, so why would I attack or not defend players that were innocent? That’s somebody’s son, somebody’s grandson, I will defend them to the death ‘cuz they did nothing wrong.”
Baribeau isn’t the first speaker invited to try to teach and inspire the team, but she says she reaches the players in ways others can’t.
“I think the talk helps them change their mind, find their purpose, live outside themselves, and I think that’s the difference,” she said.
“I think once you bond with them and you talk to them, and you encourage them versus talking at them…I speak their language.”
In her speech, she talks about how she started off only wanting to be a famous sportscaster, but became more than that, and how all types of women should be respected.
“If you want a queen, you have to be a king in all facets of your life, not just the football field,” she tells them.
“Even women who are not walking in their ‘queen-ness’ right now, maybe they’re sending them Snapchats of whatever, those women still, even though they’re not walking in their ‘queen-ness,’ you can respect them from an arm’s length distance.”
She ends by sharing her personal story of domestic violence.
“'This brave, bold woman also had a man drag her from one end of the house to the other, and there were six people in the house and no one helped me,' and I ask them if they would help me,” she said.
“For me, I think it’s showing them a bold, strong woman, then saying ‘I needed you to protect me, would you protect me?’”
Baylor athletics officials said Baribeau’s talk was impactful.
“Our football student-athletes were positively impacted by her first visit, and we are excited and blessed to welcome her back to campus,” said Mack Rhoades, Baylor Vice President and Director of Athletics.
"We are honored Rachel felt called to come to Baylor and share more of her important message about Changing the Narrative,” he said.
Her second meeting with the team on Thursday will focus on love, Baribeau said, and what it means to love one another.
“I’ve been called a domestic violence speaker, I’ve been called a sexual assault speaker--I’m neither of those,” she said. “I’m a speaker of purpose, passion, platform, and the way we treat and view women.”
In the coming months, Baribeau will be sharing her message with the football teams at Louisiana State, Oregon, and Ohio State.
“Because Baylor has been such a lightning rod, it has made other people realize the positive changes that are happening, the good young men that are here,” said Baribeau. “It’s also made other people aware of the issues on their campuses, and how we can really encourage these young men to be all that they can be.”
Baylor is the 14th college football team Baribeau has met with over nearly the last year, and says she’s proud of them and honored.
“I’ve seen their tears, their gratefulness and gratitude for somebody from the outside coming to fight for them,” said Baribeau.
“I came here and I found a bunch of kings.”