Regent: Facts don’t support biting newspaper report on BU sex scandal

Published: Oct. 28, 2016 at 6:55 PM CDT
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The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that the scandal that engulfed the school’s football program involved 17 women who reported sexual or domestic assaults involving 19 players including four gang rapes since 2011, but a prominent regent says only a handful of those allegations were proven.

Several sources say the biting article has caused a rift among the school’s regents.

The regent was present when attorneys from the Pepper Hamilton law firm briefed the board in May about the findings of its investigation of the school’s handling of sexual assault complaints.

“The vast majority of those allegations presented did not have facts to support them.”

On May 26, saying they “were horrified by the extent of these acts of sexual violence on our campus,” Baylor regents reassigned Chancellor and President Ken Starr, fired head football coach Art Briles and put Athletic Director Ian McCaw on probation in the wake of the scathing Pepper Hamilton report.

Briles and Starr have since reached settlements with the school.

McCaw remains on the Baylor payroll, but is no longer working.

Pepper Hamilton produced a 13-page findings of fact that didn’t identify any specific cases or name Briles or any other individual.

Baylor has maintained since May that it couldn’t provide any details about the specific cases in which Pepper Hamilton found university and athletic department failures, but five months later, apparently acting on advice of the Los Angeles PR firm G.F. Bunting+Co., made selected regents available for interviews with the Journal, the New York Times, USA Today and Showtime’s “60 Minutes Sports.”

An email circulated to faculty Friday warned of upcoming articles.

"We didn’t want you to be surprised by these publications and hope to put into context the flurry of media activity in this concentrated time period," the email said.

"The next few weeks may be difficult as more details about the University story are shared, but leadership believes this is an important step to take. As other resources become available, we will provide those to you."

Regents and the university have long insisted that Pepper Hamilton provided nothing in writing and that no recording of the presentation existed, and none of the regents to whom KWTX has talked in an ongoing investigation has ever made reference to a specific number of incidents, players or victims.

“Pepper Hamilton’s report was delivered in the form of an oral presentation that fully and comprehensively presented the individual and aggregated findings and the evidence supporting the findings,” interim Baylor President David Garland said in an open letter on June 3.

None of the regents to whom KWTX has talked over the past months ever made any mention of four gang rapes.

The only alleged gang rape that was mentioned in the law firm’s briefing turned out to have involved a female athlete who filed no complaints or reports after the incident.

“I think Coach Briles handled the matter honorably and with the serious attention it deserved,” the woman’s former coach later said in a sworn statement obtained by KWTX.

And none of the regents to whom KWTX has talked has ever indicated that Briles admitted any wrongdoing and several continue to say they’re unsure on exactly what basis Briles was fired.

But regents interviewed by the paper said that Briles spoke to the board on May 24 in a conference room in the Clifton Robinson Tower two days before he was fired.

“Art said, ‘I delegated down, and I know I shouldn’t have. And I had a system where I was the last to know, and I should have been the first to know,’” board member J. Cary Gray, a Houston lawyer, told the newspaper.

Gray has refused to talk to KWTX previously and when asked earlier to comment on KWTX reports, hung up on the reporter.

The regent who talked to KWTX anonymously Friday, however, said the board met by teleconference and that Briles called in as did other regents.

He said he has no memory of Briles admitting any mistakes in the delegation of duty, but instead recalls that Briles told regents, “In the future I will be the first to know about everything.”

The Wall Street Journal article cites one case in which regents told the paper that Briles knew about an alleged incident and failed to alert police, the university’s judicial affairs staff or a Title IX officer, but sources with knowledge of the situation say that incident didn’t involve a sexual or domestic assault, but instead a freshman recruit who was cited after he was found walking with an open can of beer.

The player was fined $150.

The paper did not report when that incident occurred, but Baylor did not have a Title IX office until 2014.

Baylor's records don't support reported number of assaults

Offense reports on the school’s website involving incidents on and off campus show five forcible sex offenses in 2013, five rapes and one case of fondling in 2014 and 23 rapes and 3 cases of fondling in 2015.

The school does not include data from 2012, but a Department of Education report shows one off-campus rape was reported that year, and that none was reported in 2013.

Simple assaults and domestic violence incidents are included in the data, but during the four-year period, the school reported a total of 11 aggravated assaults, according to the offense data.

The university told the paper that football players were involved in 10.4 percent of Title IX reported incidents in those four years, which suggests that members of the team were linked to only four alleged sexual offenses.

Tevin Elliot was convicted of two counts of sexual assault, for assaulting a former Baylor student in 2012. Elliot was kicked off the team shortly after the team learned about the first sexual assault allegation, in April of 2012, three days before he was arrested and charged with the crime.

Sam Ukwuachu was convicted in 2015 of assaulting a former Baylor soccer player in 2013. Ukwuachu transferred from Boise State to play football at Baylor after he was dismissed from that team in May of 2013.

Rami Hammad, offensive lineman for the Bears in 2015, was accused by a student of sexually assaulting her in his apartment early in the fall semester of that year.

Sources close to the football team said that Rami was cleared by Title IX in that case.

After the season, Hammad was charged with felony stalking in an incident involving his ex-girlfriend.

And former Baylor football standout Shawn Oakman, whose hopes of being picked up in the NFL draft were derailed by his April 13 arrest on a sexual assault charge, was indicted in July by the McLennan County Grand Jury.

No other players or former players have been charged.

In a meeting with athletic staffers in late July, the first the university had with them after the scandal exploded, Baylor’s now former Title IX coordinator, Patty Crawford, said athletics was not even 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.”

In an interview at the Texas Tribune Festival on Sept. 24th, Starr said the fact neither he nor Briles were fired for cause is key.

“I was not fired for cause. They honored my contract,” Starr said.

“So it was a decision, that we need someone else. It’s the board’s determination.”

Starr added in that interview that Briles was also not fired for cause.

“If there is a question of integrity, you fire the person for cause," Starr said.

“Art Briles was not fired for cause.”

There wasn’t “hint of a wrongdoing in handling a sexual assault” on Briles’ part found in the 8 ½ years of texts and emails that the law firm had access to, said lawyer Ernest Cannon, who represented Briles in settlement negotiations.

“To this day, I have no idea why Art Briles was fired”, Cannon told KWTX.