Explosive recording captures tension between regents, BU coaches

Published: Aug. 31, 2018 at 5:00 PM CDT
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An explosive audio tape laced with profanity obtained by KWTX shows just how severed the relationship was between Baylor assistant coaches and members of the Board of Regents during a tumultuous football season in which head coach Art Briles was fired but his staff left intact after a 9 month investigation by Philadelphia-based law firm Pepper Hamilton into the school’s response to sexual violence at the university.

Portions of the never-before heard audio were quoted in a filing this week by attorneys for Briles in a response to a motion filed by a former Baylor student who claims she was physically assaulted by a former boyfriend and football player.

But now we’re hearing for the first time just how much emotion was involved in a meeting between then newly-hired Athletic Director Mack Rhoades, brought on after Ian McCaw resigned, interim head football coach Jim Grobe who replaced Briles, and members of the football staff left to coach after Briles termination on May 26, 2016, as the group was informed about a damning Wall Street Journal article posted just hours ahead of a Baylor football game.

“There comes a point we’re going to fire back! “We’re tired of this s***!” then Baylor Defensive Coordinator Phil Bennett yells.

“You can only eat s*** for so long. This board turned on us.”

The discord reached a boiling point as Baylor regents talked to the Wall Street Journal in the article published the day before Baylor’s road game against the University of Texas in 2016 in which regents released never before made statements including a claim that 17 women reported sexual or domestic assaults involving 19 players, including four alleged gang rapes, since 2011.

“I don’t know how many of you are aware of the Wall Street Journal article that just came out, okay,” Rhoades starts the meeting by saying. “It was posted online at about 2:34 p.m. I think.”

Most coaches on the tape appeared to have already read the article which would create much back-and-forth between the staff and their athletic director for the next 23 minutes.

The article included a quote by Regent Cary Gray in which he said “there was a cultural issue there that was putting winning football games above everything else, including our values.”

Gray’s comments set off a firestorm among the football staff who passionately argued the statements were without merit and at one point a coach even referred to Gray as that “little punk motherf*****.”

“When is someone going to stand up? I have been here 6 years!” Bennett yells. “This s*** did not transpire the way they’ve painted it and they’re saving their a****. When are we going to come out and say enough Is enough?”

The coaches discussed the comments by the regents to the paper and took issue with pretty much everything said adding that Gray’s comment in which he said, “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,” was intended to make the public think Briles was covering up assaults.

“But that has nothing to do with sexual assaults,” a coach yells. “That was about missing class.”

“MIP’s,” another coach chimes in.

The coaches took issue with not only the timing of the article, but also insisted that it was Baylor and its newly hired PR firm GF Bunting who instigated the press.

“The university, I can tell you because I was part of the discussions, the university did everything they could to try and get the Wall Street Journal to postpone this article until after our game tomorrow,” Rhoades told the group.

“You all were in this article, I can tell you. You were in this article. And I’m not asking for a thank you or a pat on the back or anything but I’m asking you to at least acknowledge the fact that we fought like hell to get you out of the article.”

But the coaches didn’t seem to be buying the story.

“Our regents are the ones doing the discussing,” one coach is heard saying. “The PR firm got the Wall Street journal to do it!”

The football staff then turns their attention to Pepper Hamilton.

“When are they going to be exposed? I will make it my life goal to get those bastards!” Bennett says. “I said it, they’re racists. I am the one, and I’ll tell everybody, I am the one they f****** asked why do we have so many blacks.”

“And the reason they don’t let you record it. They want to f****** put their own spin on it.”

Another coach can then be heard saying.

“I was asked about blacks, too.”

When KWTX contacted Pepper Hamilton in 2016 about those claims the law firm denied a question about race was ever asked.

At one point Bennett, the most vocal of the staff, became so frustrated he suggested to Rhoades canceling the rest of season in which the team was undefeated at the time.

“You know what they ought to do? They ought to cancel the rest of this f****** season. Fire us all and pay us!”

The talk reached a fever pitch when Rhoades shouts at assistant coach Chris Achuff who had raised his voice to express concern for the staff.

“Wait a minute I’m not done,” Achuff says. “ I’ve been keeping my mouth shut!”

“Hey Chris! You better f****** be respectful, right now. You lower your f****** voice!” Rhoades yells.

Bennett intervenes to defend the coach saying he’s got a family and three kids to take care of.

“He’s had enough,” Bennett says.

“I know he has and so has everybody in this G** d*** room!” Rhoades responds.

“But you haven’t lived it like I have,” Bennet says.

“And you know what. I know that!” Rhoades responds.

“Don’t raise your f****** voice to us because I’m gonna tell you something , that bulls*** works two ways,” Bennett quips in response.

Bennett asks Rhoades if he thinks what's being done to the staff is "right."

"No, I don’t think it’s right. I don’t think it’s right. I don’t. Okay," Rhoades said.

"I hate it . I hate it for each one of you because you’re good people and you’re helluva football coaches. I will do everything I can to help you. You’re not walking in my shoes and I’m not walking in yours but I’m trying to understand. Okay, I will do everything I can. This fight ain't over. I’ll do everything I can to try and help this group and if that means I got to call every freakin’ 126 AD’s and tell them that these are good people and they deserve to be hired then you know what I’ll do that. I’ll absolutely do that."

"You are good people in this room and I have great respect for you because of the way you have handled the toughest, damndest situation that anybody could have gone through, that it’s been about these kids."

Interim Coach Jim Grobe isn’t heard throughout much of the discussion but calmly addresses the staff at one point applauding them for what they’d done in the face of so much adversity.

“Well guys, you know, honestly the very best thing you guys have done, amazing, is kept the kids first,” Grobe said. “The kids have not gotten caught up in all this. There is not anybody who could have done a better job than you guys have done up until this point keeping the kids out of it, coaching them and letting them go play football and I know it’s hard.”

The conversation ends abruptly with then Offensive Coordinator Kendal Briles reminding the team they have a job to do.

“That’s all right, we’re gonna kick Texas' a** tomorrow. Let’s go.”

The Bears lost 34-35 in what became their first loss of the season.

Baylor released the following statement Friday in response to KWTX's story and the release of the recording.

"Our focus is not on the events of two years ago, but on supporting Coach Matt Rhule and the 2018 Baylor football team," said Jason Cook, VP Marketing & Communications/CMO, Baylor University.