Big 12 accepts report of independent review of BU, levies $2M fine

(Big 12 photo)
By  | 

WACO, Texas (KWTX) An independent review of changes to Baylor’s athletic procedures and governance has been completed, the Big 12 Conference’s board has accepted a report of the review, and the school will again participate fully in revenue distributions, the conference announced Tuesday.

The university must pay the conference $1.6 million in legal fees and a $2 million fine, however.

The Big 12’s board of directors voted unanimously Monday to accept the 103-page independent verification report regarding Baylor’s return to compliance with conference bylaws, the conference said in a press release Tuesday.

”The Verification Team is of the opinion that Baylor has in all material respects structurally completed and practically implemented the (105 Pepper Hamilton) Recommendations as of the date hereof. Whether the recommendations that require future action or are aspirational in nature will continue to be implemented in a sustainable manner will only be verifiable over time,” the conference said in a press release Tuesday.

“On behalf of the entire Board of Directors, I want to thank Baylor president Linda Livingstone, athletics director Mack Rhoades, and their staffs for their cooperation during this Verification Process,” said Big 12 Board of Directors chairman, and West Virginia University president Gordon Gee.

“We are in full support of Baylor leadership and have confidence they are moving the university forward from this chapter”

The conference announced in February 2017 that its board of directors had voted unanimously to withhold 25 percent of future revenue distribution to Baylor pending the outcome of a third-party review of changes to the school’s athletic procedures and governance.

To date the conference has withheld about $14.2 million from Baylor’s revenue distribution.

Of that amount, $1.6 million will be used to reimburse the conference for the costs of the independent review.

The rest will be invested for 48 months and the net earnings will be distributed equally to the 10 conference members annually to fund “campus-wide and athletics prevention efforts focused on sexual and gender-based harassment and violence, intimate partner violence, and stalking, including, but not limited to, programming addressing healthy relationships, LGBTQ+ discrimination, and bystander awareness,” the conference said.

At the end of the 48 months, the conference’s board of directors will determine the amount to be returned to the school less a $2 million fine “for reputational damage to the Conference and its members,” the conference said.

Baylor president Linda Livingstone, in an email to supporters, said the announcement “provides another testament to Baylor’s unwavering commitment to the safety and security of our students, faculty and staff through our training, education and response efforts within a caring community.”

The results of an NCAA investigation into the scandal are still pending.

"The conclusion of this review provides a welcomed sense of finality to this process," athletic director Mack Rhoades said in a statement late Tuesday afternoon.

"We echo President Livingstone’s sentiments in the significance of appropriately handling and responding to this important issue. The Big 12’s recognition of our progress is another reflection of the work of our current team of coaches, student-athletes, and administrators. We remain committed to preparing champions for life, and our hope is that other institutions will see the steps that we’ve taken and will make a similar commitment to the prevention of sexual assault and interpersonal violence," he said.

Baylor hired Pepper Hamilton in September 2015 to conduct an outside review in the wake of the first in a series of scathing ESPN reports on the school's handling of well publicized campus sexual assault cases involving two former football players.

The firm briefed university regents on May 13, 2016.

On May 26, 2016, following a nine-month investigation by the Philadelphia based law firm Pepper Hamilton, Baylor regents released the 13-page Finding of Facts statement and a list of 105 recommendations from the law firm, and announced the firing of head football coach Art Briles, the reassignment of Chancellor and President Ken Starr, and the suspension of athletic director Ian McCaw.
Four days later, on May 30, McCaw resigned saying he needed to step down in order to help the university heal and move forward.
McCaw is now the athletic director at Liberty University in Lynchburg. Va.
Starr resigned from his position as chancellor on June 1, 2016, and severed all ties with the university in August 2016.

The 13-page written report of the findings of the review by Pepper Hamilton summarizes the inadequacies it found at Baylor with respect to inattention and misconduct by university administrators and leadership in the athletic department regarding Title IX issues.

By the time the report was released, the university was already in the process of is implementing an action plan that regents approved intended to prevent sexual violence on campus and to improve treatment and services "for all those impacted by interpersonal violence" to ensure "that the educational, physical, emotional and spiritual needs of victims are given prompt and priority attention.”