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Baylor avoids NCAA punishment for sexual assault scandal, gets probation for football-related violations

The NCAA’s Committee on Infractions could not conclude that Baylor violated NCAA rules when it failed to report allegations of sexual and interpersonal violence on its campus. However, during its investigation, the NCAA found other impermissible benefits and recruiting violations that occurred between 2011-16 for which it has decided to penalize the Bears.

“Baylor admitted to moral and ethical failings in its handling of sexual and interpersonal violence on campus but argued those failings, however egregious, did not constitute violations of NCAA rules. Ultimately, and with tremendous reluctance, this panel agrees,” the infractions panel said in its decision. “To arrive at a different outcome would require the [committee] to ignore the rules the Association’s membership has adopted — rules under which the [committee] is required to adjudicate. Such an outcome would be antithetical to the integrity of the infractions process.”

The NCAA found that a Baylor football student-athlete who committed an academic violation was not reported for failing to meet an academic performance plan. The university also operated a predominantly female student host program that did not align with NCAA recruiting rules. Finally, a former assistant director of football operations (Odell James) did not meet his obligation to cooperate and violated ethical conduct rules when he did not participate in the investigation.

As a result, the NCAA levied the following punishments for Baylor: 

  • Four years of probation.
  • A $5,000 fine.
  • A reduction to 30 football official visits during the 2021-22 academic year.
  • A three-week ban on unofficial visits in football during the 2021-22 academic year.
  • A two-week ban on football recruiting communication during the 2021-22 academic year.
  • A reduction of football evaluation days by three during fall 2021 and by 10 during spring 2022.
  • A five-year show-cause order for the former assistant director of football operations. During that period, any NCAA member school employing him must restrict him from any athletically related duties unless it shows cause why the restrictions should not apply.
  • A vacation of all records in which student-athletes competed while ineligible. The university must provide a written report containing the contests impacted to the NCAA media coordination and statistics staff within 14 days of the public release of the decision.

Baylor was in its ninth month of waiting since its hearing before the NCAA Committee on Infractions. Typically, cases are supposed to be decided 6-8 weeks after hearings. Baylor officials had become increasingly frustrated at the length of the case which had reached almost 34 months since the school was served with a notice of allegations in October 2018. 

Included among those allegations was a lack of institutional control charge for Baylor as coach Art Briles was charged with failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance. The case against Briles centered around whether he played or practiced players who hadn’t gone through the school’s adjudication process after being accused of wrongdoing. However, Briles did not face any penalties in the the committee’s decision. 

Critics of the process said the Baylor case resembled the NCAA’s handling of the Penn State case. In both, an argument can be made the NCAA had no oversight into the specific wrongdoings at those universities. Those involved were either criminally prosecuted, fired or both. 

One source told CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd that when Pepper Hamilton, a law firm and third-party investigator, became involved there had been 100 cases of alleged sexual assault or sexual harassment on the Baylor campus. The source said 92 of the complaints were outside the football program. Still, the Bears’ football program was a focal point for the scandal. In 2016, university regents said that 19 former football players were accused of sexual or domestic assault by 17 women from 2011-16 and that four of those accusations involved gang rapes. A 2017 lawsuit against the university from victims allege the numbers were much higher, upwards of 31 players and 52 incidents of rape. 

Some accusations eventually led to convictions.

Among them, former Bears defensive end Tevin Elliot was sentenced to the maximum 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine in January 2014 for sexually assaulting a former Baylor student in 2012. Sam Ukwuachu, a transfer to Baylor from Boise State in 2013, was also convicted in 2015 of sexually assaulting a female Baylor soccer player. Ukwuachu was then granted a new trial by Waco’s 10th Court of Appeals based on “false testimony” used by the prosecution, but the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals reinstated the conviction last year. Former Bears defensive end Shawn Oakman was indicted by a grand jury on charges of second-degree felony sexual assault in 2016, but he was found not guilty in 2019. 

In response to the allegations, Baylor hired Pepper Hamilton to conduct an investigation into the claims made on school grounds. A summary of the findings was released in May of 2016. Virtually every coach and administrator who would have been involved has either been arrested, fired or departed Baylor.

Briles was fired in May 2016 and paid $18 million in compensation by the school. Briles’ attorney, Scott Tompsett, believes the NCAA’s decision clears the way for his client to return to college football. Former athletic director Ian McCaw and president Ken Starr resigned from their respective positions amid an investigation into the scandal. Briles and McCaw have maintained that the sexual assault was a campus-wide problem. McCaw is now the Liberty athletic director, while Briles last coached at Mount Vernon High School in Texas. 

Baylor is still facing 15 Jane Doe Title IX lawsuits from anonymous alleged victims who say the school didn’t do enough to stop their assaults, according to the Waco Tribune.

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