The reality is football has become entirely too powerful, particularly on college campuses, and the continuing sexual assault scandal at Baylor University proves it.
While football can be a source of much happiness, excitement, and passion, too much of a good thing can sometimes lead to trouble. Loving something so much can often blind us to the fact that serious, troubling trends and behaviors exist just beneath the glamorous surface. We look away, we rationalize it, or we dismiss it as an aberration – determined not to let these imperfections ruin the game we love so much. In doing so, we compromise our principles. New reports indicate there may be even more instances of sexual assault than originally reported.
The Baylor football program grew into a national powerhouse on the field throughout the last five years, winning Big 12 championships, securing recognition as one of the nation’s elite programs, and building a brand-new $266 million stadium. We now know that off the field, school administrators and members of the coaching staff were busy pushing allegations of sexual misconduct involving their players under the turf to save face and to protect the program, regardless of the consequences.
A report released last year suggests Baylor failed to respond to accusations of rape or sexual assault on at least six occasions. Additionally, two former football players, Tevin Elliott and Sam Ukwuachu, were found guilty of rape. The report alleges that Baylor officials knew about these occurrences, yet none of the players involved faced any disciplinary actions or missed any playing time as a result.
At the time of the report, the chair of the Baylor Board of Regents, Richard Willis, released a statement saying, “We were horrified by the extent of these acts of sexual violence on our campus. This investigation revealed the University’s mishandling of reports in what should have been a supportive, responsive and caring environment for students.”
Is it any surprise that the University “mishandled” the reports of sexual assault, particularly when their prized possessions who help rake in over $100 million in revenue per year are at risk of being charged with a rape? How would they continue to win championships if their star football players ended up behind bars? Common sense would say these accusations should be reported to law enforcement, but hey, money talks — far louder than ethics.
Baylor is the most recent, but far from the only, example of the power football holds at many universities, often to the detriment of the greater university community.
A similar scenario of “moneyball” played out at the University of Missouri in the fall of 2015. An “oppressed” graduate student, Jonathan Butler, decided to go on a very public hunger strike until the university president, Tim Wolfe, resigned or was fired. That’s right, a rich black kid decided to starve himself until the white university president was removed from his position because, as Butler claimed, the school hadn’t done enough to make the campus a “more safe, welcoming and inclusive environment for all identities and backgrounds.”
Aside from a few small publications, no one seemed to care about this kid’s sanctimonious crusade to simply get what he wanted — including his school’s administration — until, you guessed it, the football team got involved. In a show of solidarity, the football team decided to join the strike because “Injustice Anywhere is a threat to Justice Everywhere.” The team released a photo of the players standing together, arms linked, and a statement that said they would no longer practice or play until Wolfe was removed from office “due to his negligence toward marginalized students’ experiences.”
It was a convenient time to strike, as the football team neared the end of an embarrassing 5-7 season. Nevertheless, the University immediately panicked. If their players didn’t show up that Saturday to play BYU, the school would have lost $1 million in revenue. So what happened? Did the school grow a backbone and refuse to be bullied? Hell no. The cowardly administration caved in to the self-righteous demands of a group of children because it feared losing the revenue to be garnered even in the midst of a dismal season. It prioritized money and power over principle.
So the question is, if a university can’t even effectively handle a hunger strike when its football team becomes involved, what leads anyone to believe it is capable of adjudicating very serious cases of sexual assault?
Even those who support universities’ primary role in handling these serious cases — allegations that, were they to occur outside the university environment, would be under the jurisdiction of our criminal justice system — have difficulty reconciling their preferred policy outcome with the reality that is taking place.
For example, in a 2016 piece written at Slate, Nora Caplan-Bricker argued that this crisis proves colleges should handle rape cases rather than leaving them to the criminal justice system. Perhaps unwittingly, she weakens her case by airing a laundry list of the shortcomings and failures on the part of school to effectively bring justice to the victims of these heinous acts. Coach Briles, University President Kenneth Starr, and most likely a slew of other school officials repeatedly turned a blind eye to the accusations of sexual assault on their campus and within their football team.
Caplan-Bricker even concedes that “Briles and his team were enabled by the school’s administration,” meaning it wasn’t a situation of the football team acting as a rogue organization within the university system. The administration and the football coaching staff were all well aware of the situation and did nothing to rectify it. In fact, it appears that the administration and the team colluded to try to ensure that the crimes would never come to light.
The Left frequently attributes any disparities in the outcomes of the criminal justice system to systemic abuse or systemic failure. But, in the case of Baylor or other universities where football is king and systemic problems are readily apparent, how could it be the answer to continue to vest these compromised institutions with the power to address these most serious of cases?
That would be like throwing more money on failing government programs that are ill-equipped to address the problems they were supposedly created to solve.
The evidence and the trends are clear to anyone willing to acknowledge the reality staring us square in the face. Universities are not courts of law. They do not exist outside and separate from the laws of our nation and our states. Their charge is to educate our nation’s future. Criminal misconduct should be handled by the criminal justice system that we, through our elected officials, have created.
Sexual assault is serious, but schools do not seem to be giving the issue the serious attention it and its victims deserve.
At the time of this article’s original publication, the Department of Education was investigating more than 100 colleges and universities for their mishandling of sexual assault cases. These schools stand accused of a wide array of corrupt and inadequate behavior, including failure to enforce no-contact orders between perpetrators and victims, failure to respond to sexually predatory behavior, and more. It’s evident that school systems are just not up to the heavy task of ensuring justice is served and their students are protected.
To be sure, not all of this can be attributed to the corrupting influence of football and the power, influence, and royalties it allows many universities to accrue. But there appears to be a growing trend of hearing more about the cover-up of players’ illicit behavior than whether your university’s Cover Two defense can contain the opponent’s offensive attack.
Like millions of Americans, I love football. I bleed blue and gold for my Mountaineers. But we have to get our priorities in order. No win on a Saturday afternoon is worth the costs to the victims of sexual assault. And no championship is more important than adhering to the principles that ensure fair and equal treatment under the law.
To ensure the accused receive due process while also protecting the victims from potentially faulty campus procedures, these highly sensitive cases must be investigated, tried, and punished by law enforcement. It’s the only way to ensure justice is served, even if it means a losing season.
Summer Ratcliff is Conservative Review’s Washington D.C. editor. Follow her on Twitter @SummerRatcliff.