News is filtering out that Baylor University will fire President and Chancellor Ken Starr in response to sickening reports that the school at best ignored and at worst interfered with investigations of sexual assaults by football players. There are also accusations that the police succumbed to pressure to keep players available to play. If you think you’ve heard this story before that would be because you have.
This same tune replaced Rocky Top in Knoxville Tennessee this off-season as allegations arose of a culture of sexual assault among the athletics department mostly notably within the football program. As in the Baylor case, it is alleged that officials at the University of Tennessee chose to protect football players. And, of course, similar accusations played out in the New York Times about Florida State University and the school’s handling of rape allegations against Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston. We all remember the horrendous events that involved the Penn State football program.
At least Penn State took action. They fired all involved, even legendary head coach Joe Paterno. Would they have fired the coach if the issue had surfaced when JoPa was in his prime? Probably not. FSU did not distance themselves from head coach Jimbo Fischer. In fact, the school insulated their coach nearly perfectly from the scandal. Text messages have surfaced of what appear to be extremely questionable exchanges between head coach Butch Jones at Tennessee and a player accused of assault. The tone the few days following the news of those texts was that it would be hard for Jones to keep his job, but he is still the coach of the Vols and there is no indication that is going to change The Vols are the sexy pick (bad choice of words?) to win the SEC East this season.
Which brings us back to Baylor. It certainly appears that Ken Starr will be out as president of the university. However, it looks as if everything possible will be done to make sure that head football coach Art Briles does not get swept away in the scandal. Baylor was as close to irrelevant as you can be as a Division I football program when Briles arrived in 2008. The coach built the program into a national contender and the school has poured millions of dollars into upgrades in the stadium and facilities to take advantage of the team’s success. The school does not want to lose the momentum that Briles has built within the program.
Of course, Baylor University will say all of the things that Penn State, Tennessee and FSU said with the central theme being that they take the safety of their female students very seriously and their well-being is more important than the football team. But, if the Bears keep Briles, their actions will say the exact opposite. It is impossible for President Ken Starr to have protected guilty football players without head coach Art Briles being aware or more likely involved in the process. By firing the president and keeping the head football coach, Baylor is announcing to the world that football is INDEED the most important entity on the campus. There is simply no other way to view such actions.
So why are our college campuses so rampant with sexual assaults by athletes? The answer is pretty simple really. The players have been given a pass on their conduct most of their young lives because of their talent. They believe the rules do not apply to them and what we are finding out is that in many cases at the collegiate level they are correct. Coaches want to win, badly. Winning football games means job security and millions of dollars to a head coach. This recipe is very easy to see. A girl or woman makes an accusation. The coach asks the player about it and he says it is not true. There are no witnesses nor is there any real evidence at the coach’s disposal so they choose to believe the player. That is the decision that keeps the winning in place. It keeps the paychecks coming. Add in the fact that in some college towns as we have found in Tallahassee FL and Waco TX the police seem all too willing to soft sell the investigation if it might hurt the local football program. This is a recipe for disaster.
With all that said, I feel compelled to point out the other side of issue. Sometimes, the women lie. This may come as an earth-shattering shock to some of you but SOME women can be vindictive and vicious when they don’t get their way. You might have heard something along the lines of, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned…” Accusing a man of sexual assault can ruin his life and there is no way to ignore the fact that women will sometimes use that to get revenge. We all remember the Duke lacrosse case. A woman lied, an ambitious DA ignored the evidence and rushed to a public judgment to further a career and some innocent young men had their lives ripped apart. While nobody wants it to become too difficult for a rape victim to accuse her attacker, there has to be more than one person’s claim to destroy a young man’s character forever. With so much grey area to hide in, it is easy to see how everyone involved ends up taking the path that best suits them in the long run.
This is a difficult balance to attain and right now some schools across the country are battling with how to deal with what seems to be growing into an epidemic. I know of at least two schools right now which have players suspended where police have already dropped the cases against them but the schools are erring heavily in favor of caution in their own investigations. I hate it for these players if they are indeed innocent but I agree with how the schools are handling the situations. It is time to find a way to handle these things correctly. Perhaps it is time for college athletes to grasp the concept of not putting themselves into these situations where things can be misconstrued. Players need to be smart about where and with whom they end up in the wee hours of the morning. Try a little restraint.