Bernstein: Is Baylor Really Going To Get Away With This?

By Dan Bernstein

Remove the school president, and replace him with an indistinguishable man in the same suit — one who was as involved or even more involved in the wrongdoing in the first place. Then slide the ousted president to a cozy spot elsewhere to collect the same paycheck.

And the football program continues unchanged, unpunished and undisturbed.

That appears to be the plan for now at Baylor, the Baptist university that enabled multiple sexual assaults of female students by football players over a period of years, a growing story of endemic corruption exposed by ‘Outside the Lines’ that involves active obfuscation by school officials, coaches and even the Waco, Texas police department.

And this is the same school that had to recover from scandal in its basketball program in 2003, when a player was murdered by a former teammate and coaches tried to cover it up and frame the victim posthumously. Lovely place, right?

You’d think so from its self-description, as Baylor touts its “distinctive place in higher education — where research, scholarship and faith guide the mind in understanding the complex diversity of God’s creation and prepare the whole person for service and leadership.”

Per reports citing documents, the school and the local police conspired to keep secret a series of assault cases by football players, above and beyond those already known to have occurred under the watch of coach Art Briles and president Ken Starr, both of whom were notified of the alleged crimes by victims. The Waco police cooperated by hiding case files from public view to protect star players from investigation and prosecution.

Baylor has been pretending the whole thing is some kind of mere oversight or misunderstanding instead of recognizing what it is — a rotten criminal enterprise designed to protect football at all costs, even to the point of facilitating sexual assaults against students on campus. Their official comments in the wake of the reports have merely promised “improvements across a variety of areas.”

The latest informed speculation from those close to the story is that Starr would be shuffled over to a spot at the Baylor Law School, replaced in the interim by a deputy who also happens to oversee the campus police. And that’s it.

No word on any punishment whatsoever for Briles, whose players have been accused of raping or assaulting at least six female students since 2009. University regents commissioned an independent study of the situation and are said to be reviewing results before making any announcement about internally handled consequences.

The football team’s recent success — two Big-12 titles since 2013 — has brought a financial windfall that is currently insulating Briles’s operation. They recently unveiled a spectacular new stadium for the Bears, and reported official athletic revenues of $106.1 million in 2015, fueled primarily by football success.

That cash buys protection for rapists and assailants and the coach who wants them around.

This behavior by such a purportedly godly school would seem to fly in the face of its stated mission, “to educate men and women for worldwide leadership and service by integrating academic excellence and Christian commitment within a caring community.”

I have a different version:

“The mission of Baylor University is to create a dominant football team that makes as much money as possible, regardless of the effect it may have on the welfare of our students, particularly women. We will foster an environment of rampant, violent criminality and turn a deaf ear to the cries of victims. We pledge to pervert our Christian beliefs in the name of football, populating our campus with predators who are allowed to act with impunity.”

There. Fixed that for you.

Dan Bernstein is senior columnist on CBS Chicago and co-host of “Boers & Bernstein” on Chicago’s 670 The Score.

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