Baylor update

I won’t bury the lede here: Art Briles has a coaching job.

Though to be fair he actually is already coaching. He has a job in Italy as head coach of Florence’s Italian Football League team. (I am pretty sure they mean American football and not soccer. It must get very confusing when he tells any non-American what he does and where he is doing it.)

I am not sure what the Italian Football League is, who plays in it, what level of football it is. I am not sure how or when he got this job. I am not sure how much it all matters because Briles is coming back to the US–back to Texas in fact, where he will coach high school football.

High school football.

In Texas.

Art Briles.

The Mt Vernon school board unanimously approved him. They must think it is a coup. Or that enough time has passed. I don’t know. I am still in shock that people (as in more than one person) thinks it is ok for the man who assisted in the cover-up of sexual assault by his own players should have a job coaching teenagers. [Former Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III is supporting Briles’s “second chance.”] Some will say this is the start of his climb back up the ladder. I will ask: why wasn’t that ladder burned down?

[EDIT: I see that I missed this article from March about the job in Italy. There are two former Baylor players on that team and they continue to support Briles who continues to say he knew of no criminal activity committed by his players. Briles’s comment to the reporter about the Baylor scandal: “Do I think it’ll ever go away? Gosh, I hope. Of course, I don’t know. I spend a lot of time in the present.”]

When Briles had a head coaching job for about two second with a pro team in Canada, someone realized the problem with that and took it away. But that was Canada, and this is Texas. From what my students who watch Friday Night Tykes tell me, Texas football (at least as it is portrayed on this “reality show”) is equivalent to child abuse. So there is a “logic” one might argue in Art Briles getting this particular job.

And it might be important to note that Briles has coached high school before; in Stephenville, Texas in the 1990s. One of his players was accused of raping a female student there. The girl’s father reported it to Briles who said said he didn’t know what the father wanted him to do about it, calling it a “he said/she said” case. Not much seems to have changed. 

In other Baylor news:

Lawyers representing 15 women are trying to get the law firm Pepper Hamilton to release their report on the scandal. Previously, many believed that the board of regents at Baylor drafted a report based on the recommendations made by Pepper Hamilton. But it turns out the law firm wrote a report and summary. Connected to the lack of documentation, plaintiffs lawyers are none too pleased that the school is turning over relevant emails (that’s how they found out about the PH report) two years after the initial subpoena for documents.

A new(er) accusation against the school came from an assault in fall 2017–so after Briles left and as Baylor continued to vehemently argue that there was no sexually hostile climate at its school. A female athlete is accusing the school of mishandling her accusation of sexual assault against two football players. The woman’s friends had apparently joked with her about not getting raped by football players. [1. Not funny and 2. see above about sexually hostile climate.] In the lawsuit, the plaintiff claims she was victim-shamed by the Title IX office. One of two men was found in violation and expelled from Baylor and the school claims all parties involved in the incident are no longer at Baylor and that they followed the correct procedures in its investigation and sanctioning. So things seem a little unclear, though the main contention, based on what I read, is how the victim was treated by the Title IX office and the information that was shared about her and the incident during the investigation.

Why this matters:
Well of course because: Briles should not be coaching; sexual assault is wrong; systematic cover ups of sexual assault is also wrong; not addressing a sexually hostile climate is illegal.

But the news of Briles’s new job came out just as I finished the spring semester during which I taught sports ethics and sport and society. In all my courses we read Sexual Coercion Practices Among Undergraduate Male Recreational Athletes, Intercollegiate Athletes, and Non-Athletes. (I’ve written about this piece before.)

This semester I had a handful of students write in their margin notes: what about a study of female athletes assaulting men? Or asking why the survey the authors used did not use female athletes and ask them about their history of sexual coercion. In an essay about the ethical issues around sexual violence, a student argued that the punishment for false reporting of rape should be the same as the punishment for rape and that the issue of false reporting against athletes was practically an epidemic. This was a class in which they researched the scandal at Baylor. Briles’s seeming redemption is not going to help people take this issue more seriously. There is the perception that he is being punished (he is–rightly so) and that he is the fall guy (probably also true). The fall guy role is especially damaging in getting people to take this situation (at Baylor and more generally) seriously. The redemption this football coach gets is fueled by the same attitude that let all those players go (largely) unpunished by the school and all those victims suffer.