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After a painstaking five year investigation into Baylor’s sexual assault reporting standards, in which former head football coach Art Briles was scapegoated by the media as a monster, the NCAA has finally concluded that major rules were not broken.
While violations were uncovered, the NCAA panel “could not conclude that Baylor violated NCAA rules when it failed to report allegations of and address sexual and interpersonal violence committed on its campus.”
“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 panel admitted.
“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 case boils down to an examination of campus culture and the liability a single administrator is expected to shoulder in a scandal. If an athlete is given preferential treatment in any way, including being shielded from possible legal action in the case of a crime, then that athlete is said to have received an improper benefit, which is why the NCAA got involved in the first place. In the end, the NCAA determined that non-reporting of assault occurred throughout the entire campus, not just in the football program, and was thus not deemed an improper benefit.
Essentially, Briles was made the face of a dysfunctional culture that expanded well beyond his reach. Though the extent of his knowledge and involvement falls squarely into that gray, speculative space that yellow journalists covet for its salaciousness, Briles was fingered as the chief culprit. Cases like this are why we have a judicial process, why we are considered ‘innocent until proven guilty.’ But so often, the official narrative gets spun early without a clear examination of the facts. As a result, the accused never fully recovers in reputation or public offering. It’s impossible to know how much Briles really knew or how much he was covering up, but he was scapegoated nonetheless.
The entire story is indicative of our American discourse at the moment: rushed, hyperbolic, and lacking nuance. The Title IX investigations into Baylor uncovered all sorts of ugliness, but because the media ran with a solitary version of the truth, the saga will always be attached to a single man whose scope of involvement isn’t even certain. The media could never prove his guilt, and therefore should have portrayed him as innocent. However, they knew if they suggested his guilt enough, then consumers would eventually follow the ruse. It’s a sick, megalomaniacal game played by those who deem themselves as smart as the entire judiciary system.
What’s worse, the vast majority of those media members have likely bought into their own version of reality and won’t afford Briles any grace moving forward, despite the NCAA ruling. Why? Because he is a white man who once held a position of power and influence, and is thus easily destroyed in this overwrought pressure cooker of American resentment. Briles’ public tar-and-feathering served both the financial agendas of liberal writers as well as their own emotional, ‘ethical’ needs, the latter of which is strictly forbidden in the realm of fair and balanced journalism.
A return to patience and due process is paramount, both for the accused and for the victims. Without it, dysfunctional cultures of mistrust and runaway judgment flourish. The story of Baylor is one of a lack of integrity, but because the world reacted the way it did, that lack of integrity spread far beyond the borders of Waco, TX.