In the 2011 season, the Baylor University football team finished in the Top 25 polls for the first time since 1986. During the 2013 season, the team won the Big 12 Conference Championship and played in the Fiesta Bowl. This winning streak continued in the 2014 season. But while the Baylor Bears were winning on the field, university officials took little action to investigate allegations of rape and sexual assault by the student athletes. In a lawsuit filed in 2017 against the university, victims alleged that at least 31 of the team’s players committed 52 sexual assaults between the years 2011 and 2014.
One of the victims described going to Baylor’s campus police after she was assaulted. She was told there was nothing the campus police could do because the assault took place off campus. When she sought counseling at the university health center, she was told that no one could help her at the moment and to put her name on a waiting list or seek help off campus. One victim’s mother tried to reach out to football coach Art Briles and was told by his secretary that his office was aware of the alleged rape and they were looking into it. Briles never returned any follow-up calls from the victim’s father. An October 2013 incident did result in a June 2014 sexual assault indictment against football player Sam Ukwuachu. During his trial investigators disclosed that an internal university investigation had cleared Ukwuachu of any wrongdoing.
In a written statement, Briles insisted that he was not involved in any cover-up. He stated, “First that anyone…has been hurt, physically, sexually, emotionally, or spiritually is tragic. I would do anything in my power to try and prevent that. …I did not cover-up any sexual violence. I had no contact with anyone that claimed to be a victim of sexual or domestic assault.” He continued, “When I was alerted that there might have been an assault, my response was clear: the alleged victim should go to the police, report it, and it should be prosecuted. And I never knowingly played anyone with a sexual assault allegation.”
In the wake of investigations, Baylor released a statement to The New York Times that said: “There should be no doubt that, rather than worrying about its ‘brand,’ Baylor leadership has been focused on doing the right thing.” The statement continued, “No other college or university has made such wholesale leadership changes based on that self-examination. No other college or university has eagerly embraced an ambitious slate of 105 recommended changes.” In May 2016, Briles was relieved of his tenure as coach and university president Ken Starr resigned. Athletic director Ian McGaw also later resigned.
Football players implicated in sexual assault charges have left or been expelled. In June 2014, athlete Tevin Elliott was found guilty on two counts of sexual assault. In August 2015, Ukwuachu was convicted of sexual assault. A third athlete, Shawn Oakman, was arrested in April 2016 on charges of sexual assault and awaits trial in 2018.