The distractions may be getting to Baylor.
On the eve of Baylor’s latest football game, assistant football coaches disputed claims by school regents that former coach Art Briles knew of a gang rape involving a player. Then, as the 13th-ranked Bears got ready to play against TCU on Saturday, black T-shirts supporting the popular former coach were being sold outside the stadium.
Baylor then went out and suffered their worst home loss since 2005 when they fell 62-22 to the Horned Frogs. It was their second loss in a row after a 6-0 start.
“A lot of distractions don’t help,” acting head coach Jim Grobe said. “This is a game you really got to spend all your focus on for 12 games during the season to play well and if you don’t, this is what happens.”
On Friday night, 33 assistant coaches and staff members issued a statement on Twitter expressing their support for Briles, who was fired in May. It was the first time the coaches had issued any public statements about the series of sexual assault allegations at Baylor, some involving former football players.
Grobe said he didn’t know about the tweet in advance, but said he wouldn’t step in the way when the “coaches wanted their perspective known.”
David Harper and three other regents met with the editorial board of the Dallas Morning News on Thursday, and Harper said Briles knew of the allegations of at least one gang rape.
The assistant coaches, however, said the alleged victim had reported an incident to her sport’s head coach, who then reported it to ex-athletic director Ian McCaw. The coaches and staff members claim Briles wasn’t told for another nine months and that Briles told the victim’s coach to report the matter to police and to “prosecute the players if there was any wrongdoing.”
Briles’ attorney, Ernest Cannon, told the newspaper that Briles did “everything that he was required to” while at the world’s largest Baptist university and that the statement “indicates that they didn’t think that their leader was sinful.”
All of this was swirling before the game, when about 400 shirts with the hashtag “#CAB,” which stands for “Coach Art Briles”, were sold outside the stadium. A banner with those letters was flown from a luxury suite inside the stadium during the game.
“It’s tough. You don’t ever see anybody going through what we’re kind of going through, but we can’t use that as an excuse,” quarterback Seth Russell said. “We can’t let those outside things influence us in one way or another.”
There were also reports that Shock Linwood shoved an assistant coach on the sidelines during Baylor’s worst home loss since 62-0 to Texas 11 years ago. And this came a week after a one-point loss at Texas, which followed a Wall Street Journal article when regents first provided some of the details about the allegations.
“I hate to make excuses, but I really don’t know how to put my finger on that,” Grobe said, when asked about all the things happening off the field.
An outside investigation found 17 women who had reported sexual or domestic assaults involving 19 Baylor athletes since 2011, including four reports of gang rapes. The investigation by Philadelphia law firm Pepper Hamilton found some players at the private school were alleged to have participated in a series of assaults over several years.
Baylor has previously said the review found that the football program operated as if it were above the rules.
McCaw resigned about the same time two-time Big 12 champion Briles was suddenly fired, and President Ken Starr was removed from his post by regents and later resigned as chancellor.
Briles was the only coach dismissed following the law firm’s report, because he “delegated down discipline and he operated a system where he was the last to know when he needed to be the first to know,” explained Baylor regent Cary Gray.
The law firm’s report said “some football coaches and staff took improper steps in response to disclosures of sexual assault or dating violence that precluded the University from fulfilling its legal obligations.”