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Baylor's Penalties for Rule Violations Under Art Briles Announced by NCAA

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVAugust 11, 2021

LUBBOCK, TEXAS - NOVEMBER 14: A Baylor helmet sits on the field before the college football game between the Texas Tech Red Raiders the Baylor Bears at Jones AT&T Stadium on November 14, 2020 in Lubbock, Texas. (Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images)
John E. Moore III/Getty Images

The NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions announced Wednesday a hearing 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."

However, Baylor's football program was found in violation in other NCAA rules from 2011 through 2016, including impermissible benefits to a student-athlete, an ethical conduct rules violation by a former assistant director of football operations and the use of a "predominantly female student-host group" for football recruiting events.

The program was placed on four years of probation and ordered to pay a $5,000 fine, will incur several recruiting restrictions during the 2021-22 academic year and must provide details for a vacation of records compiled while ineligible student-athletes were active.

In May 2016, the Baylor Board of Regents announced findings from an independent investigation by the Pepper Hamilton Law Firm, which determined the school's response to sexual assault allegations was "wholly inadequate" and found "specific failings" within the leadership structure of the football program and the athletic department.

The investigation also raised "significant concerns about the tone and culture" of the Bears' football program, which led to widespread leadership changes, including the firing of head coach Art Briles and probation for athletic director Ian McCaw, who then resigned and accepted the same position at Liberty in November 2016, a role he still holds.

Richard Willis, who was chairman of the school's Board of Regents at the time, released a statement about the probe's findings:

"We were horrified by the extent of these acts of sexual violence on our campus. This investigation revealed the University's mishandling of reports in what should have been a supportive, responsive and caring environment for students. The depth to which these acts occurred shocked and outraged us. Our students and their families deserve more, and we have committed our full attention to improving our processes, establishing accountability and ensuring appropriate actions are taken to support former, current and future students."

The hearing panel concluded with "tremendous reluctance" it agreed with Baylor's argument during the investigation that those failings were not violations of NCAA rules:

"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. To arrive at a different outcome would require the [committee] to ignore the rules the Association's membership has adoptedโ€”rules under which the [committee] is required to adjudicate. Such an outcome would be antithetical to the integrity of the infractions process."

Meanwhile, the NCAA investigation determined the former assistant director of football operations, identified by Yahoo Sports' Pete Thamel as Odell James, "did not meet his responsibility to cooperate" when he refused an interview with enforcement staff to answer questions about potential violations. James received a five-year show-cause order, which will restrict him from "athletically related duties" if hired by another school.

The impermissible benefit came after the program didn't report a student-athlete, who'd previously been suspended for a plagiarism concern but was reinstated on the basis of 100 percent future academic honesty, had been accused of cheating on a quiz. He went on to play seven games because the incident was not reported, and Baylor will vacate the results of those contests.

The hearing panel also raised concerns about how the student-host group was used by the program:

"The gender-based nature of this group is especially concerning in light of the campus-wide cultural issues and Title IX deficiencies at Baylor during this time, as well as the extremely troubling assertions reported by the former Title IX coordinator, including that the Bruins were 'kind of at the disposal of football players in a very inappropriate way.'"

In addition, the Division I Committee on Infractions review of the hearing panel's findings said Briles failed to meet "even the most basic expectations of how a person should react" upon hearing about sexual assault or violence involving his players:

Max Olson @max_olson

COI on Art Briles:<br><br>- "Incurious attitude" toward potential criminal conduct by his players was "deeply troubling"<br><br>- "Failed to meet even the most basic expectations of how a person should react to the kind of conduct at issue in this case."<br><br>- Not technically an NCAA violation <a href="https://t.co/bdxCPIKehC">pic.twitter.com/bdxCPIKehC</a>

There were no NCAA punishments directed toward Briles in the announcement.

Briles continued his coaching career after leaving Baylor with stops as head coach of Italy's Guelfi Firenze and Mount Vernon High School in Texas. He resigned from Mount Vernon in December.

The Bears are on their third head coach since Briles' departure. Dave Aranda is heading into his second season after previous stints by Matt Rhule (2017-19) and Jim Grobe (2016).

Baylor kicks off its 2021 season Sept. 4 on the road against Texas State, and it doesn't face any restrictions related to postseason eligibility in wake of the NCAA's investigation.