Editor’s Note: The MULS Sports Law Society (SLS) Blog is pleased to welcome 1L Jake Armellani as an NCAA writer. Jake, who is also an SLS member, earned his undergraduate degree from University of Wisconsin-Parkside. There, he was a member of the Men’s Wrestling team (varsity wrestler & social media coordinator).
Baylor University and head officials are under fire as Title IX lawsuits continue to pile up. Former head football coach Art Briles was fired this summer, along with the school’s athletic director and president, amid the growing scandal. Briles’ attorney stated that the school’s termination of heads within the athletic department was a way to shift blame rather than take responsibility for the failure to act in accordance with Title IX regulations.
Three former students have filed suit under Title IX provisions, alleging sexual assaults by former Baylor football players. Jasmin Hernandez, a former student who has authorized the use of her name in the lawsuit, is one of the alleged victims suing the school for insufficient (or lack thereof) counseling, services, and action on behalf of the university. Under Title IX, it is prohibited to discriminate based on sex for services offered by educational institutions/programs that receive federal funding. Those services include athletics, counseling, sex-based harassment, and discipline, among many others.
Hernandez’s suit claims she reported the assault to school officials and police whom relayed that they could not do anything. That is, the assault occurred off-campus and the school was not responsible for such incidents. Hernandez then sought help from both student health and academic services, to no avail. The suit specifically points towards Baylor’s failure in proper training of employees, top to bottom, in Title IX’s standards, rules and regulations. Hernandez was forced to drop out of Baylor after her grades fell as a direct result from the pressure associated with the ongoing court proceedings, trauma from the assault, as well as the lack of counseling that was intended to be provided for situations as described. Title IX was implemented to protect those most at risk for sex-based discrimination.
Three former Baylor students, including Hernandez, testified in court against Tevin Elliott for sexual assault charges. Elliott, who had an alleged history of assault, was subsequently sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2012. He is not the only former Baylor football player convicted of sexual assault. In 2015, Sam Ukwauchu was sentenced to six months in jail and ten years probation. Baylor reached a settlement with the victim in Ukwauchu’s case for an undisclosed amount. Ukwauchu was a transfer from Boise State with a history of discipline relating to assault.
Then-Boise State head coach Chris Peterson, who now serves the same position with the University of Washington, stated that he had a very in depth conversation with Briles regarding Ukwauchu’s record. The former Baylor coach denied knowing anything about Ukwauchu’s past. Specifically, Briles noted that coach Peterson, who Briles said he respected dearly, “would never recommend a student-athlete to Baylor that he did not believe in.” Finally, this past summer Shawn Oakman, Baylor’s all-time leader in sacks, was arrested and indicted for sexual assault. Above all, Baylor head officials seem to be at odds on who is to blame for a failed duty to protect students from said discrimination.
Ken Starr was Baylor’s president before being terminated from the position as well as resigning as chancellor. Starr stated that the media wrongly came down upon Briles, calling his treatment “totally unfair” while denying a cultural problem around Baylor’s football staff. Starr further acknowledged that the board, which came to the decision to remove the two of them, along with the athletic director, was a way to save face and redirect blame.
Starr opposes the idea that Briles was worthy of termination and believes the scandal to have been blown out of proportion. In fact, Starr compares Baylor to a scapegoat in relation to other universities such as Texas and Texas A&M, whom have much higher sexual assault percentages. Altogether, the former president believes Baylor, a private Baptist university, is under fire because it is held to a higher standard and “if there’s a departure from that standard, we’re going to be sought out.”
Patty Crawford, Baylor’s first ever Title IX Coordinator, disagreed. Hired in November 2014 (all schools are required to have a full-time coordinator under Title IX’s regulations), Crawford told the Waco Tribune-Herald that “breaking down” the silos (departmental specific obligations) was the most difficult aspect. “Higher ed is historically known for having silos, because you have departments. And it works in a lot of ways, but for Title IX it doesn’t,” stated Crawford, referring to the way Title IX’s umbrella structure was created to be implemented by universities.
Crawford went on to make clarifications in regards to sexual assault and athletics. “[T]his is not an athletics issue…this is a human issue.” The school is investigating the handling of said issues with the hiring of Title IX investigator Kristan Tucker last January. A separate investigation is ongoing by the law firm Pepper Hamilton. In their independent review, blame was attributed to all involved: both the university as well as athletic department in terms of how they responded and managed issues both prior to and after the reports were filed.
The school seems to be aggressively making alterations to their policy regarding sexual assaults, albeit too late. Do you think Baylor should have fired Art Briles? Ken Starr? Should Baylor come under sanctions by the NCAA? Let us know!
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- Paula Lavigne, Baylor Sexual Assault Victim Files Title IX Suit Against School, ESPN.com (Mar. 31, 2016), http://www.espn.com/espn/otl/story/baylor-sexual-assault-victim-files-title-ix-lawsuit-school
- Title IX and Sex Discrimination, U.S. Dep’t. of Education (April 2015), http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs
- Adam Grosbard, Baylor Title IX coordinator on sexual assault scandal: ‘This is not an athletics issue … this is a human issue’, Dallas News (Sept. 7, 2016), http://sportsday.dallasnews.com/college-sports/baylorbears/2016/09/07/baylor-title-ix-coordinator-sexual-assault-scandal-athletics-issue-human-issue
Kristan Tucker, Senior Deputy Title IX Coordinator, Baylor.edu: Title IX, http://www.baylor.edu/titleix/index.php?id=929806
Q&A with Baylor Title IX Coordinator Patty Crawford, Waco Tribune: Opinion (Aug. 5, 2016), http://www.wacotrib.com/opinion/interviews/q-a-with-baylor-title-ix-coordinator-patty-crawford