Baylor’s board of regents is sharing details of the university’s sexual assault scandal with select media outlets after months of staying publicly silent. A group of regents spoke anonymously with the Wall Street Journal last week, and two days ago an interview with four regents—Ron Murff, James Gray, David Harper and Dennis Wiles—appeared in the Dallas Morning News. But it’s impossible to discern just how much the regents have shared and how accurate that information might actually be, as the results of the investigation into the scandal are still kept under wraps.
Pepper Hamilton, the law firm responsible for independently analyzing the scandal, released a brief “findings of fact” in May that failed to address most of the details or to reveal who knew what and when—despite head coach Art Briles and university president Ken Starr being given pink slips.
With no comprehensive report available from the investigation, members of the Board of Regents have begun sharing slightly different perspectives on how the university handled the scandal, with members of Baylor’s football coaching staff and athletic department pushing back. And with so little information available to fact-check these perspectives, discerning the truth is difficult. The Dallas Morning News reported this week that the regents were briefed on the Pepper Hamilton investigation twice in the spring, and local news station KWTX has reported that no recordings exist of those briefings and Pepper Hamilton provided nothing in writing.
The biggest bombshell from the Wall Street Journal interview was the revelation that Briles had known about an alleged gang rape that included football players and done nothing about it. This week’s Dallas Morning News follow-up interview with regent James Gray features not a denial of the statement, but a simple assertion that he doesn’t remember anyone ever sharing it with the media:
“Ron [Murff] and I and [regent] Kim Stevens all spoke to the Wall Street Journal during that meeting and I don’t even remember that being said. I’ve heard that repeated a million times since then. ... I’m not disputing that someone said it, but I don’t remember it being said.”
Perhaps true, but it’s not exactly encouraging that Gray could forget that an interview with a national newspaper featured neglected reports of alleged gang rape at the university he helps govern. Regardless, at least one other member of the board confirmed to the Morning News that the investigation did find evidence of Briles knowing about an allegation that he failed to report. From regent David Harper:
“[Briles] was made aware of one of the allegations of a gang rape. At least one of them. I can’t tell you if he knew or didn’t know about the others.”
The meaning of “can’t tell” is conveniently vague here. “Can’t tell” because the information wasn’t discovered by the investigation? “Can’t tell” because that wasn’t disclosed in the regents’ briefing meetings from Pepper Hamilton? “Can’t tell” because he doesn’t recall the details of a meeting that was now held months ago? Or “can’t tell” because he simply doesn’t want to?
Members of the football coaching staff, however, are asserting that Briles did nothing wrong on this count. Kendal Briles, the team’s offensive coordinator and the son of Art, offered the following statement on Twitter last night:
The 33 names include the majority of the football staff, as well as athletic department employees and one former Baylor player who does not appear to be currently affiliated with the school (David Gettis, who spent several years with the Carolina Panthers and then in the Canadian Football League). The heading “facts” stands in opposition to the clear clashes between this statement and the recent interviews with regents who were briefed on the investigation—but without more detailed information from Pepper Hamilton, it’s impossible to determine which set of “facts” are indeed facts.
(It is also worth noting that the coaches’ statement uses the term “sexual incident” rather than “sexual assault” or “rape” or “gang rape,” continuing a pattern of Art Briles and people around him being unwilling to use vocabulary that matches the alleged acts.)
It’s possible that the regents are trying to spin the situation, and it’s possible that they’re simply recalling the briefings they received months ago to the best of their ability. But it’s unacceptable that the investigation that could provide these answers—particularly to a campus whose sexual assault problems go beyond football—was allowed to wrap up its work without a comprehensive record.
With Baylor facing Texas Christian today, the team may or may not be wearing black uniforms in support of Art Briles, with wide receiver Chris Platt denying the ESPN report that the black-out is related to the university’s scandal. It’s only the latest in what’s become an exceedingly long stretch of poor communication and tangled stories from Baylor.