What did Baylor know and when did it know it? That’s become the question for Baylor leaders, especially coach Art Briles and president Kenneth Starr (yes, that Ken Starr), as report after report have emerged detailing accusations of violence and sexual assault involving their football players. It’s an important question not just because of the NCAA charade of demanding upstanding “student-athletes,” but also because federal law requires universities to seriously investigate allegations of sexual assault.
Today, ESPN’s Outside the Lines published a report by Paula Lavigne and Mark Schlabach adding to the growing count of football players investigated by Waco police within the last few years. It adds that police documents show “at least some Baylor officials, including coaches” knew about what happened, and in one case, records somehow ended up being pulled from the computer system.
In 2011, an assault happened at an off-campus Baylor recreation center and resulted in three football players being charged. Several people told police that safety Ahmad Dixon started the fight when he punched a fraternity member, and Dixon told OTL that he admitted “landing a punch at him first” to Baylor judicial affairs investigators. But Dixon said the same frat member later confronted him and that second fight devolved into a brawl before getting broken up.
What led to police charges was a third fight involving many of the same people outside. From OTL:
The student told police at least three football players were part of the group that hit him, and it only stopped when nearby women urged the players to do so. He identified the three who hit him as defensive lineman Gary Mason, running back Isaac Williams and [cornerback Tyler] Stephenson. And while the athletes disagree on which of them hit him and when, statements to police and interviews conducted by Outside the Lines confirm that the student never threw a punch or made any physical advance.
... In the report, an officer wrote that the student didn’t tell police what had happened when they first saw him hours after the assault. “I asked why and he ... told me that he figured because they were football players then nothing was going to be done anyway. I asked him why he thought that and he said that he has heard anecdotal stories of football players getting into altercations or disturbances and nothing ever being done.”
Waco police arrested Mason and Stephenson on charges of misdemeanor assault; Williams, who was in California, turned himself in. But the McLennan County District Attorney’s Office declined to prosecute the case.
Waco police note in their reports that they told Baylor officials about it and then put the physical report in a locked office. One investigating officer made a request that “the case be pulled from the computer system so that only persons who had a reason to inquire about the report would be able to access it.”
Waco police spokesman Sgt. Patrick Swanton told OTL that detectives can remove cases from public view for privacy reasons, but said he couldn’t say if that was done in this case because it involved football players.
Dixon was accused of sexual assault in 2012, but four years later very little is available from police about what happened because the case is still classified as open, which means legally police have to release very little. Dixon told OTL that the woman made up the allegations. The woman, reached by OTL, initially denied being the person who made the report but “later acknowledged trying to get Dixon in trouble by filing the report.”
In June 2015, the woman made a domestic violence allegation against another player, and in that report, Waco police noted that she and her family have a long criminal history with the police department and that her accounts toward Dixon and the other football player were not believable. In June 2011, there was another domestic violence case involving Dixon and the woman, the result of a 911 call made by a neighbor who said he saw Dixon pull the woman’s hair and push her into a car; both Dixon and woman deny that happened.
A Waco police spokesman told OTL that “he could not say why the allegation against Dixon remains an active case.” Dixon said somehow his coaches found out about the report because within a day he heard from an assistant coach about it.
In April 2012, a woman told Waco police that that when she tried to break up with her boyfriend, Baylor cornerback Tyler Stephenson, he lured her to his apartment and then “violently restrained her,” pushing her on the couch so she couldn’t leave or use her phone to call for help, OTL reports.
Once outside, she said she tried again to call 911, when “he charged me and picked me up and threw me against the [exterior] apartment wall. I hit my head and immediately felt dizzy,” and she screamed for help.
Stephenson’s attack stopped, the woman told police, when three men started to approach him. A witness confirmed seeing the fighting outside the apartment, and police prepared an arrest warrant for Stephenson. But the case was closed, OTL reports, when police said they couldn’t get back in contact with the victim. The OTL report doesn’t say if Baylor was notified of this case or not.
In the April 2014 case, a woman told Waco police that running back Devin Chafin grabbed her arm and slammed it into a car in front of witnesses, including other teammates. She gave police pictures of her bruises and also told them about another assault a few weeks earlier, when Chafin “grabbed her by the throat and slammed her against a wall, then threw her to the floor and kicked her,” according to police records.
The woman told OTL that she told football team chaplain Wes Yeary about the assaults, and that Briles and Starr also were notified. The university didn’t discipline Chafin, she said. She didn’t press criminal charges because she was getting ready to graduate and figured the school wouldn’t do anything anyway.
“I’d seen other girls go through it, and nothing ever happened to the football players,” she said. “It’s mind-boggling to see it continue to happen. I can’t understand why. I think as long as they’re catching footballs and scoring touchdowns, the school won’t do anything.”
In September, Baylor hired an outside law firm to investigate its handling of sexual assault reports. The woman says she hasn’t heard from them, either.
The full OTL report, which is well worth your time and filled with even more detail, can be found here.