Brenda Tracy, who says four men—including two Oregon State football players—gang raped her, spoke to Baylor’s football team about sexual violence in July at the request of current interim head coach Jim Grobe. Tracy has spoken on that topic with other teams since she went public about her alleged assault, and bringing Tracy in to talk to Baylor’s football team made sense given that an independent investigation found that the football staff took steps to make sure reports of rape weren’t fully investigated.
Tracy says her meeting with Baylor went well—at first. She writes at Huffington Post that in three hours spent talking with Grobe over dinner, she left feeling the former Ohio and Wake Forest coach “got it.” She left her meeting with the players feeling positive about the experience as well; the players were alert and listened to her presentation—“genuinely engaged,” even. Tracy writes that she and Baylor Title IX coordinator Patty Crawford talked about preventing sexual violence and how football players can help stop it.
Then a coaching staff member asked to talk to her, and her impression of the program changed.
However, directly after my talk, a football coaching staff member pulled me aside and in a very disturbing manner began to give me his “opinion.” He was obviously very angry and defensive about what was happening. I was shocked by what he was saying. He knew that I had a voice in the media and he was doing nothing but making Baylor look guilty and he was validating for me that the football culture was toxic and that all the claims being made against them and Art Briles were probably true.
I left that man’s office feeling defeated. If he was any indication of how the rest of the staff felt, then the talk I just gave to the football team was useless.
Tracy says she didn’t immediately tell reporters about this because she “didn’t want to shift focus from the young men on the football team who wanted to be part of the solution.” Tracy shared more details on her experience Friday on ESPN’s Outside the Lines. She says the unnamed coach’s arguments to her included that former head coach Art Briles was the innocent victim of a conspiracy.
“One of the first things he says is he didn’t understand why I was there,” she told OTL. “He said this wasn’t a football issue. This was an issue on the rest of the campus. And he just went on and on that [former head coach] Art Briles did absolutely nothing and this was all unfounded and nothing happened and they were being treated unfairly and there was some conspiracy going on against Baylor football.”
(Briles’s son, Kendal, remains on Baylor’s staff as offensive coordinator—as do numerous other assistants under the Art Briles regime.)
Tracy says that after speaking with the coach she immediately told Baylor associate athletic director Nick Joos, who told her that he would look into it. Tracy didn’t know the name of the coaching staff member, but was able to identify him to OTL using online photos of the staff. OTL reached out to that assistant and didn’t hear back; Baylor released a statement saying they too were looking into it.
“We have great respect for the work Brenda is doing and for her courage in telling her story. Her interaction with the young men on our football team was incredibly positive and we are grateful for her engagement with our university,” the statement reads.
Tracy said she left feeling defeated and wondering how Baylor could change with a person with those attitudes still involved. But the events, as Tracy describes them, are hardly a surprise. Last week, former Baylor chancellor Ken Starr (yes, that Ken Starr) also insisted that Briles was a victim and that he had no idea there was anything wrong. Before that, Briles himself spoke to ESPN in a bizarre pseudo-apology in which he only showed emotion when talking about himself and damage to his own reputation. Add to that an anonymously sourced local TV report that said the independent investigators “came to Waco with an agenda to purge members of the football program.”
That a football staff would say the problem was a conspiracy against football is disturbing—and also in line with the program’s public face since football started again. After all, the full details of what independent investigators Pepper Hamilton were never released, leaving all involved free to invent their own versions of what they call the truth in which everybody, somehow, knew nothing was wrong. It might leave activists like Tracy feeling defeated, but for the people ruling Baylor it’s a morbid reminder of mission accomplished. Football is alive and well; the Bears are undefeated, ranked 13th in the nation.