That same morning, Baylor’s board of regents voted to demote Starr. Baylor also got rid of a handful of lower-level staffers, mostly from within football and athletics, whom the university opted not to name. McCaw resigned a few days later.

Within hours of Briles’s text, the 13-page summary from Pepper Hamilton hit the Baylor website, revealing many details of what went on under Briles’ watch. Over the next few months, Briles would begin an aggressive PR campaign in an attempt to rehabilitate his image and win a new coaching job. At first, he was defiant, seeking sympathy from fans. “I’ve never done anything illegal, immoral, or unethical,” he told reporters that August while visiting a Houston Texans practice. Still keen on folksy dog metaphors, he compared the lack of football in his life to when a beloved pet escapes the yard. “I’m excited about coaching again. I really am, because, you know, if you lose your dog all of a sudden, you’re looking around hollering for him. Just stay up late at night looking for him. I’ve lost my dog. My dog’s football. I’m ready to go find it again.”

He didn’t find it as the fall began and football season kicked off across the country. By September, he was trying out a new tack in how he presented himself. He was contrite, explaining that “There were some bad things that went on under my watch.” He discussed accountability: “I did wrong. I made some mistakes. For that, I’m sorry.” He claimed he’d be prowling the sidelines again before long: “My plan is to be in it in December,” he said, but at the end of the year, Briles found himself passed over for opportunities including Purdue and his old stomping grounds at the University of Houston.  

Faced with the realization that his coaching career might be over, he filed suit against three members of Baylor’s board of regents, as well as Baylor senior vice president and chief operating officer Reagan Ramsower, for libel, slander, and conspiring to keep him from being hired by another program. A month later, his former assistant Shillinglaw joined him in his libel suit. In Baylor’s response to Shillinglaw’s lawsuit, the university released a number of internal text messages between Briles, Shillinglaw, McCaw, and others, which had been obtained as part of the Pepper Hamilton investigation. The day before those messages, which showed the cavalier way the staff communicated about allegations of sexual assault and harassment were made public, Briles quietly dropped his lawsuit.

When Briles was fired, his assistants—including his son, Kendal, and his daughter’s husband, Jeff Lebby—stayed on the football staff under interim head coach Jim Grobe. Not long afterward, a group of Baylor’s biggest donors led by Drayton McLane—the namesake of the football stadium—and John Eddie Williams—whose statue appears not far from RG3’s outside of the gates—formed an organization called “Bears for Leadership Reform.” After a press conference announcing the organization, McLane declared that “the board made drastic decisions, and the regents don’t discuss how and why they made the decisions that they made.”

Drayton McLane
Drayton McLane
Photo: Bob Levey (Getty)

Meanwhile, most members of the coaching staff tweeted Briles’ “#TruthDontLie” slogan. They shared a list of “facts” meant to show that Briles followed protocol properly after a reported gang rape, and encouraged fans to side with the former coach over the university. During a game in which fans participated in a planned #BlackoutForCAB [Coach Art Briles] event by wearing black t-shirts, the Baylor football team took the field in their alternate black jerseys. The university insisted that the two actions were unrelated.

Alicia came to Baylor because she wanted to be closer to God. She had done her best to convince herself that Baylor could be the school she wanted it to be after she was raped. It wasn’t Baylor’s fault—her assailant hadn’t even been a student—but watching the way parts of the university community rallied around Briles left her feeling wounded. Watching the infighting between the Board of Regents and Briles loyalists made her feel like people in her situation weren’t Baylor’s priority. By the fall of 2016, her feelings about the university had hardened.

“I hate Baylor for what they’re doing to [other women who’ve reported]. I love everything this school has given me, but it is so damn hard to be here every day,” she said at the time. “All the ‘CAB’ stuff really pushed me over the fucking edge. The hardest thing I’ve ever done is exist in this place that never wanted me to survive. I used to love this place. I really did. But Baylor never loved me back. And it still doesn’t.” A few weeks later, Alicia transferred to another university.

On Feb. 8, 2016—nearly six months after Ukwuachu’s trial, and three and a half months before the Pepper Hamilton report was released—almost 200 Baylor students, joined by many faculty members, gathered for a vigil outside of the Allbritton House, the university president’s on-campus residence.

A handful of women handed out cards printed with a statement that read, “Baylor University’s administration promises justice to students that are victims of sexual violence. We believe Baylor University has, to date, failed to fulfill this promise.” Attendees gathered just a few dozen feet from the columns that flanked the colonial mansion’s entrance, their heads bowed. They prayed. They sang, “This Little Light Of Mine.” A young woman read a poem.

The assembly processed silently to the chapel at Truett Seminary. A pastor led them in prayer. A young woman made the plea, “May God bless us with enough foolishness to believe that we can make a difference in this world.” Another petitioned, “May sexual abuse survivors be a sign of your glory.”

Baylor’s administration painted a different picture of the event. The school posted photos on social media, declaring that the vigil had taken place “to support those who have been impacted personally by sexual violence and shine a light on the issue.” Starr himself wrote a press release thanking the students, declaring that “we hear you” that they’d like the school to improve its policies. One could be forgiven for assuming that the school’s administrators had organized the rally themselves.

Two years later, more accurate information about Baylor’s role in the event emerged. Media reports revealed that Baylor student activities director Matt Burchett had worked with the students who organized the vigil and subsequent demonstrations to push them toward painting Baylor more as an ally and less as an adversary. Burchett, who participated in the meetings in an official capacity, was described as a “mole” who “infiltrated” the groups.

“I don’t know that he can accurately be termed a ‘mole’ when it was very obvious he was operating in his capacity as student activities director,” a student who helped organize the vigil told Deadspin, “I don’t believe the man did anything illegal, or even necessarily unethical. I do believe his and the university’s attempts to shape student responses to a legal and moral disaster on Baylor’s part represents a moral failure of its own, especially given Baylor’s Baptist roots. It does not surprise me that Baylor was doing everything possible to tamp down student responses to present the best possible public face, but it does disappoint me. I had hoped the school I knew and loved, one that claimed Christian roots, would have at least tried to put the survivors first, not tried to stifle their outcry.”

On March 8, 2016—before Pepper Hamilton’s work was finished or Briles, Starr, or McCaw had left their positions—Kevin Jackson, Baylor’s vice president for student life, spoke to seven members of the Texas House of Representatives’ higher education committee during a hearing about campus sexual assault. When Rep. Travis Clardy asked the administrator how, as a Baptist institution, Baylor is equipped to deal with sexual assault, Jackson spoke of the standards to which the students are held, and the school’s hope that its faith-based mission has a positive impact on student behavior. “We work with them and walk alongside them to help them become more and more the person that God has designed them to be,” Jackson told the legislators. “We understand, however, that we live in a fallen world.”

No one has learned that lesson more clearly than the women who became victims at Baylor, who continue to survive the experiences they had at the school.

In April 2016, Taylor* went to the Title IX office to report that she’d been raped over spring break by a classmate. Taylor was hardly an activist. When the Ukwuachu story had put Baylor in headlines the previous semester, she thought people were being too hard on the university. She didn’t understand why people acted like Baylor had a problem when the issue was just a few guys who played football. You could find that anywhere.

But when she went to the Title IX office after she was raped, Taylor felt like she was a low priority for the people she spoke to. “I felt like that from the moment that I sat down in the Title IX office, and they asked, ‘Is he a football player?’ and I said no,” she says. “It was like they thought, ‘Okay, this one might not get to the news.’” (Crawford told Deadspin in December that it was common practice to ask questions about extracurricular activities to see if complainants needed assistance with a remedial action to continue participating in those activities themselves.)

It took nearly a year for Taylor’s case to be resolved. (At the time, the U.S. Department of Education recommended that resolutions take no more than 60 days.) Eventually, the assailant was found responsible for the sexual assault—but by that point, he had already transferred to another university. Devastated that he was able to escape accountability, Taylor worked with a Texas state senator to create legislation that would prevent students under Title IX investigation from transferring schools while the investigation was ongoing. The bill died in the Texas legislature, an institution with its own problems around sexual predators.

In October, the Big 12 Conference completed a 21-month review that confirmed Baylor had made the necessary improvements to its policies surrounding sexual assault—even as it issued a $2 million fine on the university for “reputational damage to the conference and its members.” For anyone who wants to know if the culture at Baylor has truly changed, questions linger.

In April 2017, Baylor hired Linda Livingstone as its first female president. She acknowledged the problems that had occurred in the years that arrived, and addressed the Pepper Hamilton recommendations specifically, telling the Texas Tribune that those recommendations were “structurally complete.”

She couched her statements in the religious language the university has been built around since its founding. “At a very high level, we are going to continue to strengthen the Christian mission and look at how we are embedding it through the experience students have.” This summer, as Baylor’s former coaches attacked the administration, Livingstone declared a new era at Baylor. “We implemented all of those recommendations, and [have] done that so fully to be at a completely different place now than where we were four years ago,” she said.

How Baylor Happened

But the university’s ambitions are still just as lofty the ones outlined in the Baylor 2012 plan. In December 2016, Baylor hired Matt Rhule, a young, high-flying football coach with a reputation for turning around struggling programs, introducing him at a celebration in front of 2,000 devoted football fans. Livingstone boasts of the school’s academic ambitions, too—“Our aspiration [is] to be a tier-one research university,” she told the Tribune. “To do that as a Christian university is a very unique thing.”

During the 2017 season, the university police department received a report of possible rape on campus involving two Baylor football players. The police reports released to Deadspin said nothing other than that a report was taken and “case is active.” Over the summer, a grand jury declined to indict. Weeks later, another Title IX coordinator left Baylor. According to her LinkedIn profile, she now runs a Title IX consulting firm. Meanwhile, the university continues to squabble publicly with former regents and former coaches about who is responsible for the sexual assault epidemic.

The football team has yet to return to its winning ways. Briles spent less than 24 hours as an assistant coach in the Canadian Football League until public outcry caused the Hamilton Tiger-Cats to revoke their offer. (Baylor’s general counsel, in a surprising display of Southern Baptist gentility, provided a reference letter.) He’s now coaching semi-pro ball in Italy. Whether he’ll ever again spread his folksy sayings on the sidelines in the United States is an open question.

An ongoing lawsuit brought by 10 female former Baylor students has led to multiple depositions from administrators there during the years in question (including McCaw and Crawford), and Briles has turned over thousands of documents. A former player is suing the school on claims that his Title IX case was handled poorly. The NCAA has been investigating the university’s handling of sexual assault reports—a spokesman told Deadspin, “We cannot comment on current, pending or potential investigations.” The Texas Rangers are looking into what happened at Baylor too. And three former football players are still awaiting trial for sexual assault: Oakman, Armstead, and Chatman.

Institutions inspire a loyalty that even the actions of the people who run those institutions can’t overshadow. Baylor isn’t just the administration, its athletics program, or the collection of horror stories that took place in and around its campus. Understanding that might be the key to moving forward.

“I really think if Baylor doesn’t do anything to help, I can do something to help,” Taylor says one morning while sitting on the couch of her apartment near campus. “I’m an orientation and line camp leader. “I still love Baylor. Not necessarily the way that I did. I love the idea of Baylor. What Baylor is supposed to be, and what it’s supposed to stand for.”

* The names of certain people in this story have been changed at their request to protect them from threats and harassment.

Correction: Due to an editing error, the title of the job that Art Briles reportedly interviewed for at Southern Miss was incorrect. It has been corrected.

Dan Solomon and Jessica Luther co-wrote ‘Silence at Baylor,’ the first in-depth investigation into the Baylor sexual assault scandal, in August 2015 at Texas Monthly, which Ken Starr cited as the reason he decided to hire Pepper Hamilton to uncover the details of the school’s failings around the issue. Solomon and Luther both live in Austin, Texas, with their families.