Given the Baylor sexual assault scandal and its subsequent fallout, Big 12 media days were always going to be the most interesting and anticipated event leading up the college football season. Unfortunately, things have more or less played out exactly how one could and should have expected, with new head coach Jim Grobe taking his turn to shovel some bad takes to the media Tuesday.
Grobe—a notably good coach at Wake Forest and personally well-regarded within college football—was brought in after Art Briles and Ken Starr (yes, that Ken Starr) opted to ignore the complaints of women victimized by Baylor football players for years. Today, Grobe had to answer for the actions of his new team’s old coach; you can read the full transcript via The Dallas Morning News.
As a nice tone-setter, we’ll start with Grobe’s response to a question asking, “How daunting is this task for you to come in and try to continue that while also changing the culture off the field?”
We talk so much about changing the culture. That’s not the deal with these players at Baylor. I think most people understand this. The majority of our kids are great kids. I mean great kids! It’s a shame when a few guys can really hurt a large group of people in such a devastating way, really. So from our standpoint, what I want to do is let people know that the majority of our kids are fantastic kids and their programs, the problems that we’re dealing with at Baylor or have dealt with at Baylor to this point are probably problems at every university in the country. I hate to say every one, but I’m guessing most universities are having some of the same issues we’ve had at Baylor. You can make a call as to whether you think Baylor was too strong in the way they dealt with it. Unbelievably, I’ve had people tell me they don’t think they dealt with it strongly enough.
The kids could very well be great! I have my well-founded doubts, but still, I will believe that out of 70 athletes, some or a lot of them probably are great. What I will not believe is that “most universities are having some of the same issues” Baylor currently finds itself facing. Yes, every university and college in America has to deal with sexual assault, just like every town, city and county in America must. However, it would be hard—and terribly sad—to believe that “most” of them handle reports of sexual assault the way Ken Starr did, by (for instance) ignoring emailed allegations of sexual assault and later admitting to possibly, maybe seeing said emails when asked by a reporter with a live camera.
Grobe was given another crack at answering the question by a reporter who asked what he was doing to change the culture at Baylor. His response this time was both more forceful and disappointing.
Well, I have to push back, again, and tell you that is not a culture at Baylor University. We don’t have a culture of bad behavior at Baylor University. Our kids, I thought Holly and I had a tough time raising two kids in Matt and Ben and they turned out to be great kids. But anybody that’s raised kids understands that when you got over 100 of those guys it’s a little bit tougher. For me personally, when I took the job I was assured that I could make any changes with the coaching staff that I needed to make. When I got here, my plan was to be at Baylor’s direction, really. I’m working for Baylor University.
When the summary of the Pepper Hamilton report was made public and it became clear Baylor had no plans of releasing anything else, that 13-page document, brief and unspecific as it was, became extremely important to anyone interested in figuring out just what the hell the folks at Baylor had been doing to create such a godawful mess.
After perusing it for the umpteenth time again today, I found a couple points that highlight what Grobe may have missed when he apparently skimmed over it: Baylor had and still has a fucking culture problem.
Pepper’s findings also reflect significant concerns about the tone and culture within Baylor’s football program as it relates to accountability for all forms of athlete misconduct. [...] In addition, the investigations were conducted in the context of a broader culture and belief by many administrators that sexual violence “doesn’t happen here.” [...] In some cases, football coaches and staff had inappropriate involvement in disciplinary and criminal matters or engaged in improper conduct that reinforced an overall perception that football was above the rules, and that there was no culture of accountability for misconduct.
The very reason Grobe has the Baylor job is because the university, the athletic department, and the football team all had substantial culture problems. Those in power failed to act like decent human beings and help those assaulted by their vaunted players because that was the culture of the institution.
It’s easy to understand why Grobe said what he did. He has a team that is currently 15 players below the allowed scholarship limit and lost a massive chunk of its incoming recruits to other schools after Baylor imploded this past spring. But rather than admitting the obvious—that the school has some deeply-rooted issues among students and leadership alike—Grobe elected to take the easy route of essentially ignoring the problem and expressing faith in his team and the recruits (and parents) the program was pursuing prior to the utter catastrophe brought about by Briles and Starr and enabled by many, unnamed (thanks, Baylor!) employees.
The literal definition of culture is as “a way of thinking, behaving, or working that exists in a place or organization.” Baylor officials ignored and attempted to extinguish claims of sexual assault made against those they felt would be better off serving their university on the football field; it was systemic, of a way of thinking and behavior. If Grobe doesn’t see the culture established by Starr and Briles as malicious, or if he thinks that culture is the sort of thing that can be undone by two men’s defenestration, then it would seem he has found a perfect new home.