Earlier this week, former Baylor football assistant Colin Shillinglaw filed a lawsuit against the school, alleging that his firing in the fallout from Baylor’s massive sexual-assault scandal was unjust. Shillinglaw sued Baylor for libel and slander, just like former coach Art Briles did in his recently dismissed lawsuit.
Several Baylor regents hit back today with their response in court. The answer from Cary Gray, Ron Murff, and David Harper called the lawsuit a “public relations smokescreen” and released a series of damning text messages that, they said, show how Shillinglaw, Briles, and others at Baylor actively worked to circumvent the university’s official disciplinary processes—described as “in-house when it should have been open house”—and kept football players accused of assault, drug use, and academic cheating on the field. The lawsuit also goes into details about how players accused of crimes, like Tevin Elliott and Shawn Oakman, were able to keep playing football as well as details on how several women said a group of football players drugged and gang raped them.
The football program was a black hole into which reports of misconduct such as drug use, physical assault, domestic violence, brandishing of guns, indecent exposure and academic fraud disappeared. In all, investigators compiled a lengthy list of such offenses, which had gone largely unknown to the rest of the University.
The text messages
The bulk of the evidence that Baylor regents provide are summaries of text messages sent by Briles, Schillinglaw, and an unnamed “assistant coach.” The text messages were obtained by the lawyers from Pepper Hamilton, who were hired to investigate what happened at Baylor. However, until responding to this lawsuit, no Baylor leaders ever mentioned the text messages. They also were never discussed in the “finding of fact” released by Baylor that actually had no facts. Here are the text messages, described in the court documents:
How athletics helped two football players in trouble
The court filing characterized the football program’s response to sexual assault allegations as “underwhelming and cavalier” and goes into several examples, including former players Tevin Elliott and Shawn Oakman. When Elliott got in trouble for plagiarism, his second honor code violation, Briles personally took up his appeal and got then-Baylor president Ken Starr (yes, that Ken Starr) to end his suspension. Starr also put Elliott under the “probationary watch” of the athletic department, not judicial affairs. When police began investigating Elliott for sexual assault, Briles and other coaches quickly learned about it.
News of the April 15 attack reached Coach Briles the next day. Elliott “firmly denies even knowing the girl,” an assistant coach texted Coach Briles. But, after interviewing the player the next day, the assistant coach told Coach Briles that Elliott “admitted he lied to us. He was with her and said when she said stop he did.” “Wow—not good—I’ll call you later,” Coach Briles replied. Later, the assistant coach texted Coach Briles: “Tevin just called and told me Waco PD took him down to swab his mouth. He also went to see a lawyer who took his case. I would think he will be charged pretty quick.” Briles responded: “Dang it.”
Briles didn’t say anything to anyone in judicial affairs about the police investigation until the local newspaper, the Waco Tribune-Herald, reported on it.
Weeks before his trial, Elliott asked Coach Briles in a text message if he would testify on his behalf. “We need to get your name cleared ... Always all in with my players,” replied Coach Briles, who did not appear in court. On January 23, 2014, a jury convicted Elliott on two counts of felony sexual assault and a judge sentenced him to the maximum 20 years in prison.
Oakman transferred to Baylor from Penn State after he was kicked off the team for being charged with theft and disorderly conduct; the filing says he was accused of “accosting a female clerk at an off-campus convenience store and leaving without paying for a meal.” Baylor officials never asked Penn State for Oakman’s student file, according to the court document. Instead, they got an email from a Penn State coach, who vouched for Oakman.
“When I was hired as Head Coach, there were 5 or 6 names that kept showing up on disciplinary lists. Shawn Oakman’s name was one of these names. He was also involved in a couple of police matters. At that point, I decided to dismiss him from the team. This was something that a head coach who was just hired has to do at some point. I believe that Shawn is a decent kid that should be allowed to play this season. I am sure that he has learned his lesson.” Coach Briles forwarded the email to the Athletics Department’s senior compliance officer, stating: “Here we go.”
The coach is not named in the court document, but the dates line up with the tenure of Bill O’Brien, and Oakman has previously said it was O’Brien who kicked him off the team.
When a Baylor student in early 2013 went to Waco police and then Baylor football, saying Oakman slammed her into a brick wall, shoved her fact into her bed, and called her a “slut” and a “whore,” athletics kept that information to themselves, according to the court document. The student’s mother later told a learning accommodation specialist “about Baylor protecting the guy because he is a Baylor football player and that he had an assault record before he was at Baylor.”
“Plied with painkillers and alcohol”
In April 2013, a Baylor athlete told her coach that she had been gang raped by five Baylor football players a year earlier. The coach went to then-athletic director Ian McCaw, who in turn told Briles.
McCaw said they couldn’t do anything if the student didn’t press charges and suggested the student reach out to Baylor’s lawyers. The student and her mother pressed on, talking to other members of the athletics staff. When on assistant football coach confronted two players about it, they “admitted to ‘fooling around,’ calling it ‘just a little bit of playtime,’” the court document says. That assistant then tried talking to other coaches about it, “whose apparent response was to engage in victim-blaming.” Pepper Hamilton, the court document says, found no evidence of anyone telling judicial affairs, the police, or anyone outside of athletics about it.
This was not the only alleged gang rape that occurred during Briles’s tenure. Former Title IX coordinator Patty Crawford spoke to a student who said she and another student were gang raped by a group of football players.
The student also said that her that a former classmate also had been gang raped by football players and she said they were both traumatized by the attacks. When Crawford asked McCaw if he knew anything about gang rapes by football players, he said no, although he did ask “if a football player who had information about sexual assaults could receive immunity under Title IX,” the court document says. He was told no. Crawford would go on to find several other women who said they were gang raped by football players.
The full lawsuit is below.