Baylor rocked by wave after wave of ugly allegations

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The allegations against Baylor, its football program and former coach Art Briles, get uglier with each new lawsuit and legal filing.

Among the most recent: More than 50 acts of rape by dozens of football players in four years. Briles asking why an alleged rape victim would hang out with “bad dudes” (his own players). And coaches encouraging female students in a hostess group to have sex with recruits.

And they keep rolling in, deepening the public disgust and mistrust with the nation’s largest Baptist university as it tries to fight lawsuits, settle others and fend off withering criticism from all sides as to how things spun so out of control with a sexual assault scandal that included multiple accusations against the football program.

“It seems relentless,” said Fred Norton Jr., president of the Baylor Line Foundation, the school’s alumni organization. “It’s all unsettling. Nobody knows what’s going to be the next shoe to drop. It wears us all out to have to keep defending what Baylor really is, the true Baylor we know.”

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Baylor faces at least six federal and state lawsuits as well as a federal civil rights investigation into claims the school and football program, which Briles built into a Big 12 champion from 2008-2016, ignored, mishandled or tried to cover up reports of sexual or physical abuse and other criminal misdeeds across campus for years.

One court filing last week alleges more than 50 acts of rape by more than 30 football players over a four-year period, and that Baylor football promoted a culture of “sex, drugs and violence.”

And after months of refusing to release details from its own investigation , Baylor on Thursday revealed text messages between Briles, assistant coaches and staff members that appear to show them trying to shield players from police and university discipline.

In one instance, when shown a list of names of players a woman said attacked her, Briles allegedly responded, “Those are some bad dudes. Why was she around those guys?”

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To date, only two of Briles’ former players have been tried and convicted of sexual assault, and another is currently charged in a 2016 assault. But the university’s own investigation that led to Briles’ firing last May determined his program acted “above the rules” and the school mishandled assault complaints across campus for years.

The civil lawsuits started piling up as alleged victims came forward with claims of assault and investigative misconduct or incompetence by the school.

And it wasn’t just victims suing the school. Two of Baylor’s former in-house investigators have sued or filed complaints with federal officials alleging Baylor mishandled assault investigations and retaliated against them for doing their jobs. Even Briles sued, alleging Baylor regents and officials had libeled and defamed him in comments to investigators and the media.

Briles this week dropped that case, but it was a similar lawsuit by Collin Shillinglaw, one of Briles’ top assistants, that finally prompted Baylor regents to reveal some of the details uncovered by the school’s 2016 investigation led by the Philadelphia law firm Pepper Hamilton.

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In a 52-page narrative response to Shillinglaw’s lawsuit, the regents said Pepper Hamilton determined Briles ignored sexual assaults by players, failed to alert university officials or discipline athletes and allowed them to continue playing. It suggested Shillinglaw was helping shield athletes from punishment, too.

Gaines West, Shillinglaw’s attorney, said, “We look forward to the complete truth being revealed.”

Briles’ attorney, Ernest Cannon, said: “Art Briles is trying to go on with his life. I think Baylor regents would be better served if they would, too.”

School regents had released few details behind the investigation that led to the firing of Briles, the ouster of former President Ken Starr and the eventual resignation of athletic director Ian McCaw, who is now at Liberty University.

The lack of details drew fierce criticism from students, alumni and donors, including Bears for Leadership Reform, a group that includes several prominent Baylor donors and Briles supporters, notably Drayton McLane, whose names adorns the Baylor’s new $250 million football stadium.

The regents’ court filing Thursday said they had no choice but to reveal some of the details of what they found.

“There is no question that the Regents, after a long, self-imposed silence, had to respond with truthful statements, to correct the record in an attempt to end the widespread misinformation,” the filing said.

Some of the lawsuits against Baylor were filed by students who alleged the school ignored them or bullied them into silence. One woman who said she was attacked accused Baylor of creating a “hunting ground for sexual predators.” Other women claim the school used its student conduct code, which prohibits drug and alcohol use and premarital sex, to pressure them into dropping claims of abuse .

The school reached settlements with two women who had not sued but reported being gang-raped by football players. It has battled others, but the lawsuit alleging more than 50 attacks by football players was a stunning escalation beyond the 17 previously acknowledged by Baylor regents.

Bears for Leadership Reform demanded more details Friday, a day after the court filing revealed detailed allegations against Briles.

“We are shocked and appalled by the information in this court filing, and the fact that the regents, with full knowledge of this information, reportedly paid Art Briles and others millions of dollars in severance is deeply troubling,” said group leader John Eddie Williams.

“Full transparency, not an ongoing dribble of select information, is what the Baylor family wants and deserves,” Williams said.

Baylor faces broader questions of possible sanctions from the NCAA or the Big 12.

NCAA and Big 12 officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Friday, but conference officials have previously asked Baylor for a “full accounting” of the school’s investigation.

Baylor academics have been put on notice as well.

The Southern Association of College and Schools, a leading university-accrediting body, has said it will closely monitor Baylor in 2017 on standards for student support services, institutional control of athletics and whether the campus is a safe and secure environment.