Transcript shows 2016 Baylor assistant football coaches' frustration with regents
A Thursday legal filing by former Baylor University head football coach Art Briles offers a glimpse of anger among the coaching staff he left behind, directed at the school’s regents and their statements that the football program played a major role in the sexual assault scandal plaguing the university.
Consistent with Briles’ prior disagreements with the board’s assessments after the Pepper Hamilton LLP investigation into Baylor’s institutional response to sexual assault reports, the filing alleges in part that certain current and former regents — namely J. Cary Gray and Ron Murff — tried to “smear Briles, to isolate the problem of sexual assault at Baylor University to black football players, and thereby direct attention away from a decadeslong, campuswide problem.”
The filing, a response to a federal lawsuit brought by former student Dolores Lozano, contains transcripts of recorded meetings.
One transcript is of an Oct. 28, 2016, meeting between Athletics Director Mack Rhoades, who had been hired about three months earlier, and Briles’ coaching staff that remained for the 2016-17 season. The meeting came after The Wall Street Journal reported regents said Briles admitted to “delegating down” reports of sexual assaults. Regents also said 17 women reported sexual violence by 19 players, including four gang rapes, between 2011 and 2015.
During the meeting, tensions ran high.
One coach called a Baylor regent “that little punk motherf—–,” according to the filing. At another point, Rhoades yelled at assistant coach Chris Achuff, “You better be f—— respectful. Right now! You better lower your f—— voice right now.”
Phil Bennett, Briles’ defensive coordinator, told Rhoades not to raise his voice at the group, “because I’m going to tell you something, that bulls— works two ways.”
Rhoades allegedly agreed regents had acted improperly by speaking to The Wall Street Journal and said Baylor “fought like hell” to keep the assistant coaches’ names out of the article. Rhoades also told the coaches he would vouch for their character to any athletics director in the nation.
“I hate it for each one of you, because you’re good people,” Rhoades said.
A week after the meeting, the assistant coaches signed onto a statement supporting Briles and shared it through Twitter. The next day, with many coaches clad in black and a vendor selling black “#CAB” T-shirts outside McLane Stadium, the team was blown out by Texas Christian University, 62-22.
In the filing, Briles also includes statements from a secretly taped meeting between coaching staff and then-Title IX Coordinator Patty Crawford in July 2016.
“I don’t think athletics is a big hotbed of issues,” Crawford allegedly said. “I don’t.”
Crawford also said the football program reached out to her for Title IX training before the scandal broke, the filing states.
After Crawford resigned in October 2016, she publicly feuded with the university over whether her office was adequately staffed and resourced. She also said she received hundreds of reports of sexual violence in her two years at the school. The university countered her claims by pointing to her annual raises, staff expansions and a 250 percent budget increase from 2014 to 2017.
The filing also states Kristan Tucker, the deputy coordinator who took over for Crawford and has since resigned, said the football program had been “further ahead of a lot of universities” in Title IX integration.
In a statement, the university said Briles “relies on hearsay and narratives that Baylor has previously debunked as ‘factually baseless and borderline ludicrous.’”
“The continued efforts of Art Briles and his supporters over the past two years to rewrite history cannot go unchallenged,” according to the university statement. “Just as when he was coach, he again attempts to skirt responsibility for actions of the football program that he led, the players he recruited and coached, the coaches he managed and the loose discipline he championed.”
Much of Briles’ argument also points to the recent deposition of Ian McCaw, the athletics director who resigned days after Briles was fired and Ken Starr was fired as president. McCaw has alleged regents shaped the Pepper Hamilton investigation to unfairly target the football program, and the university has denied that forcefully.
“The facts will show that Briles acted always in good faith and in an earnest desire to appropriately respond to every allegation of sexual assault or domestic violence made against a player,” his filing states, and that some regents “selectively cherry-picked facts and covered up facts damning to their narrative.”
Briles flatly denied responsibility in the allegations of Lozano, the former student who alleged former Baylor football player Devin Chafin physically assaulted her. U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman in July allowed Lozano to sue Baylor, Briles, McCaw and the city of Waco after most of her claims in a 2016 lawsuit were dismissed.
Briles, who is about to start a new job coaching football in Italy, also pointed to a public statement by former volleyball coach Jim Barnes, who said Briles acted appropriately when he heard that football players had raped one of Barnes’ players. The former student-athlete sued Baylor in 2016 and reached a settlement with the school in July. The university has said neither Briles, McCaw, Barnes nor another administrator alerted the student discipline office of the allegation, and that Barnes was saddened nothing more could be done, despite Briles’ and McCaw’s knowledge of the allegation.
“Instead of turning a blind eye to these serious findings within the football program, as Briles and his supporters would suggest, Baylor’s Board of Regents did not shirk their responsibilities and stepped up to take significant actions,” according to the Baylor statement. “They reaffirmed the University’s commitment to the safety and security of its students. Sweeping administrative and athletics leadership changes were made, in addition to the implementation of 105 recommendations for improvement.”
The vice president of human resources served as Title IX coordinator before Crawford’s arrival, and athletics department personnel erred in not reporting the case to anyone, according to the statement.
“The coach is encouraged with every recent revelation of the true facts,” said Ernest Cannon, one of Briles’ attorneys. “Because what coach has always wanted as a resolution to this situation is the truth. Recently, we’ve been moving in that direction. So yes, he’s encouraged.”
Lozano’s attorneys were not immediately available for comment.