WACO, Texas — The NoZe Brotherhood’s truck pulled a large oriental rug through Baylor’s homecoming parade on Oct. 15, the members of the secret society sweeping away with their brooms.
“Welcome to the Baylor Board of Regents cleaning service, where we won’t clean your carpet but we’ll sweep things under the rug for you," a student bellowed from the bed of the truck.
There was no explanation needed. This community has been overtaken by controversy since revelations of the school’s systemic failings to address sexual violence, leading to firings and resignations of top officials, came to light.
On a weekend meant to celebrate the Baylor University family and an unbeaten start to the football season, the brotherhood felt a responsibility to address all the university has faced.
They’re not alone.
“I think we’re probably still pretty upset about what’s happened over the last few years, hopeful that new leadership will take us in the right direction in dealing with this,” said Brian Raines, a professor of mathematics and member of the faculty senate. “As these reports were coming out, it was just heartbreaking for those of us that live here.
“There’s a lot more to Baylor than football.”
In May, Baylor released a summary of an investigation by Philadelphia law firm Pepper Hamilton that found the school failed to comply with Title IX in addressing reports of sexual assault, faulting the culture of the school broadly and the football program specifically for not only neglecting to help victims but for discouraging some from reporting their assaults.
Since then the school has been working to implement 105 recommendations from Pepper Hamilton. Yet the Baylor community is caught between those eager to move forward and those calling for transparency from a private university and a full account of what went wrong and who is to blame.
After months of silence, the regents last week released more findings of the investigation, telling the Wall Street Journal that 17 women reported sexual or domestic assaults by 19 football players, including four alleged gang rapes, since 2011.
The new information came in partial response to an interview with former Baylor Title IX coordinator Patty Crawford that is scheduled to air on 60 Minutes Sports on Tuesday. In it Crawford details the institutional failures in the highest levels of the Baylor administration that prevented her from doing her job.
“With Patty Crawford’s erroneous accusations that she had been ‘set up to fail’ and with increasing calls for more information around the firing of head football coach Art Briles, the regents believed they could no longer let others tell the Baylor story,” the university said in a statement to USA TODAY Sports.
Amid that turmoil, the Bears are 6-1 with a game against rival TCU on Saturday. Baylor Revolution, an anonymous group, tweeted in early October that it planned to distribute black T-shirts to be worn for the TCU game as a show of support for Briles.
The tweet, which included #BringBackCAB (Coach Art Briles), has been deleted, and the group did not respond to requests from USA TODAY Sports for comment.
Whether the "blackout" goes forward, the plan and recent events highlight questions many have about how quickly cultural change is coming to the world’s largest Baptist university.
“I think there’s a really strong suggestion that Baylor doesn’t get it, that they view this primarily as a public relations problem and not as a character problem and as an issue that they are going to have to deal with,” said Laura Seay, a Baylor alumna who is a professor at Colby College in Waterville, Maine.
“I think it’s fair to say that as an institution and with its governing body, Baylor has not fully absorbed the message.”
Failures are 'consistent'
Following the release of the Pepper Hamilton report, Baylor’s faculty senate still had questions, so the university brought the firm's attorneys back to campus in September. Asked how Baylor was doing in comparison to other schools’ handling of sexual assaults, a Pepper Hamilton attorney told the faculty that Baylor was severely behind the times, saying that while most schools were in the 1980s, Baylor was in the 1950s, according to Dwight Allman, an associate professor of political science and member of the faculty senate.
Pepper Hamilton’s “findings of fact” reported that Baylor’s efforts to comply with Title IX were “slow, ad hoc and hindered by a lack of institutional support;” that the student conduct processes were “wholly inadequate” to respond under Title IX; that the university failed to “consistently support complainants” with interim measures; that the school in some cases “failed to take action to identify and eliminate a potential hostile environment.”
In some cases, the report noted, administrators discouraged complainants from reporting.
“I think we’ve been presented with enough of the findings to have a sense of the fact that we have a problem,” Allman told USA TODAY Sports in mid-October. “At the same time, I think the institutional response has been appropriate to what has been presented to us by Pepper Hamilton.”
Baylor is addressing the firm’s 105 recommendations, which are directed at the school’s Title IX policy, its support services, training and education, athletic department and culture, among others.
According to information from the university, Baylor has spent or budgeted $4.3 million on the Title IX office and other services for sexual assault victims since November 2014. That includes expanding its Title IX staff from one to seven full-time positions and adding 18 new positions to double the staff of the counseling center.
“With anything this big, it takes time,” said McKensie Wren, a third-generation Baylor student who is majoring in real estate finance. “We have to give Baylor the time to make the changes effective and do it the right way.”
Just how much progress the school is actually making remains an open question.
Crawford was hired as the school’s Title IX coordinator in November 2014, more than three years after the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights issued a memo in part advising schools that they should have a coordinator.
She resigned in early October, saying on CBS This Morning that Baylor officials undermined her efforts to investigate sexual assault complaints and that Baylor was more concerned with its brand than protecting students.
“I think her accusations are unfair and also untrue,” said interim president David Garland told USA TODAY Sports.
Seay, who served as a spokesperson for a petition this spring that drew attention to Baylor’s problems addressing sexual violence, is involved with a network of men and women who say they are aware of around 100 people who were allegedly assaulted at Baylor.
Several of those reported their cases after Crawford was hired, Seay said, and it’s clear to her Baylor’s response had improved. But she believes what Crawford has said.
“What they have been telling us about failures ... I believe it," Seay said. "It’s so consistent across so many pieces.”
In the 60 Minutes Sports story to air Tuesday, Baylor senior vice president and CFO Reagan Ramsower admits that the school was slow to respond to a woman’s report that she was sexually assaulted by two football players in 2013.
Tre’Von Armstead, one of those players, was found responsible in a Title IX proceeding, Ramsower said, but that came after he was an All-Big 12 player in 2014.
“That was a significant failure to respond by the police department,” Ramsower said, according to a transcript released by 60 Minutes Sports.
Following Crawford’s resignation, the Department of Education on Oct. 18 opened a Title IX investigation that Baylor has confirmed came in response to a complaint from Crawford. At the time, Baylor was one of 215 schools being investigated by the department.
Everybody held accountable?
As Baylor prepared for the homecoming game on Oct. 15, faculty, students and alumni struggled with what they did know and the questions that remain.
Though talk of the Pepper Hamilton report has died down, some students and faculty said, a recent drip of news has kept the discussion going, including whether Baylor will be making more details public.
Baylor recently released crime stats mandated by the Clery Act that showed 23 rapes reported in 2015, up from five in 2014. A review of the data by The Associated Press showed Baylor reported no rapes over a four-year period from 2008-11.
Sexual assault is one of the most under-reported crimes, especially on a college campus, and advocates explain a higher number is more reflective of the problem and a sign that students feel comfortable reporting.
Brenda Tracy, who has told the story of her alleged 1998 gang rape that included two Oregon State football players to teams and groups around the country, said Baylor should first own up to the extent of the problem before trying to fix it.
“There’s nothing wrong with doing that, but it doesn’t seem like they want to do that,” Tracy said. “It seems like they want to keep on saying nothing really happened and everything’s fine — when we all know that it’s not.”
Tracy spoke to the Baylor football team in July, and in September she wrote a piece for the Huffington Post relaying an experience with an unidentified assistant football coach after her talk in which she described him as defensive and asserting nothing wrong had happened in the football program.
Though Briles and two staffers were fired, the entire assistant coaching staff — which includes Briles’ son Kendal and son-in-law Jeff Lebby — remained.
The summary of the Pepper Hamilton report does not include Briles’ name, but Baylor regents told the Wall Street Journal that in at least one case, Briles knew about an alleged incident and did not report it to police, the judicial affairs office or the Title IX office.
Boosters have tried to bring Briles back. Led by an example from Kendal Briles, the Bears’ offensive coordinator, students have written "CAB" — for Coach Art Briles — on the backs of their hands.
“We’re all heartbroken over Art Briles. That was the worst day ever,” said Megan Hummel, a junior majoring in accounting, told USA TODAY Sports in October. “He’s a great man, and it wasn’t his fault.”
Even though Briles and others are gone, the question still remains: Has everyone at the university who was responsible for the failings been held accountable? In addition to Briles’ firing, president Ken Starr was demoted and athletic director Ian McCaw was put on probation. Both resigned.
“I think when you remove the president, the athletic director and a successful and beloved football coach, I think there’s incredible accountability,” said Garland, the interim president.
“It may have helped to be a little more specific, lest people suspect that there was widespread cover-up or anything. This simply, in my opinion, did not happen.”
But many are unwilling to take Baylor’s regents and administrators at their words.
“We would hope that the right people have been and will be held accountable,” said Fred Norton, president of the Baylor Line Foundation, an alumni group, “but we certainly have no information that would verify that.”
It’s those lingering questions that in part have led to a drip of news that can impact victims.
In addition to Crawford’s resignation and Tracy’s revelation about an assistant football coach, the past eight weeks have included a televised apology from Briles in which he did not make clear what he was apologizing for, Starr asserting that Briles had “suffered a grave injustice,” and former football player Shawn Oakman appearing in the Bears’ locker room on a gameday even though he no longer plays for the team and has been indicted for sexual assault.
To some students who spoke to USA TODAY Sports, Baylor is taking measures to make resources required under the law known around campus, including professors putting Title IX information on their syllabi.
To other students, the changes seem like checking a box.
“They haven’t done a good job besides printing some numbers on the back of a syllabus,” said Laura McCarty, a junior majoring in international business.
Although an amnesty policy that would prevent students from facing discipline for drinking or drug use if they reported a sexual assault is among the Pepper Hamilton recommendations, some students did not know about it and said they would not report in that situation for fear of punishment.
A belief that football players will be treated differently lingers. Some students said Baylor seemed too eager to move forward.
Jordan Bordofske, a senior majoring in marketing, said a professor urged her class to continue to go to football games because not every player is guilty, a comment she found insensitive to victims.
“He just approached it in the way that if I was one of those girls, I would feel like (expletive) you for that,” she said. “He didn’t start out by saying, ‘I understand, this was wrong and this impacted society.’ It was just like, it happened but let’s move on.”
Indeed adhering to federal law may be the first step, but the more difficult change is that of the culture on campus.
The question is does Baylor walk the walk as it talks the talk?" provost Gregory Jones told USA TODAY Sports. "Is there a coherence between the mission as it’s identified and the actual behavior of leadership and the broader campus?
“I think on the broader sense, the hit has been a kind of question mark or even a skepticism of hypocrisy. But internally, it’s been more of a wound to a friend and a desire for healing.”
Five months after the release of the Pepper Hamilton report, the school is still grappling with how to heal.
Many have criticized the moniker of Baylor Nation, which rose with the football team’s success under Briles. For decades, they viewed themselves as a Baylor family.
A billboard on the edge of campus welcomed home that family last month, but the Baylor community still finds itself torn in the wake of a scandal that has left so much unanswered.