Brenda Tracy didn’t want to tell this story, not originally.
She wanted the focus of her trip to Baylor in July to be on the players, who seemed engaged during her presentation on sexual assault prevention, and head coach Jim Grobe, who had called to invite her there in the first place. She didn’t want to highlight the disappointing behavior of an assistant coach.
Well, until she realized what her silence meant: That she would be subjected to an onslaught of attacks and criticism on social media for her opinions about Baylor and former coach Art Briles. Tracy, a rape survivor who has gone public with the story of her 1998 gang rape that included two Oregon State football players, believes Baylor was right to fire Briles. And she doesn’t believe he should coach again. And she has said so publicly and repeatedly.
“I was getting a lot of backlash for that,” Tracy said. “So I decided I was going to put in an op-ed (in The Huffington Post) why I feel the way I do about that program — and disclose everything.
“I felt defeated leaving (the assistant coach’s) office.”
What had happened was this: Following Tracy’s conversation with the Baylor players, an assistant coach pulled her aside and asked her to speak privately in an office near the team’s meeting room. Baylor’s Title IX coordinator followed the two of them into the room as well.
You could just tell he was really frustrated, and the first thing he was asking was, ‘Why are you here? Why are you talking to football?’ Tracy told USA TODAY Sports on Saturday, elaborating on her op-ed in the Huffington Post. “He was really defensive. He was really frustrated with everything that was going on. He did not seem happy about me being there.”
The assistant coach, whom Tracy did not identify, spoke to Tracy for about 45 minutes, “trying to convince me that nothing had happened there,” she said. “That there was not a problem with football, that Art Briles did absolutely nothing wrong, and that this was a university problem. I felt he was trying to convince me of that, and wanted me to agree with him. I wouldn’t.”
Tracy said she tried to explain to him that it doesn’t matter where the majority of violence on a campus occurs; she travels the country to talk to football teams about the platform they have, encouraging them to prevent and speak out against sexual violence and influence those around them to do the same.
She wasn’t sure he absorbed her point. She said he seemed fixated on the idea that Briles’ ouster was part of a conspiracy concocted because Baylor was winning so many football games.
“He kept denying that anything was going on in football, and saying that Art Briles knew nothing about anything that was going on and was unjustly fired,” Tracy said. “I just kept saying, ‘I’m not here to comment on Art Briles. I’m here to talk to the team, and this is about what are you going to do today moving forward?”
They ultimately agreed to disagree.
“It just felt like this really ridiculous interaction that was going nowhere,” Tracy said. “He was so defensive and angry about everything.”
Because she was held up in the office with the assistant coach for so long, she didn’t have an opportunity to talk with players or other coaches after her talk to the team. Normally, there’s time for players to come up to her and ask questions or share their own stories
“It validated to me that there really was a serious problem here, and there are remnants of the serious problem still there,” Tracy said.
After the “bizarre” confrontation, Tracy said she immediately told Baylor associate athletic director Nick Joos about the conversation with the assistant coach. She has not heard what happened as a result, and has not heard from Baylor since her blog post published Friday.
Briles was among those who lost their jobs after Pepper Hamilton released its findings after investigating the university and its handling of a string of sexual assault cases. Pepper Hamilton's findings described the Baylor football program as believing itself to be above the rules with "no culture of accountability for misconduct."
Tracy is worried that the football team — which retained nine assistant coaches from Briles' staff — might not be making that much progress on changing that culture.
"I’m trying to do this good work, and Coach Grobe is trying to do this good work, but if this man is any indication of what’s happening with the rest of the coaching staff, then these poor kids are in trouble," Tracy said. "There’s not going to be any encouragement if there’s a young man who wants to do something right. He’s not going to be built up by the staff; he’s going to be torn down by the staff. That was sad for me.”