Tag Archives: Art Briles

Latest Overreaction in College Sports: Cancel Baylor’s Football Season

On Sunday, a headline popped up in my timeline that immediately grabbed my attention. It read: “Rape activist says Baylor should cancel season.”

Earlier this year, immediately after Baylor fired Coach Art Briles, I weighed in on the situation. I said then (and still maintain now) that firing Briles was the right move for the university.

Since then, there have been many people within the program and even just fans of the Baylor football team that have come forward to say they feel differently. They feel that Briles didn’t do anything serious enough to warrant losing his job. After all, this is a sexual assault issue, not a football issue.

I hate to break it to you, but this is a football issue if those accused of said sexual assaults are football players. They made it a football issue even though it usually wouldn’t be one.

So now that we’ve established that this is, in fact, a football issue, let’s get back to what I started off this article by mentioning. A rape activist, who spoke to the Baylor football team this summer, is calling for the university to cancel the remainder of its football season. Even as a sexual assault survivor myself, I think that’s a completely ridiculous idea.

Oh, but Harvard canceled the remainder of the men’s soccer season after a much less serious sex-based scandal. So clearly this wouldn’t be overkill in this situation, right? Wrong.

That was most definitely overkill in the Harvard situation. And it would be overkill for the Baylor football program, too.

I understand the idea of actions and consequences. But the consequences for actions should be reasonable. In this case, the intentions of the team wearing black can’t even be proved. So how in the world could they make the leap to cancel the rest of the season?

They just couldn’t. Yes, fans did purchase and wear black shirts with #CAB (Coach Art Briles) on them. Yes, the players did opt for a blackout instead of the originally planned green out.

Do I believe that the team wearing black was not intended to make a statement about the former coach? No. The countless tweets in support of Art Briles say otherwise. The university probably just swooped in with the narrative of innocence to cover its behind.

But can any of us prove that the team wore black with the intention of protesting Briles losing his job? No. You cannot punish them for something you can’t prove they did.

Was it insensitive to wear black uniforms given the fact that fans had planned to wear black in support of Briles? Probably. But insensitivity isn’t something we should cancel a football season over. It’s an oversight at the very least, but it shouldn’t be the death sentence for a football season.

There can be other consequences for the team anyways. Force more sexual assault seminars down the players’ throats (because that clearly works). Require a team apology to the victims. Suggest community service hours for those who spoke out in favor of Briles. There are many options that are less extreme but still send a message.

And the message I’m talking about isn’t really for the players. The message is for the victims of sexual assault, still scarred from their horrifying experiences. The message would show them that Baylor will not tolerate sexual assault and will not support anybody who does.

Sure, canceling the season would do that. But what about the people who don’t tolerate sexual assault and are involved in the football program? How about the business owners who count on football games to boost revenue on Saturdays in November? What about the people at the university who benefit from the money generated by the football games? What about the young fans looking forward to these games all season?

At the end of the day, the football games do more good than harm. Canceling the season, on the other hand, would do much more harm than good.

But it’s 2016 and people in America are so sensitive that they think the rest of a football season should be canceled because feelings got hurt. Don’t get me wrong, the feelings of those sexual assault survivors are important. But canceling the rest of Baylor’s games won’t soothe the wounds created by being personally violated.

Try something else. Make a heartfelt apology, and then make sure that players and fans alike respect those victims the rest of the season. Do that and maybe we can all move forward.

You can email Kristen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @OGKristenB.

Photo: Daniel Huizinga, Flickr

The Misuse of Title IX in College Football

Colorado defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt is proof that coaches can make the most of second chances. Leavitt helped build the South Florida football program from scratch. In doing so, he led the Bulls to a record of 95-57 from 1997-2009. He was courted by higher profile programs but ultimately decided to remain loyal to the program that had given him his first opportunity as a head coach.

All of that came to end when Leavitt was accused of striking a player in the locker room. This incident resulted in his firing. Much was made of the incident at the time and it was used as justification when some people said he should never coach again.

And for three years after his firing, Leavitt did not coach college football as he spent 2011-2014 as the San Francisco 49ers linebackers coach.

But then Leavitt was given a second chance to coach college football when, in 2015, Colorado head coach Mike Macintyre hired him as his defensive coordinator at Colorado. There may have been a few people who thought it was a questionable hire given what allegedly occurred while Leavitt was at South Florida, but there wasn’t the public outrage that we hear when the possibility of Art Briles coaching again is brought up.

What went on at Baylor and South Florida should not be considered equivalent situations, but the events surrounding the firings of Briles and Leavitt are comparable. Leavitt was accused of punching one of his players while Briles was accused of turning a blind eye to his players sexually assaulting women. Yes, I stand by my assertion that these are comparable but not equivalent situations.

These situations are comparable because each coach allegedly lost control of his program. These situations are not equivalent because Leavitt allegedly lost control of himself and made the decision to allow his actions to become violent. Briles, though, lost control of other people. My point is that Leavitt’s alleged actions were worse than Briles’ alleged actions yet society allowed Leavitt a second chance. And it’s a second chance that I agree with.

So why was Leavitt’s second chance embraced while the thought of a second chance for Briles will have a person shunned? There are a couple of reasons for this.

The first reason is timing. When Leavitt was fired by South Florida, society was much different. We as a society had empathy for others, but we didn’t allow that empathy to be the catalyst for publicly shaming a potentially guilty party. Reason played a much greater role in decision making back in 2009.

The second reason that Leavitt’s second chance was embraced is due to the genders of the alleged assaulted parties combined with the timing of the incident. If Leavitt would have struck a woman, his second chance still would have occurred, but it would have been more harshly scrutinized. We live in a society where a man can be assaulted. Just don’t assault a woman. And that isn’t my way of saying that assaulting a woman should be tolerated. It’s my way of saying that assault is assault regardless of the gender of the victim. Remember, we’re all supposed to be equal.

The elements of timing and gender are being tied together through the misuse of Title IX.  Title IX was never intended to be used as a mechanism to fight against sexual assault. Furthermore, it is stated in that AAUP link that using Title IX in this manner can actually lead to more gender inequality. And that perpetuation of gender inequality is on full display when comparing the alleged misconduct that happened at South Florida and Baylor.

Leavitt was provided with a second chance when he was hired by the 49ers. He seemed to have made the most of that second chance as it resulted in Colorado being comfortable with him being around college players. Leavitt’s success story should be used as an example when contemplating whether or not Briles should coach again.

E-mail Seth at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.

Photo: Wikipedia

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Art Briles Will Coach Again

Former Baylor football coach Art Briles toured a number of NFL training camps back in August and one of his stops included the Dallas Cowboy’s training camp. During this stop, he made some comments about his involvement with the Baylor scandal that suggested that he was tone deaf to the situation that ultimately resulted in his having been fired.

The reason for this media tour, and let’s be honest, these training camp visits were just that, was to help him position himself for another coaching job. Needless to say, Briles did not help his cause with comments such as this – “I’ve never done anything illegal, immoral, unethical.”

Either Briles or his public relations advisor realized that comments like this would not help his cause and the tone and rhetoric heard in his ESPN interview on September 10 was drastically different than what he conveyed in his previous attitude. Briles seemed to be apologetic and remorseful when speaking with Tom Rinaldi, but only the former coach knows how sincere his new found attitude really was when taping his interview with ESPN.

Personally, I don’t believe that Briles is truly apologetic towards what happened at Baylor. His comments to Rinaldi were so drastically different from his NFL training camp comments, that it’s just too difficult for me to take him at his word. However, I do believe that he is remorseful. He’s remorseful because it cost him his job at Baylor. The situation that Briles ignored while at Baylor should never be minimized and I have serious doubts about his proclamation that he has never done anything illegal, immoral, or unethical. But contrary to popular opinion, Briles is far from unhireable.

Please, do not misunderstand what I mean when I say he is far from unhireable. I am not condoning what went on at Baylor and I am not minimizing what those women went through at the hand of the Baylor football players. But like it or not, Briles didn’t do anything illegal. I am confident saying that today, because until a court says otherwise, Briles hasn’t done anything illegal and therefore shouldn’t be treated as if he had broken the law. In my opinion, he has acted immorally and unethically but acting in these manners doesn’t make a person unhireable.

We all go to work each day and sit side-by-side with people who have been at least as immoral and unethical as Briles yet they have jobs. Yes, there is a fine line between this and actually breaking the law, but the line is there none the less.

With all of that said, the question then becomes this – What school could hire Briles to be their head football coach?

Briles has received the brunt of the criticism and public perception is that he was solely to blame in how the Baylor scandal was handled. That is not only unfair to Briles, it also lets Ian McCaw and Ken Starr off of the hook far too easily. There is enough blame and public scrutiny for all three.

The type of school who could hire Briles is one that has a strong Title IX coordinator, an even stronger athletics director and a President and Chancellor who truly expects transparent accountability. Because once again, it wasn’t just Briles who failed the women at Baylor, it was the entire structure of leadership that was in place.

Now when I say a strong structure of leadership would need to be in place, I mean a legitimate structure of leadership. The type of leaders who could hire Briles would need to be able to stand up to public scrutiny when times appeared to be at their worst. This is to say that actual proof would be needed prior to making a disciplinary decision. Once the facts were in, leaders such as these would be comfortable taking swift action.

Leaders like this would not make decisions based on public perception as was the case when Gus Malzahn and Auburn prematurely kicked Jovon Robinson off of the football team before the facts were known. Innocent until proven guilty is a thing and it needs to be adhered to in every situation. This would be a monumental task for any school hiring Briles based on his track record at Baylor but it wouldn’t be impossible.

Ian McCaw resigned shortly after Jim Grobe was hired to take Briles’ place on the Baylor sideline. As I said, McCaw played a part in how poorly the scandal was handled, but I don’t see a public shouting match over whether or not he is unhireable. Ken Starr completely mismanaged the situation and dug his hole deeper each time he opened his mouth, but he’ll get a high-level job somewhere else. But it’s Briles who takes the majority of the public’s outrage and is considered unhireable based on public opinion.

Briles takes the majority of the public’s outrage because he’s the football coach. The outrage from the public will get more attention going after the coach than it would by going after the athletics director or President/Chancellor. Going after the coach will keep attention on the scandal because people care about who the coach is. These same people probably couldn’t tell you who the athletics director or President/Chancellor were at the majority of schools. This isn’t to say that Briles is a scapegoat. He most certainly is not. The way that he handled the scandal was deplorable but no more so than the way that McCaw or Starr handled it.
At the end of the 2016 season, a handful of coaches will be fired. And of those fired coaches, a decent number will have been at either Power 5 or Group Of 5 programs. Someone will hire Briles to fill their coaching vacancy and if the leadership structure is strong enough at his new school, Briles could very well succeed in the face of public scrutiny.  

E-mail Seth at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom

Photo: en.wikipedia.org

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2016 Is All About Football for Baylor and Jim Grobe

When Baylor trounced the Northwestern State Demons last weekend, the Bears proved that the only thing new to Baylor football this year is head coach Jim Grobe. The on-field results were the same as they have always been and that is a high-scoring track meet. This is what should be focused on from this point forward with Baylor and I’ll tell you why.

Art Briles, Ken Starr and Ian McCaw were all shown the door and rightfully so. The former football players who were accused of rape have also been kicked out of the program. Again, rightfully so. Yes, Baylor had to be drug kicking and screaming to do the right thing, but eventually it did and personnel changes were made.

None of the legal or moral crimes that occurred at Baylor were the fault of Jim Grobe. Grobe was brought in after the fact to help clean up the mess that Art Briles contributed to. So let’s give Grobe a fair shot and not rule him guilty by association.

As for the players that remain on the football team? The same treatment should apply to them as applies to Grobe. I refuse to believe that every football player knew or was directly involved in the rapes that occurred at Baylor. Like Grobe, the players that remain on the team should not be considered guilty by association.

There is the argument that Baylor shouldn’t be fielding a football team at all this year. One of the more popular reactions to the crimes committed at Baylor was for the NCAA to levy the death penalty to the football program. As much as that would have pleased much of the country, it was never an option because, like it or not, the issues at Baylor never fell under NCAA jurisdiction.

So now it is about football and that’s exactly how it should be.

Jim Grobe and his Bears put the rest of the Big 12 on notice against Northwestern State. Seth Russell completed 70% of his passes as he threw for four touchdowns. Shock Linwood averaged 10.8 yards per carry and a stable of wide receivers raced up and down the field. And the Baylor defense held the Demons to 78 yards total yards. Not bad considering the Bears are not known for playing defense against anybody.

On a day when Oklahoma lost to Houston and TCU struggled to pull out a victory against South Dakota State, Baylor just kept doing its thing and nobody seemed to notice. All people want to talk about is Texas beating Notre Dame and what Texas’ rise means to the rest of the conference. 

It’s not the premature argument about Texas’ rise back to the top of the conference that should be our focus in the Big 12 after the first week. What should be our focus is the resiliency that the remaining Baylor players and coaches put on display against Northwestern State. And if conference favorites Oklahoma and TCU continue to falter, don’t be surprised if Jim Grobe’s Bears take full advantage of the opportunity.

E-mail Seth at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom

Photo: en.wikipedia.org

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Playoff Selection Process Starts Labor Day Weekend

This year’s Week 1 provides the single greatest opening week of games in the history of the sport. From showdowns like USC-Alabama and Florida State-Ole Miss to the glorified scrimmages between Michigan State-Furman and SE Louisiana-Oklahoma State, it is best to follow our advice: “don’t lose.” 

Because of the quality of the slate of games, it highlights the most flavorful aspect of this grand ol’ game. The regular season is a time for men, not for the faint of heart.

Am I overstating? No. It’s the only sport on the planet where what you do in Week 1 is important in determining who qualifies for the championship round. This has been true since the inception of the BCS and the intensity has been ratcheted up with the College Football Playoff.

Here’s the deal. The playoff committee’s job starts Labor Day weekend. For the perceived contenders with expectations of the CFP, they’d better bring it right away. To the teams starting the season with modest expectations but want to shock the world? Their road to Tampa kicks off in Week 1. There is little room for error in college football and that is a great thing.

If Oklahoma falls to Houston on Sept. 3, they’re on the brink. Can’t lose again. If Houston wants consideration for a playoff spot, the Coogs must beat OU and Louisville and everyone else on their slate.

If Wisconsin beats LSU at Lambeau Field, the expectations and possibilities open up. If Tennessee wants this to be a special season, it can’t lose to Appalachian State.

We may disagree on many points. For instance, I believe that college football produces the best regular season of any organized sport in the world. I also believe that staying at four teams is critical for the sport’s long-term, year-round health.

The people that disagree with me on those issues have a right to their opinion, even if they’re wrong. Those folks are the guy who attends the Rose Parade but spends his whole time checking Twitter so people at home can tell him how beautiful it is. They’d see it, too, if they’d just bother to look up.

The nature of the sport is very clear. If a team plays a good schedule from top to bottom and wins them all, they’ll be there. If they lose one, they’re taking their chances. Lose two and the stars will need to align. And, if you go out of your way to take the path of least resistance to earn a spot in the playoff, do it at your own risk (we’re all looking at you, Baylor 2014).

Most fans will enjoy the games this weekend because football is back. But, it’s more than that, much more. Stuff gets real this week, people.

For college football to be enjoyed to its fullest, it’s a must to recognize the significance of each week. Because what happens Labor Day Weekend will impact who the selection committee chooses in December.

Big 12 Links: Bishop, Briles and $1 Billion

On Monday, Baylor hired former Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe after firing Art Briles .Grobe resigned from Wake Forest two years ago after spending 13 years there. Following this announcement, Baylor’s athletic director Ian McCaw resigned after he was placed on probation. The president of Baylor Ken Starr has also resigned.

Some people need to learn to keep their mouths closed. Staley Lebby, the daughter of Art Briles and also the wife of Baylor’s running backs coach spoke in her father’s defense via Facebook Thursday. Lebby said that her father’s firing was a “media witch hunt” and said that her father is a “man of incredible character”. It surprises me that her dad let her speak up on this matter and to do it on Facebook seems a little unprofessional to me.

This week it came out why Robert James Castaneda was kicked off of the Texas Tech football team in May. Castaneda told investigators that he took a gun safe with at least seven weapons in it. He also took a television and a camera from a home in Lubbock Texas in December. Castaneda was arrested on Friday and was released on a $5,000 bond. If convicted, he could face up to 20 years in prison.

After 20 seasons at Texas, Augie Garrido, the winningest coach in college baseball history, is out. Texas had its first losing season since 1998 and will miss the post season for the third time in five years. Augie will still be around the university as a special assistant to the athletic director. Garrido has been honored six times as the national coach of the year and will be inducted into the College Baseball Hall of Fame in July.

Michael Bishop, former Kansas State quarterback, is up for the College Football Hall of Fame. Bishop is one of the 75 players and six coaches on the ballot. Bishop led the Wildcats to two 11-win seasons in 1997 and 1998 and led the Wildcats to their first number 1 ranking in history. Bishop has been honored in the Kansas State Ring of Honor, Kansas Sports Hall of Fame and the K-State Athletics Hall of Fame. Mark Simoneau and coach Bill Snyder are two Wildcats that have been honored already in the College Football Hall of Fame. Bishop is up against some very tough competition on the 2017 ballot. Eight players who played on Big 12 teams. I am not sure if this year is the year he will be voted in, but hopefully it will happen soon.

Baker Mayfield will not play an extra year at Oklahoma. The Big 12 voted on the walk-on transfer rule for Mayfield this week at the Big 12 meetings. The vote ended in a 5-5 tie that means it did not pass. Bob Stoops was not happy about the decision that was made. Stoops stated “ I’m incredibly disappointed the rule change proposal wasn’t passed today at the big 12 meetings. I hope the conference will reconsider its decision and put the welfare of the student athletes first. It only makes sense for the Big 12’s rules to be consistent with those of the NCAA when it comes to non-scholarship walk-on student-athletes. “ Mayfield could transfer and play at a school in another conference in 2017 as a graduate transfer if he wanted. If he ends up doing this it will not look good for the Big 12. If I were a transfer athlete looking for a school this decision would make me not choose a school in the Big 12. As of yesterday the Big 12 voted to change a transfer rule for walk-ons that would allow them to change schools within the conference and not lose a year of eligibility.

This week the Big 12 administrators are going to be presenting information that will show that the Big 12 Conference can earn at least $1 billion dollars if it decides to expand. This money would come from TV rights contracts they would gain from the expansion. This amount would be if the Big 12 decided to expand by four teams, which I don’t see happening. If it only expanded with two teams then they would gain around $500 million dollars. This won’t help the current Big 12 teams but it would make sure that the conference wouldn’t fall behind the other Power 5 conferences like the direction it is currently going in.

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Dan Mullen Giving Jeffery Simmons a Second Chance

The announcement was made yesterday that Mississippi State recruit Jeffery Simmons will be permitted to enroll in school and play for Dan Mullen’s Bulldog football team. This came as a shock to many people because he was allegedly guilty of assault and disturbing the peace back in March.

This was more than simple assault considering that Simmons struck a woman. Here is the video if you would like to view it.

There is no question that Simmons was wrong for striking this woman. This would hold true if he had hit a man or a woman. However, I also believe that, based on what we know, he deserves a second chance. Part of what we know is that he has been charged with nothing up to this point.

The argument being made against Mullen and Mississippi State offering Simmons a second chance revolves around the systemic rape culture that had been supported at Baylor.

Mullen and Mississippi State are not Art Briles and Baylor.

[Merenbloom:  Baylor and Art Briles Live Off of Redemption]

I do not believe that it is fair to Simmons, Mullen or Mississippi State to hold them accountable for what went on at Baylor. Similar circumstances are not the same circumstances. Similar crimes are not the same crimes.

One of the big differences between the situations at Baylor and Mississippi State was that Simmons did not allegedly commit his assault as a student of Mississippi State. I may be splitting hairs here, but this is a distinction that needs to be acknowledged. It is this distinction that makes lumping these two institutions together seem misguided to me.

Another difference is that Mississippi State openly acknowledged that Simmons is a high-risk individual based on the assault accusations and the video that is available. Baylor chose to ignore the allegations and facts surrounding some of its football players committing rape.

Mississippi State not only acknowledged the high-risk nature of admitting Simmons to the school, but the school has also implemented a support system for Simmons once he arrives on campus.

After careful assessment, the MSU athletics department has determined Simmons may be a part of the football team, but he will be evaluated by the licensed professionals at the university’s Student Counseling Services and be required to complete any program prescribed by that office.

Not only is there a support system in place for Simmons, but he is also suspended for the first game of the season. Suspending a player for a game is unprecedented considering that he did not commit his alleged crime as a current member of the team and, do not forget, he has yet to be charged with anything.

None of this seemed to happen at Baylor.

With all of that said, there is no guarantee that the second chance being given to Simmons will be a success. That is completely up to him.

Mississippi State and Mullen have now placed their fate in the hands of a kid. It is true that this is the case with every coach in America, but the confidence that the university and coach have placed in Simmons falls under greater scrutiny given what has transpired at Baylor.

This scrutiny is fine, but making Mississippi State even passively culpable for what happened at Baylor is not fine.

If Simmons assaults anyone while enrolled at Mississippi State, all bets are off. There should be no third chance and people should lose jobs. But to assume that Simmons will assault someone else and make him, Mississippi State and Mullen all guilty of something that has not happened yet is not fair.

Mullen is taking a chance on Simmons and it is a chance that Simmons best take seriously.

E-mail Seth at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.

Photo: Flickr

Saying Goodbye to Art Briles the Right Decision for Baylor

A Little Background Information…

This is one of the moments when writing about current events in college football takes a very dark turn. These dark turns seem to be happening entirely too often lately. So often that it pains me to be a football fan, at times.

I love football and I have for years. I deeply respect and appreciate the hard work and dedication that teams and their staff put into every season. This is where things get complicated.

I also love feeling protected by university and local law enforcement. I love people, both athletes and otherwise, being held accountable for their actions. I love the idea of justice being served regardless of how important an alleged assailant is to an institution’s success. In light of recent events at Baylor University, I find one version of myself at odds with a different version of myself.

As a victim of sexual assault myself, I simply cannot stand by and support, or even respect, an institution or a coach that seems to allow sexual violence. I cannot support a team whose players have been allowed to disregard the safety of the women around them. I can, however, support a Board of Regents that steps up and takes action to investigate this hostile environment their athletic department may have created.

I might add that I am in no way saying any particular individual is completely at fault in this situation. Truthfully, we may never know who is most to blame here, but any silent bystander is guilty enough to be held accountable in a situation like this. This is especially true when that silent bystander is responsible for a team of athletes who clearly were not held to the standards they should have been.

Whether or not Baylor University head coach Art Briles is directly involved in any Title IX violation is not something the public has been made aware of. What we can seem to gather from the findings of fact report from the Pepper Hamilton law firm is that somebody in a position of leadership needs to be held accountable for what happened at Baylor University.

Ken Starr is no longer Baylor’s president. Initially, he remained with the school as chancellor, but he has now resigned altogether, staying on only as a professor. Athletic Director Ian McCaw resigned almost immediately after the hiring of a new head coach. Head football coach Art Briles is no longer part of the staff at the university in any form.

It seems to some that Ken Starr may have caught a break while Art Briles got the short end of the stick. In the end, Starr was smart enough to remove himself from the situation. With Athletic Director Ian McCaw resigning just a couple days ago, the program is now getting a much-needed total overhaul.

Art Briles’ Daughter Said What?

Art Briles’ daughter, Staley Lebby, was quick to defend her father on social media, making it clear she thought he didn’t deserve to lose his job. She referred to this situation as a “media witch hunt” and voiced overwhelming disappointment with the way the university handled the situation. I have a lot of things to say in response to what Staley Lebby posted.

First of all, this was not just some nosy reporter finding out about one incident of sexual assault that went unreported. This was not just a media witch hunt, even if the media did run with the scandalous story. This was an independent law firm doing an in-depth investigation into years of Title IX violations, many of which seem to have involved the football program. Since Briles is the head of said football program, he is the one who is held accountable for how his team is disciplined. And in this case, it has become clear that his team was not disciplined well at all.

Second, how is a failure to properly implement Title IX for years an issue that can be blown out of proportion? Victims of sexual assault go through so many different types of pain and agony, all of which are made worse when justice does not prevail. Is their pain less important than football? Is ignoring their well-being and not taking steps to prevent future violent incidents against women something that can truly ever be blown out of proportion? If one of your friends were a victim, would you be able to say the same thing? Would you tell your friend that the coach’s firing for standing by while his player got away with assaulting her was due to things being blown out of proportion?

Third, Lebby talks about how her father resurrected the program and alludes to this fact as being a reason to fight to keep him. I get it, Briles has been a blessing for the football program as far as success on the field goes. But, does that success on Saturdays even matter when you’re failing the women of the Baylor community? When you’re allowing young men to avoid facing the consequences of violent (illegal) actions, are you truly winning? Where are the football fans who are fathers of daughters that attend classes at Baylor? Those are the kinds of people that should realize his success on the field couldn’t possibly outweigh the safety of the women on campus.

Fourth, Briles’ daughter says Baylor took the “easy way out” in this situation. I may be wrong, but is firing the coach you say has resurrected the football program really easy for them? Not only do they have to explain the decision to get rid of the man responsible for creating a winning atmosphere, they have to replace him as well. If they don’t win without him then things definitely won’t be easy for the administration. Firing such a successful coach for a situation that has yet to be completely revealed to the public is not really the easy way out.

Last, Lebby ends her post by saying that Baylor “did the unthinkable to one that matters most.” You know what “the unthinkable” is to me? Allowing young men to get away with crimes against young women and continue on with their lives like nothing happened. These victims will never be able to go on with their lives the same way. They will never be able to watch another football game, during which the fans are praising their assailant’s name. They will never feel safe on their own campus. That is unthinkable. Firing a man who stood by while this happened on his football team? That makes sense. That is “thinkable.”

Maybe, Briles didn’t do anything directly wrong, we don’t truly know. He did, however, stand by while serious wrongs were committed in his program, wrongs that are actually unthinkable. Some of these wrongs, like those of the transfer athletes he accepted despite their questionable pasts, could have been prevented.

At the End of the Day Baylor Did the Right Thing…

I can try to put myself in Staley Lebby’s shoes here, and if I do then I understand being upset. My dad losing his job after pulling his company from the brink of bankruptcy would upset me, too. (If he had allowed all kinds of tax fraud in the process, though, things might be different.)

What I still don’t understand about Lebby’s post is what else she thinks there was for the university to do in this situation? At this point, all of the members of the leadership have either lost their jobs or resigned. Even if Briles had not been fired last week, he probably would have been forced to join the resigning parade by now.

A winning chapter in Art Briles’ career may have ended, but this doesn’t have to be the end of his football story, by any means. When the entire situation comes to light (like Lebby assures the public it will), then the court of public opinion may offer a new judgment. With what we know now, it is clear that the leadership for the football team, the athletic department, and the university itself should all be held accountable in a way different from how they disciplined their players. With the current information, firing Briles was definitely the right thing to do. Hiring Jim Grobe to replace him? Now that’s a different story.

This is obviously a subject I speak very passionately about, as a sexual assault survivor and as a fan of the game. Feel free to respectfully reach out to me with any opinions to add on Twitter by following @OGKristenB!

Picture from Wikimedia user Djyueng.

Ranking the Power 5 Conferences for 2016

The SEC has been running college football for about a decade now. When will it end? 2020? 2030? Never? It certainly doesn’t look to be anytime soon. Though the SEC went on a two-year championship drought, it still felt like it was the best conference overall. With Alabama winning it all in 2015, it stamped another year of SEC supremacy.

Even if no conference challenges the Southeastern Conference for the top spot in 2016, it is important to look at the perceived strength of the remaining conferences since it always gets talked about once the playoff rankings roll around.

2016 could be an interesting year because of the relative strengths of the Power 5 conferences. The past two years it was somewhat easy to have four conference champs in the playoff while leaving the fifth conference champ out. Looking forward to 2016, I wouldn’t be surprised if it is the first year in the era of the college football playoff that we see two teams from the same conference make the four-team field. So with that, here is my ranking of the Power 5 conferences heading into 2016.

5. Big 12

The Big 12 is used to being picked on when it comes to conference rankings. Being the only Power 5 conference with just 10 teams and without a conference championship game certainly hasn’t helped matters. This offseason hasn’t exactly seen a lot go right for it either. The conference seemingly can’t decide whether it should expand or not, and in the end will probably have to do what Oklahoma and Texas want it to do anyway.

The conference’s on-field prospects don’t exactly look great heading into this fall either. Oklahoma will be ranked highly to start the year with Heisman hopeful Baker Mayfield returning under center after leading the Sooners to the playoff a year ago. Looming however is Oklahoma’s history of falling apart whenever it starts the year ranked highly. If it happens again this season, the conference may not have another team to fall back on to lead its charge.

Baylor looked to be the other contender for the conference, but with the recent off-field turmoil and dismissal of coach Art Briles it is difficult to expect much from the Bears. I wasn’t sure Baylor would make a run at a playoff spot to begin with and replacing the head coach three months before the season starts has only added to those doubts.

There are nothing but question marks among the rest of the teams. Oklahoma State had a nice season in 2015 on its way to a surprising ten wins but got blasted in its final two games against good competition. TCU has to replace Trevone Boykin at quarterback and WR Josh Doctson, who was picked in the first round. Then there’s Texas, who is in the vast group of former powerhouse programs that have to show something before we buy in again.

Being a top conference is largely based on the contenders at the top. I don’t see the Big 12 having that strength at the top or the depth to make up for it.

4. Pac-12

It certainly looks like the Pac-12’s opportunity has passed it by. A couple years ago the conference had gained enough steam where an argument could be made that it was the nation’s best. The past year and a half has seen a swift fall that culminated in the Pac-12 being left out of the college football playoff in 2015. It’s going to be tough for the conference to claw its way back up the conference rankings, at least in 2016.

There’s a decent chance the Pac-12 will be the only Power 5 conference to not have a team ranked in the pre-season Top 10. Stanford has to replace Kevin Hogan who, while not the most dynamic quarterback, has the most wins in Cardinal history. It is also hard to expect Christian McCaffrey to duplicate his historical 2015 season. They may be the favorite again, but they aren’t nearly in the same class as the Alabama/Michigan/Clemson’s of the world heading into this season.

The Cardinal’s main competition in the Pac-12 recently, the Oregon Ducks, will be trying to bounce back from their first season of under ten wins since 2007. They’ll have to do it with just five starters returning on defense and relying on another FCS transfer at quarterback.

Elsewhere in the conference you have USC which hasn’t been able to get back to national prominence, UCLA who has folded under the weight of pre-season expectations multiple times recently, and a group of average teams that were a disaster on defense a year ago (Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon State).

The two teams that battle for the Apple Cup, Washington and Washington State, give the conference some hope in providing quality depth. The Huskies will be a popular sleeper pick to be the conference champion, and the Cougars Mike Leach-led offense will have a field day against Pac-12 defenses after ranking first nationally in passing a year ago.

There is a lot of uncertainty in the Pac-12 and a lot of that comes down to the unknowns behind center. The conference has just six returning starters at quarterback (all other Power 5 conferences have at least nine). The Pac-12 may not have elite level teams, but it still has some quality depth throughout the conference which is why I rank it ahead of the Big 12.

3. Big Ten

There isn’t nearly as much uncertainty in the Big Ten where Ohio State and Michigan may both be ranked in the top 10 to start the year, two teams that didn’t even play for the conference title in 2015. Michigan should challenge for a playoff spot and even with just six starters returning, anything less than double-digit wins would be a disappointment in Columbus.

Then we get to Michigan State and Iowa, the two teams that did play for the Big Ten Championship a year ago. Regardless of who they lost, the Spartans can’t be counted out after what they’ve done under Mark Dantonio. Aside from 2012, Sparty has notched at least 11 wins every year this decade. The Hawkeyes will be doubted again after being treated to much of the same throughout their surprise 2015 campaign, but I don’t think they should be. They should have one of the best defenses in the country led by future first-round cornerback Desmond King. That defense, along with a returning signal-caller and a solid running game, will keep them in each contest.

The difference when it comes to the Big Ten is that I believe the bottom of the conference is more of a disaster than the ACC, which is why I could only put it at three.

2. ACC

The ACC can thank Clemson for getting it out of the conference-rankings basement in recent years. The conference needed a team to step up to challenge Florida State on a yearly basis and the Tigers have done more than that. Clemson has reached SEC-level respect nationwide under Dabo Swinney as they are expected to be a contender every year no matter who they lose to the NFL.

This year they’ll have a tougher path in an Atlantic Coast Conference that may be as good as it has been in recent memory. The Seminoles have the look of a top 5 team with athletes all over the defense and every single starter returning on offense.

A large number of returning starters is a common theme among ACC teams in 2016. Eight of the conference’s 14 teams return at least 15 starters, and 11/14 have their starting quarterback returning (a nation high). While this doesn’t mean all of those teams will necessarily be good, it does mean a lot of those teams should be improved, increasing competition in the middle and bottom off the conference. Boston College, Syracuse, and Wake Forest were at the bottom of the conference a year ago, but with 15+ starters back including the quarterback, should be less of a pushover than they were in 2015.

There’s also hope for the ACC in the tier below Florida State and Clemson. Louisville has eight starters back on a defense that was 18th in the country last year. If they can get consistency from an offense with 10 starters returning, they’ll be a dark horse in the conference.

The Coastal division should be a three-team race between UNC, Pitt, and Miami. The Tar Heels will be the favorite, but it’s hard to expect them to run away with it again if they repeat a defensive performance that left them 97th in the country in 2015. The Panthers return eight starters on each side of the ball after going 6-2 in conference play a year ago. Then there’s Miami, which could see improvement with new head coach Mark Richt and a quarterback that could be taken very highly in the 2017 NFL Draft.

1. SEC

Was there any doubt? As much as I’d like to see another conference take over the top spot, it’s hard to make that argument for 2016. After last year, it’s time for anyone (myself included) who doubted Alabama to stop expecting less than an SEC championship for the Tide. It’s better to just be surprised if it doesn’t happen.

LSU could be the team to overtake them this year. After a couple of disappointing seasons, the Tigers have the look of a championship contender once again. Everyone will point to the needed improvement at quarterback, which is surely necessary. Really though, it’s the defense that needs to get back to playing the way it used to. The Tigers’ run defense imploded last year during the team’s losses, but should revert to form with nine starters back and new defensive coordinator Dave Aranda on board.

Tennessee was looked at as a bit of a disappointment last year, but still went 9-4. This year they bring 17 starters back from that team, including a dynamic backfield in Josh Dobbs and Jalen Hurd. Along with Tennessee, Ole Miss could help give the SEC four pre-season Top 10 teams. Say what you want about pre-season polls, but they are generally about the most talented teams, and the SEC has more talent than anyone.

The talent discrepancy shows up among the second-tier of the SEC, where teams like Tennessee, Arkansas, and Ole Miss had dominating bowl wins over other Power 5 teams. Other conferences may have a couple teams as good as the SEC’s top teams, but it’s the quality of that middle tier that keeps the SEC on top.

Feature image courtesy Ken Lund

Ken Starr Lives to See Another Day at Baylor

With one statement, Ken Starr made my previous comments seem prophetic about the Baylor rape scandal as he clung to the redemptive nature of his university’s value structure. However, like most characters in stories of biblical portion, there may be more than meets the eye when it comes to Starr and his role in how the events in Waco, TX unraveled.

[Merenbloom:  Baylor and Art Briles Live Off of Redemption]

Pepper Hamilton was hired by Baylor to investigate the rape accusations being levied against its football players and to issue a report which was to include the findings of his investigation. Once Hamilton finished his investigation, he provided the requested report to Baylor and, at that time, the university maintained its silence and would not commit to releasing portions of, let alone the entire report.

Baylor’s commitment to silence was due, in part, to Starr’s request to honor the sanctity of the investigation. He was demanding discretion and then something changed.

On May 24, information was leaked that suggested that Starr would be fired from his position as Baylor president while Art Briles’ job as head football coach would be considered safe.

This had to have come as a shock to Starr considering how close Briles was to the situation. The people who were directly associated with the accusations were his players, so how could Briles possibly get off comparatively easy and Starr be fired by the university?

And then, in what seemed to be a quick turn of events, the firing of Starr was reported to be false. So what happened?

In my opinion, Starr decided that holding the people ultimately responsible for this situation was more important than the sanctity of the report. It was at the time of Starr’s rumored demise that details of the Hamilton report began to surface. And who more than a person trying to save his own hide would have reason to leak even portions of Hamilton’s findings? In my opinion, it was Starr who leaked this information.

The transgressions that Briles and his football program are accused of being guilty of should not be taken lightly. Briles and his football program are all over that report, while Starr’s name was essentially reduced to a whisper. Yet the person who was initially fired over the Baylor rape scandal was Starr? It just did not add up.

[Terrill:  The Blame for Baylor]

Updated reports indicate that Starr is not being fired from all of his Baylor responsibilities.  He had been fulfilling the duties of university president and chancellor since 2013 and he will now he can focus all of his administrative duties on his chancellor position. Consider it a case of being fired/not fired.

And now, on the heels of Starr’s Baylor career being pulled from the fire, there are reports that Briles has indeed been fired from his position as head football coach. In addition to Starr’s position as a high ranking campus administrator remaining in tact and the firing of Briles, athletic director Ian McCaw has been placed on probation. If the university was going to fire Starr, then giving the athletic director a mere slap on the wrist does not seem to be sufficient.

Oh, what a difference a day or two makes.

It would seem that Starr decided that if he was going to be taken down then he was going to take as many people down with him and I cannot find fault with him for this. This is supported, in my opinion, by the statement Starr made following the announcement that he was to assume the sole position of chancellor.

Being a lawyer and former federal judge, Starr is an intelligent person who knows the ins and outs of the law and how to properly position himself against potentially lawsuits. It is important to keep this in mind when Starr says that he launched an internal investigation as soon as he was made aware of the issues allegedly going on within the football program. This was a statement that will help him distance himself even further from Briles and the rogue football program he was running.

Starr did not handle the Baylor rape scandal as well as he could, but he was in no way the primary person responsible for the situation getting out of control. The responsible parties for that resided in the athletic department.

[Bowman:  Baylor’s Board of Regents Must Clean Up After the Failure of Ken Starr]

The Baylor Board of Regents had their hand forced by Starr and were forced to make the safety of their student body more important than a winning football program. Baylor finally took the necessary action to begin correcting the culture within their football program. With the proper leadership, better days are ahead for the Baylor football program.

[McCrary:  Baylor has Seen Better Days]

E-mail Seth at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.

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