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Baylor Needs and Deserves the Death Penalty

They may have changed coaching regimes, but the culture surrounding the Baylor football program refuses to change

By Harrison WierPublished 7 years ago 6 min read
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I know what you’re thinking: “There’s no way the NCAA can do this. That’s too harsh of a punishment.” This situation is not the same as Penn State or SMU. One involved a coach performing disgustingly inhumane acts on children, and the other involved coaches paying recruits/players. In Waco, the issue starts directly with the players. If any of these players are guilty of committing crimes against women, they should be kicked out of the football program — no questions asked. However, it doesn’t work that way at Baylor.

At Baylor, the coaches felt their players were more important than the well-being of women. At Baylor, administrative officials such as Ken Starr put winning above everything. At Baylor, the police department cared more about football than the dozens of rape victims desperately seeking help.

The Art Briles saga

When the truth came to light, it appeared that a glimpse of justice would finally be served. How could it not be when over 52 women were raped in a span of 4 years? Baylor President Ken Starr left the athletic department, and Art Briles was fired as head football coach. However, this is when ‘justice’ came to a screeching halt. All of the other Baylor staffers (who were also involved in the dozens of cover ups) moved on to different positions — Kendal Briles at FAU, Phil Bennett at ASU, and so on. Even Liberty University — the largest Christian University in the country — hired ex-AD Ian McCaw. Art Briles never took responsibility for what happened at Baylor. While at the Houston Texans’ training camp in August, Briles stated, “I’ve never done anything illegal, immoral, or unethical.” Sure you haven’t, Art. You only covered up over 50 rapes at a private, Christian University. Doesn’t sound immoral to me.

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Want to know how guilty Briles feels about what he’s done? Look no further than one of the victim’s of the Baylor rape scandal — Jasmin Hernandez. Hernandez is a victim of former Baylor football player Tevin Elliot, who is currently serving 20 years in prison for his actions. Briles was scheduled to meet with Hernandez and ‘apologize’ for what happened to her. Hernandez was heartened by what seemingly seemed like Briles assuming responsibility, but he ultimately disappointed. He did not show up to the meeting with Hernandez. Instead, Briles used the scheduled meeting with Hernandez to leverage his wrongful termination and libel claims against Baylor. You heard that right. Instead of taking responsibility for his actions like a true “Christian man,” Briles is suing the institution that helped him cover up multiple inhumane crimes. This is also after the two parties settled the wrongful termination suit, in which Briles had 8 years/$40 million left on his contract. The libel claim came after a hefty payday for the former Baylor coach — further illustrating how greedy and unapologetic he is about his time in Waco. Fortunately, this suit was dropped by Briles after the allegations of 31 football players committing as many as 52 rapes between 2011–2014 surfaced.

The new regime

Philly.com

Fast forward to March 7th, 2017. Baylor has hired a new football coach and completely changed the feelings surrounding the program — or so we thought. In early December, Temple coach Matt Rhule announced that he would be taking the Baylor job. In the first couple of months on the job, Rhule appeared to be doing all the right things. When Rhule arrived in Waco, he had one commitment in the 2017 class. On signing day, 27 players signed with the Bears. However, Rhule’s most important move came after Assistant Strength Coach Brandon Washington was arrested in a local prostitution sting. Although a bad look, Rhule acted immediately and fired Washington from the program. When looking at the program it was easy to think, “Wow. Maybe the culture over there can finally change for the better.” I was one of those people — until a couple of days ago.

Bears’ senior safety Travon Blanchard, an All-Big 12 honoree, was served with a protective order issued by the McClean County DA’s Office after affidavit confirmed that Blanchard committed acts of physical and verbal abuse against his girlfriend. One of the acts involved breaking the young woman’s finger after she attempted to grab her car keys, as well as picking her up and slamming her on the ground. The affidavit also states that Blanchard “controls many aspects of the [woman’s] life, including what she can wear, who she talks to, and what she posts on social media.” To make matters worse, Blanchard fled when police arrived at the scene. He was never arrested. A few days ago, Blanchard hired Waco defense attorney Michelle Tuegel — a bold strategy for someone who recently abused an innocent young woman.

With all of this evidence at his disposal, Matt Rhule decided to suspend Blanchard from the program. Although the decision makes sense given the timeline of court procedures, it is not the correct move. We do not know what goes on behind the scenes at Baylor. Is Blanchard really suspended from all football-related activities, or is he hanging around the team like Joe Mixon did after his year-long punishment? The courtroom does not get everything correct. With the corrupt nature of Waco PD and others surrounding the program, how do we know the Waco justice system is not the same? The short answer is: we don’t.

Travon Blanchard may get off scot-free and never face true punishment for his actions. However, it did not have to be this way. After speaking with the victim and sorting through all of the evidence, Matt Rhule could have made the decision to kick Blanchard off the team. And he should have. Although Rhule may innocently believe the justice system will take its course and reach the correct decision, most of us know better than that. Sometimes, you must take matters into your own hands. Matt Rhule is not a bad person. He simply made a bad decision that will continue to enable the culture created under Art Briles.

Why the death penalty?

If you’ve gotten this far, you are still probably thinking, “Why is the death penalty the best option when punishing Baylor?” To keep it short and sweet, it is because the culture at Baylor has not changed. Changing coaches is only a small aspect of changing an entire program’s culture — just ask former Texas head coach Charlie Strong, who kicked 9 players off of his squad during his first year in Austin. No, it’s not about the coaches. It’s about a singular ideology — accountability. Whether it’s under Art Briles or Matt Rhule, the athletes of Baylor football are not being held responsible for their actions. Without accountability, there can be no change in the way a young man views the world.

If a man believes abusing a woman is okay, they will continue to do so until they are given a reason to believe otherwise. Although the death penalty is considered a ‘harsh’ punishment, desperate times call for desperate measures. It is why Charlie Strong kicked 9 players off of his team, no matter how small the infraction. It is also why the NCAA needs to give Baylor football the death penalty. Accountability matters. But as much as we as a society can hold Baylor accountable, the true change can only come from within. Unfortunately, this type of change in Waco appears to be light years away. Until then, the young men of the Baylor football program will continue to believe they are untouchable — no matter how inhumane the acts they commit are.

With this in mind, Baylor isn’t the only one to blame in this situation. For as much blame as they deserve, the NCAA may deserve even more. It’s been almost a year since this entire story began, and the NCAA has not moved a single finger. Instead of conducting their own investigation into the matter, the NCAA instead let Baylor hire their own third party investigative firm. Who knows what magnitude of information could be covered up by the findings? Unfortunately, the NCAA has been afraid to hand out severe punishments ever since handing SMU the death penalty in the 1980s. By not taking a look into the handling of these rapes and cover ups by Baylor, the NCAA is sending a clear message of what they care about most — money.

Regardless of the horrible things Baylor has done, they have a loyal fanbase that brings the league a good chunk of revenue each year. If change is to happen, we must hold the NCAA accountable for its actions, too. Otherwise, these young men will never learn the value of life after football and will always hold the feeling of winning above all else — regardless of how it hurts others.

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About the Creator

Harrison Wier

CEO of The Unbalanced. Law student. Sad Houston sports fan.

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