The Dallas Morning News
Baylor nears its day of reckoning
Sharon Grigsby: Title IX court case moving forward will shed light on Briles and his ‘bad dudes’
Remember what fired Baylor football coach Art Briles, in his most recent I-knew-nothing letter, had to say regarding the damning text messages about reports of sexual assault involving football players?
He wants us all to believe that the mean ol’ regents and their lawyers took his texts out of context. And, according to Briles, “I hope and pray that at some point, those feeding this disinformation will stop, and full disclosure rather than messaging misdirection will take place. It’s long overdue.”
Thanks to a judge’s ruling Friday, Briles is one step closer to getting his wish.
Briles’ March 1 letter — just after the Texas Rangers announced the opening of an investigation into the Baylor scandal — sounded pretty much the same as all the ones before it: Once the proper context is placed around these texts, Briles expects all will be forgiven.
Ever since regents dropped that bundle of text messages into a court filing back in February, I’ve been unable to get this one Briles message out of my head: “Those are some bad dudes. Why was she around those guys?”
The university claims Briles sent this text in response to seeing a list of five football players whom a student-athlete said had raped her.
I’ve spent a lot of time trying to imagine what “context” would make Briles’ labeling of some of his team as “bad dudes” even remotely palatable.
This much is clear: “Bad dudes” were welcome on the Baylor football team. It fell to women to make sure they stayed out of their way.
There’s no misunderstanding that text. It symbolizes the grim reality at the core of the sexual violence tragedy involving athletes: Sports trumps women’s safety and if a “bad dude” can help you win, sign him up.
Which brings us back to Friday’s decision by U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman of Waco.
Pitman ruled that allegations against Baylor University, Briles and former athletic director Ian McCaw in a case brought by Jasmin Hernandez can move forward.
Hernandez was raped by former Baylor football player Tevin Elliott, who is serving 20 years in prison for the crime. On Friday, Pitman greenlighted her Title IX claim accusing Baylor of creating a heightened risk for students. Pittman also ruled that state negligence claims against the school, Briles and McCaw will move forward.
Hernandez’s lawyer, Irwin Zalkin, made clear after the ruling that he sees this as an opportunity to expose all of what the university has tried so hard to cover up.
The courthouse is the best hope for providing what the Baylor Board of Regents won’t: a full airing of the facts that regents have maintained they must keep secret from students, faculty, alumni, donors and the rest of the public.
While the Hernandez case, one of six that the school faces, moved forward Friday, the lawsuit that led to the damning Briles-and-company text dump was halted last week. Collin Shillinglaw, the football team’s former director of operations, announced he would drop his defamation suit and pursue his claims through arbitration.
No doubt those text messages that reflect poorly on Briles and other members of the athletics department — and who knows how many more like them — are sure to be part of the courthouse narrative as the other lawsuits roll on.
If Baylor’s Board of Regents still believes it can run out the clock on this scandal, those leaders are as out of touch as some of the Baylor alumni contend.
But then again, this is the same Board of Regents that sent interim President David Garland down to Austin 10 days ago to face a pack of understandably angry lawmakers looking for ways to make the university come clean.
As Sen. Larry Taylor, a Baylor alum, put it: “It would have been nice if Baylor had sent someone [here] who was actually there at that time and had a part in running some of this.”
It’s impossible to say which players in this tragedy are the most disgusting: “bad dude” football players and their coaches or the regents. Don’t forget that many of the reported sexual assaults contained in lawsuits against the school involve male students who were not part of the football team.
For all of us who want to know the truth, deposition and discovery can’t come quickly enough.