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Baylor fires Art Briles

By The Sports Xchange
Baylor fires Art Briles
Former Baylor Bear's head coach Art Briles yells to his team as they face the Michaigan State Spartans in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic in AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas on January 1, 2015. Ian Halperin/UPI | License Photo

Baylor University is in the process of firing football coach Art Briles, who was suspended until his contract is officially terminated amidst detailed and damning findings that reveal the program turned a cold shoulder to alleged victims of sexual assault and violence.

The dismissal was prompted by the findings of independent law firm Pepper Hamilton, LLP, which conducted an investigation into how the school handled numerous alleged sexual assaults, including incidents involving several Baylor football players.

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The school officially labeled Briles' status as "suspended indefinitely with intent to terminate according to contractual procedures."

Briles, 60, was 65-37 in eight seasons while taking the program to unprecedented heights. The Bears have won 10 or more games in four of the past five seasons.

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Defensive coordinator Phil Bennett was named interim coach.

In addition to the firing of Briles, athletic director Ian McCaw has been sanctioned and placed on probation. Ken Starr will no longer serve as university president but will remain at the school in the role of chancellor. David Garland will serve as interim president.

The report unveiled the following issues regarding the football program:

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"Baylor failed to take appropriate action to respond to reports of sexual assault and dating violence reportedly committed by football players. The choices made by football staff and athletics leadership, in some instances, posed a risk to campus safety and the integrity of the University.

"In certain instances, including reports of a sexual assault by multiple football players, athletics and football personnel affirmatively chose not to report sexual violence and dating violence to an appropriate administrator outside of athletics. In those instances, football coaches or staff met directly with a complainant and/or a parent of a complainant and did not report the misconduct.

"As a result, no action was taken to support complainants, fairly and impartially evaluate the conduct under Title IX, address identified cultural concerns within the football program, or protect campus safety once aware of a potential pattern of sexual violence by multiple football players."

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Hamilton found that the university's student conduct processes "were wholly inadequate to consistently provide a prompt and equitable response under Title IX," and failed to eliminate a "potential hostile environment."

The university didn't create a Title IX office until Nov. 2014, but asked senior administrators to passively help oversee the department without consideration to their professional profile.

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The Baylor Board of Regents made the personnel decisions based on the findings and a decision to change the culture of unaccountability.

"We were horrified by the extent of these acts of sexual violence on our campus," said Richard Willis, chair of the Baylor Board of Regents. "This investigation revealed the University's mishandling of reports in what should have been a supportive, responsive and caring environment for students."

"The depth to which these acts occurred shocked and outraged us. Our students and their families deserve more, and we have committed our full attention to improving our processes, establishing accountability and ensuring appropriate actions are taken to support former, current and future students."

Among the sexual assault incidents involving Baylor football players include defensive end Tevin Elliott being sentenced to 20 years in prison for sexually assaulting a Baylor student in 2012. Defensive end Sam Ukwuachu, a transfer from Boise State, was also convicted of sexual assault and defensive end Shawn Oakman is currently being investigated for sexual assault.

A recent investigation by ESPN's Outside the Lines alleged that Baylor players Tre'Von Armstead and Shamycheal Chatman were named as suspects in a sexual assault that took place more than two years ago but never were charged.

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Baylor was a bottom-level program before hiring Briles away from Houston. The Bears went 4-8 in each of Briles' first two seasons to run their streak of losing campaigns to 14.

Baylor went 7-6 and qualified for a bowl game in 2010 before an explosive offensive helped propel the team into a Top 10 program. Among the star players were quarterback Robert Griffin III, the 2011 Heisman Trophy winner.

The Bears have been ranked in the Top 5 at some point in each of the past three season as well as being national champion contenders.

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