Some of Baylor University’s most prominent supporters, including a former Texas governor and the billionaire businessman whose name adorns the football stadium, called Monday for a shakeup of the school’s board of regents in the wake of the campus sexual assault scandal.
The months of criticism over the response by the nation’s largest Baptist university’s to sex assault reports led to the firing of school president Ken Starr and popular football coach Art Briles.
The “Bears for Leadership Reform” group says it wants to address regents’ transparency, appointments, conflicts of interest, structure and authority, as well as demanding more answers from the regents and the school’s investigation into how it mishandled reports of sexual assaults for years.
The group’s leaders include Drayton McLane, whose name is on the $266 million football stadium built at the height of the program’s success under Briles, and former Texas Gov. Mark White. White insisted the group’s goal is not about defending Briles or the football program.
“Not taking a position on (football) one way or another,” White said. “This is about urging the transformation of Baylor leadership.”
But football ― and Briles’ departure in May ― remains an emotionally charged topic on campus.
Last Friday, Baylor’s assistant football coaches released a statement defending Briles and directly contradicting statements made by a regent. On Saturday, fans lined up to buy black T-shirts with Briles’ initials that were being sold outside the stadium, where Baylor lost to TCU 62-22.
Starr and Briles were forced out or fired in May and the athletic director quit after Baylor published a “Findings of Fact” prepared by law firm Pepper Hamilton, which noted that the school mishandled assault allegations for years and that the football program acted “above the rules.”
University regents revealed last week that 17 women reported assaults by 19 football players since 2011, but have been mostly reluctant to publicly detail the investigation’s findings.
Sexual assault allegations ranged far beyond the football program, however, and the university is now facing at least four federal lawsuits. Patty Crawford, the school’s former Title IX investigator, resigned last month and filed a formal complaint with the Office of Civil Rights for the U.S. Department of Education, which has opened a separate investigation of Baylor’s handling of assault cases.
White said the regents have been too secretive.
“If you have to do it in secret, you might check your hold card to see if you are doing the right thing … Maybe that’s not what a good Baptist should be talking about,” White said.
The group also wants to be involved in selecting a new school president, White said. Interim President David Garland has served since Starr was removed from the office.
Baylor spokeswoman Tonya Lewis said administrators and regents share the group’s goals of transparency and accountability and helping assault victims, and “look forward to engaging in constructive dialogue about meaningful reform.”