The news came as a bolt out of the blue Thursday morning, sending a shock through college athletics, not just football. Coaches like Art Briles don't get fired. They're too big to get fired, too beloved, too untouchable. Briles had turned Baylor football from nothing into something and then some. And just like that, Briles was out.
It wasn't just like that, of course. The way Baylor had handled alleged sexual assaults by members of the football program had been in the news for some time, the details more disturbing with each new report. Pressure had mounted. An outsider investigator was hired. When the school's board of regents learned what was going on, what was being allowed, dismissed and covered up — it's always the coverup — the regents were "horrified" enough to act. Briles was "suspended with intent to terminate." President Ken Starr was demoted. Athletic director Ian McCaw, who was suspended, resigned Monday.
What's next? There's the real question. Was this a watershed moment? Or was it a mere speed bump for the money train that is college sports?
Five things we learned:
1. The desire to win can be a drug. After being a Big 12 punching bag for so long, Baylor no doubt fell hard for the intoxicating feeling of fielding a championship-level team, it paid scant attention to what was really happening with its football program.
Let's not be naive. Money figured heavily into the equation. Baylor made plenty off football and not just from ticket sales. It built a $260 million stadium. The publicity generated by a winning team no doubt helped donations and enrollment. It costs $42,546 a year in tuition and fees to attend. In the fall of 2015, Baylor reported record enrollment.
2. Sexual violence against women on campus is a growing problem. Given the attention this issue has attracted, finally, in the past year or so, it's much more disturbing that coaches either failed to report or did everything they could to persuade victims not to report incidents. A study last year reported that 23 percent of women said they had been sexually assaulted on campus. Baylor's population is 58 percent female. Yet it did little to nothing to protect female students from a team that, according to an investigator, considered itself "above the rules."
3. There continue to be questions about the relationships between athletic programs and local police. Such questions arose in the way Tallahassee police handled allegations against FSU's Jameis Winston. There were questions in investigator Pepper Hamilton's report about Waco police.
4. Giving second chances is risky business. Briles took great pride in giving troubled players a second chance. According to Hamilton's report, Briles failed to do his due diligence in gathering information about transfers. Maybe he felt like he had to cut corners to build Baylor up from the bottom, but in the end that approach was a time bomb.
5. Coaches have too much power, especially successful ones. Too often, successful coaches are more powerful than school presidents. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.
— Lexington Herald-Leader (TNS)