Tom Hill, the fired Baylor University athletics staffer who became synonymous with a rallying cry that the school allegedly mismanaged the investigation into its response to sexual assault, continued pursuing claims against the university throughout the last five months, his lawyer told the Tribune-Herald.
The third act of Hill’s legal maneuvering against Baylor started with a simple request for a university apology and ended with a meeting at Hill’s home on Sunday afternoon attended by frequently dueling parties at Baylor: its donors and its attorneys.
Hill was fired as assistant athletics director for community relations and special projects at the height of Baylor’s sexual assault scandal in May 2016. He is now president of the Waco BlueCats, a proposed minor-league baseball team with an uncertain future in Bellmead.
Hill previously took two courses of action against Baylor. The first came shortly after his firing in a Dallas County Court petition seeking all documents and information found in the Pepper Hamilton LLP investigation. He withdrew it six weeks later.
Then, in December 2016, Hill sued Pepper Hamilton, the two attorneys who led the investigation and former board of regents Chairman Neal “Buddy” Jones in U.S. District Court. A judge dismissed the lawsuit, in which Hill alleged he was the victim of negligence, defamation and conspiracy.
Five months ago, Hill approached Austin lawyer Broadus Spivey and said he wanted an apology from Baylor because he believed Baylor had violated terms of a previous settlement.
Spivey on Wednesday said Baylor recently gave Hill an “exoneration letter” Hill could show his family or potential future employers. As part of the agreement reached in a mediation session, Baylor General Counsel Chris Holmes agreed to privately speak to Hill’s family and friends.
Hill only invited half a dozen family members and close friends to his home for the event, Spivey said, but the house soon filled with close followers of the scandal’s developments, many of them Hill supporters. The guest list reportedly included Alice Starr, the spouse of former Baylor President Ken Starr. Longtime Baylor donor Nell Hawkins and former Texas lawmaker Stan Schlueter also attended.
“There are few things that hold more public interest around Baylor right now,” said Spivey, who added that Hill is now satisfied with his reputation.
Ken Starr and head football coach Art Briles were fired in May 2016 after Baylor regents released a 13-page summary of the investigation’s findings and a list of 105 best-practice recommendations Baylor later implemented. Baylor still faces several Title IX lawsuits from former students who say they were denied educational opportunities after they were assaulted.
Schlueter told the Tribune-Herald this week that Hill deserved an apology for his firing and the circumstances surrounding it.
“After two years of letting Tom’s family suffer inside their own community, they could not even mutter a simple apology,” Schlueter wrote in an email. “Tom and his family deserved so much more.”
Holmes left the Sunday meeting after he was repeatedly asked why a public apology was not issued. A Baylor statement on Wednesday said “exonerated” is not the most accurate way to describe Hill.
“To say Mr. Hill was exonerated by Baylor would be a misrepresentation of facts,” the statement said. “The university stands behind the personnel decisions that were made. Baylor’s intent was to help Mr. Hill and his family reach an appropriate level of healing and closure with the meeting.”
Meanwhile, Spivey said the Sunday gathering was “a very effective meeting” and that Holmes has done “an excellent job.”
“It’s just a problem that his hands are pretty well tied, as anybody’s hands would be,” Spivey said.
Hill has consistently maintained he did nothing wrong and said he was not given a reason for his termination. He said the Pepper Hamilton attorneys asked him about an alleged rape involving a volleyball player.
He says he told them he did not know anything about it. Jim Barnes, the volleyball coach at the time of the 2012 incident, has said he told Hill about the incident, but also made Hill aware that Barnes told Briles and Athletics Director Ian McCaw, who resigned almost two years ago. Hill had considered the matter properly handled.
Allegations made in one of the lawsuits align with a November 2016 statement Baylor gave the Dallas Morning News, which said Briles, McCaw, Barnes and another volleyball coach did not report the gang rape outside of the athletic department. The lawsuit, filed by an anonymous plaintiff, has been active since last May.