The following are some of my thoughts about the mess at my beloved Baylor, the university which my wife and I, our children and their spouses attended. It’s a plea for action to set the record straight, stop the destruction of the very image of Baylor (and, to some degree, Waco) and start the healing process.
I share all this in growing despair that we are suffering continuing damage to the institution we revere and by which we are identified. The news media are having a field day reveling in the destruction of the image our athletic programs built. And when the rest of our institution gets a fraction of the attention our athletic program has gotten and continues to get, and it will eventually, I suspect the same cynicism will be employed.
Before May 26 — fast becoming a day that will live in infamy in the history of Baylor — I was hoping to hear an effective defense of Baylor in the sexual-assault controversy that had been developing there. It never entered my mind that President Ken Starr, Athletic Director Ian McCaw or Coach Art Briles would ever need to be defended. To say that I was heartsick and devastated by the turn of events at Baylor that caused their departure on May 26 would be an understatement.
I was more sickened after reading Baylor’s summary of the Pepper Hamilton report (Am I the only one who thinks it is very strange for such a report to be oral?) and the recommendations of that Philadelphia law firm. And I was very surprised to be disappointed in, and even angry with, members of the Baylor University Board of Regents. I was upset the regents did not recognize and proudly announce that Baylor, under Judge Starr’s leadership, began taking steps to get ahead of the Title IX problem almost two academic years previously, as the summary pointed out. And I was even more upset that Baylor published a collection of bureaucratic jargon as a summary of the Pepper Hamilton report. It read like it was written by brilliant but woefully inexperienced young law firm associates, bereft of facts justifying the actions the regents had taken.
Based on information in the summary, Baylor regents could have easily just recognized that there was a great deal of work yet to be done and committed to that work additional resources not previously devoted to it. And, still in accordance with the published summary and recommendations, which did not contain one fact that justified that they be fired or one recommendation that they be fired, regents could have just as easily commended President Starr, Athletic Director McCaw and Coach Briles for valiant efforts, sometimes imperfect but always well intended, to lead Baylor’s response to cultural problems that are not unique to Baylor. Indeed, these very problems are epidemic in colleges and universities across America.
The regents could have opted to provide solutions instead of creating greater problems. It takes no skill to fire someone. It takes real ability and leadership to produce solutions. Now, instead of offering facts on which they claim to have relied, the regents have circled the wagons and hunkered down. That didn’t work for Custer and it’s not working for them, and they have taken Baylor down with them. The course they have taken and the results it has produced may well be studied for years as a textbook example of the worst in crisis management. Their actions look and smell like political correctness run amok. It is little wonder that suggestions to reinstate any or all of the good men whom regents have treated so shamefully went nowhere. Not one of them could in good conscience work for, or ever trust, the Baylor University Board of Regents again.
The Baylor Nation will be forever indebted to Judge Ken Starr, Athletic Director Ian McCaw and Coach Art Briles for leading Baylor to spectacular heights, well beyond the academic and athletic fields — heights we might not see again for a long time, if ever. These men deserved an opportunity to face their accusers, hear the evidence against them and present, for the first time, their sides of the story. Those of us who are members of the Baylor Nation were, and still are, eager to be a fair and impartial jury.
Baylor regents have completely failed and continue to be totally unwilling to justify their actions in the court of public opinion. Unless they do so — and it appears less and less likely that they will — the regents stand guilty of having damaged Baylor almost beyond measure or remedy, without reason or excuse. Each regent who participated in the devastation of Baylor on May 26, 2016, should resign and a new method of selecting trustees — not regents — should be established.
It is time to return to governance by people who clearly and by title hold Baylor in trust for a much broader population instead of people who simply rule without accountability or transparency.
Bill Crocker received his bachelor’s degree at Baylor University in 1958 and his law degree at Baylor in 1960. He is a former Baylor Student Body president, former Baylor Law Alumni Association president, former Baylor Alumni Association president and former Baylor Development Council member. He lives in Austin.