After meeting with Baylor officials for more than two hours Tuesday morning, the Big 12 board of directors came away satisfied with the university’s response to sexual assaults on its campus and chose to not to levy any punishment against the school or athletic department.
Baylor interim President David Garland and regents Ron Murff and David Harper presented additional information to the board related to the Pepper Hamilton findings, said board chairman and University of Oklahoma President David Boren. That presentation came in response to two prior requests for information from the Big 12.
Those Big 12 presidents came out of Tuesday’s meeting believing that the steps Baylor has taken in response to the scandal were “very beneficial,” Boren said.
“Our board and our membership take very seriously and have been deeply concerned by what has taken place,” Boren said, “and it was very important for us to hear of the commitment of the university, not only the university administration but also the board of regents, to actions that would be taken in the future.
“Questions and answers were received, and I would say we were very pleased.”
Those answers, however, did not pertain to any evidence supporting Baylor’s decisions to fire Art Briles as head coach or dismiss Ken Starr as president, Boren said. He said the board did not require any justification to that end.
“It’s not the role of the conference to examine the internal operations of any university on, take evidence on a particular case,” Boren said. “The Big 12 board of directors does not hire and fire individuals in any capacity at any university.”
Both Boren and Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby described Baylor as being “very forthcoming” in its presentation of the Pepper Hamilton findings. Neither shared the extent of that information with the media during a Tuesday afternoon teleconference, and Bowlsby said that it was unlikely Baylor would share it with the public, either.
“Our thoughts are that there are certain elements of these kinds of processes that institutions are simply not permitted to release,” Bowlsby said. “Even a redacted report on these kinds of incidents would likely violate FERPA regulations.”
Baylor officials have repeatedly cited FERPA laws as one reason the school hasn’t released more details from Pepper Hamilton’s investigation. But some attorneys who have spoken with the Tribune-Herald say that Baylor may be misinterpreting FERPA.
“Given the fact that (Baylor’s board of regents) came out with a summary and there was an oral report with no notes taken, there was a deliberate attempt, I think, here to minimize what people know. There has not been full disclosure,” Lisa J. Banks told the Tribune-Herald last month. Banks is a partner at the Washington, D.C., law firm Katz, Marshall and Banks, LLP, and has experience working Title IX cases.
Boren said that the Big 12 board was pleased with the procedures Baylor has implemented to prevent future mishandling of sexual assault allegations. Those include hiring a “well-known professional person” to lead the Title IX process, Boren said, referring to Baylor Title IX coordinator Patty Crawford.
“We wanted to make sure that the institution has the appropriate elements of control going forward and that includes a very robust Title IX process, separate and apart from the athletics department,” Boren said. “Also, we were told that all compliance programs are going to be removed from the athletics department and put in an independent place at Baylor University, reporting directly to the general counsel and the president.”
Not true, said a Baylor employee with knowledge of the school’s compliance network. Baylor’s NCAA compliance department — which handles any cases of potential NCAA rules violations within the athletic department — would continue with its existing structure of reporting, which includes regular reports to the athletic director, president and board, the source said.
Based on Tuesday’s meeting, any fear by Baylor of punishment from the Big 12 should vanish. Baylor could still potentially face NCAA sanctions if that organization found that a violation occurred, but both Garland and Bowlsby said on Monday that they were unaware of any NCAA investigation or action in the works against Baylor.
“Our meeting with Baylor University … was quite candid and something that was very necessary from our point of view,” Boren said, “so that we could meet our responsibility to make sure that we maintain appropriate standards and appropriate safety of students and their welfare in the Big 12 Conference.”