These are troubling times in college football.
To that, there is no debate. If you’re a Baylor Bear, you know it all too well. If you’re an Oklahoma Sooner, Michigan State Spartan, Minnesota Gopher, North Carolina Tar Heel, Southern Cal Trojan or a loyalist to the dozens of other schools whose names pop up week after week with a player(s) accused of some form of sexual assault, it hits home. Hard.
And it needs to stop. To this, also, there is no debate. It’s a troubling epidemic that expands its reaches each and every year.
If you live around the Waco area and haven’t been living under a rock for the past 14 months, Baylor University has undoubtedly been hit the hardest. And let’s be honest, most of the negativity is warranted. Sadly, even as cases are closed or settled in the coming months or even years, we may never really know what went on in full. But this column isn’t for taking sides or arguing the guilt or innocence of any schools.
If these young men are guilty of the crimes they have been accused of, I promise you there isn’t anoyone associated with Baylor or the hundreds of schools around the nation that wouldn’t want justice. It’s troubling, no doubt.
So the question looms and has been for decades: How can we prevent this from happening in the future? It’s an age of ‘write first, think later’ where negative headlines sell more and more ads. And that isn’t going to change, sadly. Solutions for the ongoing sexual assault problems in colleges have not been discussed much, at least publicly, only the punishments. Whether it be a lack of funds or personnel or some other unknown reason, it seems the Title IX programs at these schools are failing these students somehow.
But there is one woman, Rachel Baribeau, a host on SiriusXM College Sports Nation and sexual assault awareness advocate, that is taking a positive approach. She is attempting to help these young adults learn how to respect women and be better human beings as they continue to grow into young men.
Baribeau has visited schools like Florida State, Alabama, Clemson, Minnesota, Ole Miss and Florida International relaying her message of “Change the Narrative,” something she started last summer that focuses on teaching young people values and respect, not only in their own lives, but portraying that message to others.
“It talks about who you are away from the football field,” Baribeau told Krista Pirtle from the Waco Tribune-Herald in June. “If you were a football player, who would you be? How do we treat women? How do we look at women?”
Baribeau travelled to Waco in late June to give her testimony to head coach Matt Rhule and members of the Baylor football team. She spilled her heart for several hours and when she was out of words, Rachel took the time to chat and embrace each and every player that felt compelled in their heart to thank her for the visit.
“As I spoke from my heart, something amazing happened: Walls fell down, gaps were bridged, a bond was formed,” she said in a story recently posted on gridironnow.com.
Besides, these kids had nothing to do with what happened in the past. Lost in all the madness that surrounded this program over the past 14 months was the innocence of the young men and coaches currently associated with Baylor football.”
So before she began, Rachel explained to the room full of players she was there to help, not to point a finger.
“It was no surprise to see a room full of faces naturally suspicious when I began my talk,” Baribeau said. “Would I lump them in, too? Would I gloss over what they have experienced in order to speak my larger message? They could not know at the outset I was not there to do any of that. I was actually there to fight for them, to remind them of all the goodness in them, to tell them of their infinite potential.”
Words these Baylor players haven’t heard much outside of the locker room in quite some time, I would imagine. But the insults and comments these young men have been forced to endure from the national media and especially the cowards posting on social media have been less than flattering. They have been called rapists, derogatory racial slurs and have even received death threats. Chants of “No means no” have rang in the ears of Baylor athletes, surprisingly mainly Baylor basketball players, in game after game this past year. For these innocent athletes, most of which are teenagers still trying to find their purpose in life, it’s been a year to forget.
“These young men have been bullied, their families have been bullied, they have been called rapists and molesters and every curse word imaginable on social media and in person,” Rachel wrote. “There is no one in the administration, on the team or coaching staff who had anything to do with the unthinkable acts that went on under the previous regime.
“That has not stopped the rest world from lumping the current student-athletes in with those who were complicit. At Baylor, the innocent continue to suffer for the guilty.”
So we can sit around and complain about the mistreament of our beloved institutions or boast when our rivals names are dragged through the mud, or we can say ‘enough is enough’ and do something to prevent it. It seems the current members of the Baylor athletic programs, male and female, have stuck their chests out, held their heads high and have remained proud to be called a Baylor Bear. As has each and every student-athlete attending the other institutions currently fighting the hardships that come with being labeled in an unfair manner.
These student-athletes haven’t had a voice to stand up for them in a long, long time.
Rachel Baribeau is doing just that. So, good for you, Rachel. In an ever-expanding age of negativity and cheap shots through social media, it’s refreshing to see someone like Baribeau using these platforms to spread her message of change and prevention.
Because at Baylor and other schools around the United States, the innocent are truly continuing to suffer for the guilty.