Responding to recent legal filings, Baylor University said in a statement Thursday that a Title IX lawsuit filed by 10 alleged sexual assault victims “has become a sideshow of baseless conspiracy theories, unsubstantiated allegations and rank speculation.”

In a legal filing Thursday evening, the university’s first response in court to partly released testimony from former Athletics Director Ian McCaw, Baylor’s lawyers argue the 10 former students’ claims of discrimination have been lost in the developments of the 2-year-old lawsuit.

In a deposition last month, McCaw said university leaders scapegoated black football players and the entire football program to cover up a “decades-long, universitywide sexual assault scandal.”

Baylor disagreed, with force.

“As specifically described in our legal response, McCaw’s unsubstantiated claims of a conspiracy by regents, racism and scapegoating at Baylor are bizarre, blatantly false, and nothing more than speculation and gossip of which he has no firsthand knowledge,” according to the statement.

McCaw, now the athletics director for Liberty University, was not asked about the plaintiffs’ alleged assaults or Baylor’s handling of their reports during his daylong deposition June 19, according to the statement.

“This lawsuit has become a never-ending fishing expedition based on outlandish conspiracy theories, rumors and speculation as part of a crusade to turn up any possible reason to attack Baylor,” Baylor wrote. “The question in this lawsuit is whether any of the 10 Plaintiffs were subjected to a sexually harassing education environment at Baylor in violation of Title IX, not about how the Pepper Hamilton investigation was conducted or whether Baylor should or should not have made decisions affecting Art Briles or Ian McCaw in May 2016.”

The suit alleges Baylor’s failures in responding to reports of sexual assault created a heightened risk of students being assaulted.

McCaw received more than $760,000 in severance pay after his June 2016 resignation, according to a March IRS filing. In his deposition, McCaw said he resigned because he “did not want to be part of some Enron cover-up scheme.”

McCaw, according to Baylor’s motion, “was perhaps more sensitive to issues regarding problems in the Athletic Department because he was, after all, its director.”

“Unfortunately, it has led him to attack, without evidence, members of the board of regents who sought nothing more than a fair and impartial investigation of the most serious of subject matters,” university lawyers wrote in the court filing. “To further discredit the board, McCaw now claims that the alleged conspiracy was racially motivated — a cynical and preposterous charge that would deserve no attention but for its reckless repetition by plaintiff’s counsel in a federal court pleading.”

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McCaw

Liberty University Athletics Director Ian McCaw is seen here last year after a football game against Baylor University, where he held the same role. 

Baylor lawyers also charged that the plaintiffs violated a court-issued confidentiality order by releasing portions of McCaw’s deposition less than 15 days after it was taken. The confidentiality order is meant to create a safety net for sensitive or private information so attorneys can review it before it becomes publicly available.

The university said McCaw’s testimony is “speculation and double or triple hearsay regarding matters of which he has no personal knowledge.” In several instances, McCaw during his deposition cited information he read in newspapers or in former Baylor President Ken Starr’s 2017 book, “Bear Country: The Baylor Story,” according to the statement.

Waco attorney Jim Dunnam, who represents the 10 plaintiffs, said he was “stunned” by Baylor's motion. 

“What Baylor did to oppress, victimize and retaliate against hundreds of rape victims is not a side show, it is the focal point of how Baylor's intentional actions — carried out over decades to protect its brand — created a heightened risk to all female students on campus,” he said. 

Baylor said McCaw admitted to having no direct knowledge of statements involving black athletes or coaches, of a police dispatcher stalling to take a sexual assault report by phone because he wanted to order a meal, or of the preparation of a 13-page document Baylor released summarizing the Pepper Hamilton investigation.

McCaw had said J. Cary Gray, a prominent regent and Houston lawyer, was responsible for writing a deliberately misleading report. Baylor’s statement disputes that claim.

McCaw also said Baylor regents were concerned with keeping enrollment numbers up because of the school’s reliance on tuition revenue.

“McCaw and Plaintiffs’ counsel never explain why the Board of Regents would target the financially successful and popular football program, particularly with the retired police chief as a convenient potential ‘scapegoat,’ ” lawyers wrote in the motion.

Former interim Baylor President David Garland has said retired Baylor Police Chief Jim Doak discouraged rape victims from reporting.

McCaw’s attorneys were unavailable Thursday night.

Phillip Ericksen joined the Tribune-Herald in March 2015 as a sports copy editor. That November, he joined the news team. He has covered higher education, city hall, politics and crime.

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