For the second time in three months, a state district judge has dismissed a lawsuit against Baylor University filed by the school’s former director of football operations and denied his request for arbitration.
Judge Jim Meyer of Waco’s 170th State District Court granted Baylor’s motion for summary judgment Friday in a defamation and breach of contract lawsuit filed by Colin Shillinglaw, who was fired in May 2016 along with head football coach Art Briles and others during fallout from Baylor’s sexual assault scandal.
Shillinglaw filed a similar suit against Baylor and top Baylor administrators in Dallas County. However, he withdrew the suit in April, refiled it in McLennan County and hoped to resolve the dispute through arbitration, his attorney, Gaines West, said.
But even though Shillinglaw dropped the Dallas County lawsuit, 116th State District Judge Tonya Parker conducted a hearing, rejected Shillinglaw’s request for arbitration and granted Baylor’s summary judgment motion, dismissing the suit with prejudice and precluding it from being refiled.
Parker also ordered Shillinglaw to pay $325,000 in attorneys’ fees and court costs, divided between then-interim President David Garland; Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Reagan Ramsower; regents Ron Murff, J. Cary Gray, David Harper and Dennis Wiles; the university; and Philadelphia law firm Pepper Hamilton.
Pepper Hamilton conducted an investigation into Baylor’s responses to sexual violence allegations from September 2015 to May 2016 and found the football program was operating “above the rules,” according to regents.
The Dallas County suit alleged the officials made defamatory statements about Shillinglaw after he was fired to “create the narrative that the Baylor football program was out of control.”
Shillinglaw is appealing Parker’s ruling to a Dallas appeals court.
“Baylor has maintained that this suit was completely without merit throughout the entire process,” Baylor spokeswoman Tonya Hudson said after the ruling. “We had already received a successful judgment regarding this matter in Dallas County, and we are grateful for the court’s decision here in McLennan County, as well.”
In a statement before the ruling, West said Shillinglaw has been “forthright and truthful” while trying to clear his name.
“Meanwhile, Baylor has consistently tried to avoid its obligations to Shillinglaw to arbitrate these disputes,” according to the statement. “Baylor’s motions in this lawsuit (and in the previous lawsuit in Dallas, Texas) are nothing more than vexatious filings, designed to increase Shillinglaw’s costs and force him to give up the fight to clear his name and reputation.
“Shillinglaw remains undeterred and will not be bullied by Baylor’s vexatious litigation tactics and Shillinglaw looks forward to being able to finally present his case to an arbitrator.”
Stephen Dillard, a Houston attorney representing Baylor, said Friday that Shillinglaw’s case was rejected in Dallas, and he improperly was “trying to get a second bite at the apple” in McLennan County.
“Under the statutes, the defendants, Baylor and those officials, have substantive rights to free speech and association, which that suit was trying to stifle and deny the very transparency that many have been seeking in response to the problems that arose out of the sexual assaults,” Dillard said.
Another of Shillinglaw’s attorneys, Jay Rudinger, argued at the hearing that among things Shillinglaw had hoped to resolve through arbitration was a payment of about $20,000 that Shillinglaw claims was his bonus for Baylor’s victory in the Cactus Bowl in Phoenix, Arizona, over Boise State.
Breach of contract
Dillard argued at the hearing that Shillinglaw’s lawsuit in McLennan County was basically a “cut-and-paste job” and a verbatim copy of the one he filed in Dallas County, except he added an additional claim for breach of contract.
Dillard said that Shillinglaw, with due diligence, should have included the breach of contract claim with his other claims in Dallas County. Now, it’s too late, he said.
“He wants that second bite at the apple. That’s what this case represents, it’s a second bite at the apple,” Dillard said.
In its response to the lawsuit, Baylor charged that Shillinglaw was “integrally involved” in player discipline for the football program, which they said became “a black hole into which reports of misconduct such as drug use, physical assault, domestic violence, brandishing of guns, indecent exposure and academic fraud disappeared”
The regents also said Shillinglaw “did not fully cooperate” in Pepper Hamilton’s investigation.