After several seasons of victory, limelight and national envy, the Baylor Bears would seem to have fallen into old ways — and so have some of the fans. If this isn’t obvious around the water cooler, consider Facebook comments on Trib stories about the first two games of 2017. Blame is cast on everything from the offensive line to new coach Matt Rhule’s leadership to the decision to raze Floyd Casey Stadium. As Melissa Stamps notes: “As a Nebraska fan going through it for years now, new coach, new players ... but one thing stays the same: Fair-weather fans suck!”

Given the humiliation that Baylor University has experienced over sexual assaults the last couple of years, losing Saturday’s season-opener to Liberty University, of all contenders, might seem a relatively minor flap, but it was nonetheless a bitter pill for alumni, students and players to swallow. None of it was made any easier when, on the eve of the game, fans learned that former head football coach Art Briles, fired in 2016 for administrative failures in the scandal, received last May a letter from Baylor recommending him to potential employers.

Given the Aug. 5 death of former Texas Gov. Mark White, the many eulogies praising his rare leadership and his final fight for accountability and transparency on the part of leadership at his alma mater, one can’t help noting the irony of Friday’s ruling by a federal judge involving White’s beloved Baylor University. The court ordered Baylor to furnish local attorney Jim Dunnam with notes, recordings and other relevant information from the controversial Pepper Hamilton investigation that reportedly uncovered administrative indifference regarding sexual assaults involving Baylor students.

Today’s wildly fractured thinking in America makes it increasingly difficult to properly gauge alleged lapses in leadership, which must leave some with exceedingly mixed feelings about former Baylor University regent Neal “Buddy” Jones’ emails branding as “perverted little tarts” and “very bad apples” female students he suspected of drinking alcohol. Much of society nowadays holds that leaders be held accountable for deeds, not words. Even many supposed evangelicals now excuse malicious rhetoric in favor of Christian actions and works.

Going by the numbers, the Texas Legislature this session sent a clear message to scandal-plagued Baylor University and all other Texas colleges and universities that might mishandle sexual assaults involving their young charges. No less than six such bills were sent to the governor, including three crafted by tireless state Sen. Kirk Watson, an Austin Democrat and a Baylor alumnus.

This week we learned of yet another Title IX lawsuit filed against Baylor University, the seventh such suit. The case alleges a 2012 gang rape perpetrated by members of the university’s football team against a university volleyball player. Equally disturbing, one case alleges a 21-second video recording of the gang rape was later circulated among football players.

This paper has recently published a large number of guest columns and editorials taking sides with the self-styled “Bears for Leadership Reform” in their ongoing feud with Baylor University regents. On May 7, Royce Starnes expressed shock that “not a single member of the board of regents has been held accountable for what happened on their watch.”

Last week was just another week in the national spotlight for Baylor University. A high-profile ESPN commentator urged parents to not send their daughters to Baylor and said corruption in its athletics department “screams [NCAA] death penalty without question.” A prominent blogger called for the Texas Rangers to storm the university. Oh, and the Big 12 Conference put Baylor on notice by withholding millions of dollars in revenue.

In June of last year, I happily booked an appearance at Baylor’s Chapel. Religious presentations (and op-ed writing) are not a central part of my work; I’m a law professor, after all. But I looked forward to the opportunity to come back to Waco, a place I dearly love that is full of old friends. The date was set in consultation with the Chapel staff: Feb. 13, 2017 — this Tuesday.

Debate now rages over whether the Big 12 Conference board of directors’ decision to withhold a fourth of embattled Baylor University’s revenue share is a politically correct public relations ploy or serious shot across the bow that Baylor clean up its act. We suggest looking at this unanimous vote for what it is: further inducement by conference brethren ensuring Baylor has unforgiving protocols in place so its athletics department doesn’t hide or ignore claims of misconduct and crime leveled against its athletes.

True or not, the 39-page legal response of three key Baylor University regents to fired BU assistant athletics director Colin Shillinglaw’s defamation suit offers a blistering indictment of the Baylor football program under then-head football coach Art Briles and then-athletics director Ian McCaw. It comes complete with instances of when and how they and Shillinglaw allegedly conspired to keep secret those complaints of sexual assault, drug use and more whenever players were involved.

As Baylor University sits on the precipice of truly devastating consequences, its board of regents remains firm in not granting further clarity in the ongoing scandal that has gripped America and plagues the school and community around them. Amazingly, for all the talk by others of “going down with the ship,” regents seem almost determined to take Baylor with them into the abyss.

If anything strongly bolsters the Bears for Leadership Reform case for an independent investigation of Baylor University regents’ handling of the sexual-assault scandal that has sadly come to define the Christian campus for some, it’s Liberty University’s Nov. 28 hiring of former Baylor athletic director Ian McCaw. National media immediately pounced, questioning the prudence of the nation’s largest evangelical university, given that pending litigation questioning McCaw’s department oversight remains to be resolved.

Shame on you, Baylor Nation. You should be ashamed of yourselves for only half-filling McLane Stadium on Senior Day versus Kansas State. Spare me your excuses about 11 a.m. games. It was painfully evident from the empty seats of many season ticket-holders that you only see fit to park your butts in your seats when Baylor is winning.

In the next couple weeks, Ian McCaw’s lawyers are scheduled to respond to a lawsuit by a woman named Jasmin Hernandez. In the suit, Hernandez alleges McCaw, as the athletic director at Baylor University, knew a football player named Tevin Elliott had been accused several times of committing sexual assault. She alleges McCaw failed to protect Hernandez before Elliot raped her and showed willful indifference afterward.

In an era when egotism and narcissism will more than ever define our nation’s leadership and profile, one can appreciate all the more former Wake Forest University coach Jim Grobe’s thankless gesture of temporarily coaching Baylor University’s football team at a time when some fans stubbornly demanded head football coach Art Briles’ return and regent leadership engaged in escalating battles with alumni, donors and even BU’s assistant coaches.

Despite the sentiments of all the women in my family, Matthew McConaughey just doesn’t get it. This week, when McConaughey was asked what he thought about UT’s Charlie Strong as a coach, McConaughey said Strong “had one goal in mind: What’s best for these young men. That’s been his goal . . . he’s been about what’s best for these young men, and who they are in the rest of their life.”

The sharp spike in reported allegations of rape at Baylor University between 2014 and 2015 might seem to work against efforts to draw more students and reassure them of their safety, but the latest Clery Act numbers should reassure all in one regard: Experts in sexual violence say the institutions of higher learning that should especially concern us are those that report few or no allegations of sexual violence.

One can debate till sunup how Baylor University lost control of its campaign to decisively implement campus reforms to prevent and address sexual assaults. After the university’s much-touted Title IX coordinator quit under pressure this month, filed a damning complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights and blasted Baylor on national TV, a federal investigation just naturally figured in the cards.

Plenty of Baylor Bears fans were understandably outraged by Rice University’s marching-band halftime show lampooning Baylor University’s ongoing scandal over Title IX issues. After all, some Baylor rape victims reportedly faced administrative indifference; Baylor’s president and head football coach were dispatched amid protests for and against them; and questions loom over BU regents’ oversight.

As if colleges and universities didn’t already have enough headaches between the sexual-assault allegations involving their students and stupefying complexities of Title IX gender-violence protocol, the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals has made everything even more bewildering. Its July 29 ruling highlights the tribulations now experienced by schools such as Baylor University.

Allegations that some Baylor University officials used student-conduct prohibitions against drinking and premarital sex to intimidate and discourage victims of sexual assault from pursing their complaints are enough to raise one’s blood pressure in outrage. And even though these are as yet unproven, such claims should prompt Baylor leadership to further explore whether stern, unforgiving student-conduct codes have positive relevance today — even on a resolutely Christian campus where parents expect their children to walk the straight and narrow as students.

A few years ago, when plans and fund-raising for the $266 million riverfront McLane Stadium were coming together, I mentioned to a Baylor University athletic official how it certainly would be the stadium that standout Baylor football quarterback Robert Griffin III built. Acknowledging Griffin’s athletic prowess and leadership skills, the Baylor official nonetheless corrected me: The new arena would be the stadium that Baylor head football coach Art Briles built.

The Baylor University Board of Regents has some serious explaining to do to a lot of presumably valuable constituencies, including parents of students and prospective students worried about campus safety and the rising cost of tuition; BU alumni outraged that regents might be paying out millions of dollars to settle lawsuits while covering up misdeeds of their own; and the surrounding Waco community, which among other things dared to invest public tax dollars in Baylor’s aspirations regarding a $266 million riverfront football stadium.

Given that they represent an institution of higher learning and enormous research potential, Baylor University regents sometimes seem slow on the uptake. In the high-stakes chess game they’re now playing, unceremoniously ousted head football coach Art Briles has just taught them what is surely a costly lesson. It could be one of many for regents.

Flashback

What were we talking about one year ago? Take a look back.

After several seasons of victory, limelight and national envy, the Baylor Bears would seem to have fallen into old ways — and so have some of the fans. If this isn’t obvious around the water cooler, consider Facebook comments on Trib stories about the first two games of 2017. Blame is cast on everything from the offensive line to new coach Matt Rhule’s leadership to the decision to raze Floyd Casey Stadium. As Melissa Stamps notes: “As a Nebraska fan going through it for years now, new coach, new players ... but one thing stays the same: Fair-weather fans suck!”

Given the humiliation that Baylor University has experienced over sexual assaults the last couple of years, losing Saturday’s season-opener to Liberty University, of all contenders, might seem a relatively minor flap, but it was nonetheless a bitter pill for alumni, students and players to swallow. None of it was made any easier when, on the eve of the game, fans learned that former head football coach Art Briles, fired in 2016 for administrative failures in the scandal, received last May a letter from Baylor recommending him to potential employers.

Given the Aug. 5 death of former Texas Gov. Mark White, the many eulogies praising his rare leadership and his final fight for accountability and transparency on the part of leadership at his alma mater, one can’t help noting the irony of Friday’s ruling by a federal judge involving White’s beloved Baylor University. The court ordered Baylor to furnish local attorney Jim Dunnam with notes, recordings and other relevant information from the controversial Pepper Hamilton investigation that reportedly uncovered administrative indifference regarding sexual assaults involving Baylor students.

Today’s wildly fractured thinking in America makes it increasingly difficult to properly gauge alleged lapses in leadership, which must leave some with exceedingly mixed feelings about former Baylor University regent Neal “Buddy” Jones’ emails branding as “perverted little tarts” and “very bad apples” female students he suspected of drinking alcohol. Much of society nowadays holds that leaders be held accountable for deeds, not words. Even many supposed evangelicals now excuse malicious rhetoric in favor of Christian actions and works.