It’s been difficult for Baylor coach Matt Rhule to focus solely on football after two news stories broke that affect his program on a chaotic Monday.
Baylor has received a formal notice of allegations from the NCAA related to the football sexual assault scandal that occurred before Rhule’s arrival in December 2016.
The alleged violations include a lack of institutional control which is often associated with major violations. Former Baylor football coach Art Briles, who was fired in May 2016, has also been cited for failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance.
Baylor received the notice of allegations in early September and has 90 days to respond. Then the NCAA has 60 days for its response. Cases involving major violations usually involve a hearing before the NCAA’s committee on infractions.
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram first reported the story.
Despite potential penalties, Rhule said he’s excited about the program his players and coaching staff is building. After last year’s 1-11 debut season under Rhule, the Bears are off to a 3-2 start this year heading into Saturday’s game against Kansas State at McLane Stadium.
“I’m nothing but excited about the future and believe our best is yet to come,” Rhule said. “I think the program is heading in the right direction, and for all the adversity we’ve faced I think it’s making us that much better. There will be a day when the success we have will be unbreakable because we’re doing it with a lot of things around the program.”
Rhule told his team that no one has ever informed him about a possible bowl ban this season. He wants the Bears to keep striving for the postseason.
“We’re planning on going to a bowl game,” Rhule said. “We have to earn that, that’s the part we can control. I think our team knows throughout this year stories will come out, things that will be distracting will come out. We have a decision to make: What are we going to put first? Based upon what I saw at practice our team is very focused on this game.”
Rhule also addressed his team of the news that Richard Willis, chairman of Baylor’s board of regents from 2012-16, had allegedly made racial slurs about Baylor’s black football players. Willis, who left the board of regents last year, has denied making the comments.
“I really feel for our older players because when the first story came out and it involved racist comments, potentially or whatever,” Rhule said. “I asked a couple of our older players, ‘Are you OK with this? How do you feel?’ They were sort of ‘Coach, we’ve been through this for so long we’re numb to it.’ For me, that’s sad but it’s real, and they’ll leave here more prepared for life.”
Rhule said he hopes addressing issues such as racism will bring his team closer together.
“I think a lot of our white players for the first time in their lives saw some things from a different perspective, and I thought it was really good for them,” Rhule said. “If we can all leave with a better understanding of each other then this place will be that much healthier.”
As different issues arise that affect the football program, Rhule wants to make sure his players understand that he has their backs.
“If I put my focus on the players, then hopefully they’ll know somebody cares about them,” Rhule said. “Their families care about them, we care about them, they care about each other, and we’re all we’ve got right now. Sometimes you think people care about you and then you find out they have other agendas.”
When Rhule accepted the Baylor job after building a successful program at Temple, he knew stories would come out sporadically as the NCAA investigation unfolds.
“I can’t comment on it, but it’s an ongoing thing and nothing has really changed to me,” Rhule said. “I came into this with eyes wide open and knowing I was here for the long haul. So I’m proud of our staff because we’ve been able to build and recruit and retain the team through all this turmoil since I’ve gotten here.
“There hasn’t really been many times when there wasn’t a lot of turmoil going on. We’ve always dealt with it honestly. We’ve always tried to deal with it as honestly as we can with our players and recruits.”
Though Rhule and his staff still have to deal with the fallout from the past, he wants investigators to see that he and his staff are running the Baylor football program the right way.
“I think the people who have come in, when accreditation agencies and people have investigated us, and the Big 12 has come in, I hope they all see that anything that’s going on is from before and this is a very well-run athletic department,” Rhule said. “This is a healthy football program. Baylor has to stand up for Baylor sometimes. That’s what we’re trying to do.”
Baylor athletic director Mack Rhoades said he couldn’t comment on reports that the university has received a formal notice of allegations from the NCAA. But he said Baylor has been complying with the NCAA investigation and will continue to do so.
On Tuesday afternoon, Baylor issued a press release: “Out of respect for the NCAA guidelines and to preserve the integrity of the investigation, we are unable to discuss this matter publicly.”
Meanwhile, Rhule will try to get his team ready for Kansas State this weekend. He likes the focus his team showed after he addressed some of the issues surrounding the program.
“We addressed it and went to practice and it was like two hours of insanity and work ethic and toughness and competition,” Rhule said. “Our guys will go out there and prepare all week, and they’ll go Saturday and I hope they can just have it to be football because that’s what they deserve.”
BEAR FACTS — Rhule said Baylor cornerback Grayland Arnold will likely be out two more weeks after missing last week’s game against Oklahoma. He sprained an ankle in practice last week...Running back John Lovett is undergoing concussion protocol after sustaining a head injury against Oklahoma, and his status is uncertain for Kansas State.