Briles fired as Baylor releases findings on sex assault scandal

Baylor Bears head coach Art Briles speaks to the media during the Big 12 Media Days at Omni Dallas. Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
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Baylor Head Football Coach Art Briles will be fired from the university, according to media reports later confirmed by the university.

Craig Smoak with ESPN 1660 in Waco first reported the news. It has since been confirmed to several media outlets, including WFAA's sister station KCEN.

Baylor posted an announcement to its website later Thursday morning stating that Briles had been "suspended with intention to terminate." 

Briles informed his players of his firing via text message, according to a tweet from ESPN’s Brett McMurphy. KCEN's Jessica Morrey posted the reported wording of the text to Twitter:

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"To current and former players, hurtful to report that there's a release coming out at 11 am and it's to declare that I'm no longer the head football coach at Baylor University. Due to this early release I'm sorry that I can't talk to y'all in person. It looks (sic) the remainder of the staff will stay intact which is beneficial to y'all. I sincerely appreciate your love trust and loyalty (sic). Stay strong, stay motivated, stay faithful, love ya forever #Family"

Thursday's move comes just days after reports surfaced that Ken Starr, the university's president and chancellor, was fired in the midst of a scandal that has raised questions about the school's handling of sexual assault allegations made against members of the Baylor football team. 

Baylor would not confirm those reports in the day after the news broke. The school's announcement Thursday states that Starr will "transition to the role of chancellor" and that Dr. David Garland has been named interim president.

Starr released a statement of his own on Thursday afternoon "expressing heartfelt contrition for the tragedy and sadness that has unfolded."

"To those victims who were not treated with the care, concern, and support they deserve, I am profoundly sorry," Starr said in the statement.

However, he made clear he was "not privy to any of the allegations regarding interpersonal violence until the Fall of 2015, at which time I immediately launched an internal investigation before recommending to the Board an independent external investigation, which the Board then commissioned with Pepper Hamilton."

Starr said he has reached an agreement in principle to step down as the university's president, but will remain chancellor as well as the Louise L. Morrison Chair of Constitutional Law at Baylor Law School.

Athletic director Ian McCaw was put on probation, according to Thursday's announcement.

"These University leaders have known about sexual predators on the football team for years and never took actions to protect students," said Jasmin Hernandez in a statement. Hernandez said she was raped by a Baylor football player in 2012.

A person with knowledge of the situation told USA TODAY that the Baylor Board of Regents did not view any of the three key leaders involved in the sexual assault scandal – Briles, Starr, and McCaw – as irreplaceable, and that the football program had reached a level of success that it would not backslide to the bottom of the Big 12 were Briles no longer the coach.

Pepper Hamilton, an independent law firm, has conducted an investigation into the sex assault complaints and released its findings to the university earlier this month. The firm says it examined over one million pieces of information since last fall.

The findings, made public Thursday, showed that the school's student conduct policy was "wholly inadequate."

The school "directly discouraged some complainants from reporting or participating in student conduct processes and in one instance constituted retaliation against a complainant for reporting sexual assault," according to the report.

The findings also detailed specific inadequacies within the athletics department.

These included “a failure to identify and respond to a pattern of sexual violence by a football player and to a report of dating violence,” and “concerns about the tone and culture” within the football program in regards to sexual violence. 

Former Baylor defensive end Sam Ukwuachu was found guilty of sexual assault last August. Shawn Oakman, who played for the Bears from 2013-15, was arrested in April and is currently under investigation for sex assault.

An ESPN Outside the Lines report detailed several other troubling complaints of sexual assault surrounding the football team at Baylor.

“We were horrified by the extent of these acts of sexual violence on our campus. This investigation revealed the University's mishandling of reports in what should have been a supportive, responsive and caring environment for students,” said Richard Willis, chair of the Baylor Board of Regents, in the university's announcement.

Briles has turned the Baylor football program around since becoming head coach in 2008. He has a 65-37 record in his eight seasons there, after the school had won only 11 conference games in 12 seasons prior to his arrival.

WFAA's Dale Hansen delivered commentary on the scandal on News 8 Tuesday, saying Briles had "failed the women of Baylor." The Unplugged segment has since been shared across the country. 

Read Pepper Hamilton's "findings of facts" released by Baylor Thursday:

Pepper Hamilton Findings of Fact in Baylor scandal


 

Contributing: Dan Wolken, USA TODAY Sports and KVUE