Baylor will stay in-house with its interim coach selection as it attempts to move forward and correct the issues brought to light in Thursday’s damning report investigating school’s handling of sexual assaults by football players.
Following the dismissal of Art Briles as head football coach, Baylor is expected to promote Bears defensive coordinator Phil Bennett to interim head coach, according to ESPN’s Jeannine Edwards, which confirmed initial reports from Yahoo’s Pat Forde.
Briles was named in the report as having been directly involved with the quieting and dismissing of multiple rape allegations involving football players. The fired coach and his coaching staff were alleged to have “conducted their own untrained internal inquiries, outside of policy, which improperly discredited complainants and denied them the right to a fair, impartial and informed investigation, interim measures or processes promised under University policy,” according to the report. Ken Starr will be removed from his role as university president but will be staying on as the school’s chancellor and as a law school professor, and athletic director Ian McCaw will be sanctioned and placed on probation for their actions detailed in the report.
The report was void of a negative mention of Bennett, a point noted by Richard Willis, chairman of the Baylor board of regents, in a Thursday teleconference with the media, per ESPN.
“There was nothing in what we’ve been read or been shown by [law firm] Pepper Hamilton that had anything specific for Phil,” Willis said during the teleconference.
While Bennett was not found to have been directly involved with the suppression of allegations, he did speak publicly about one of the involved players on two occasions.
In August 2014, he told the Star-Telegram that Sam Ukwuachu — who has since been convicted of raping a female Baylor student while sitting out a season following his transfer from Boise State — would not be participating in a practice for undisclosed reasons.
Bennett said then Ukwuachu has “some issues right now and won’t practice until we get them straightened out.” He did not elaborate.
Ten months later, Bennett, this time speaking with the Dallas Morning News in June 2015, said he anticipated Ukwuachu’s return to come at some point during the season. Ukwuachu would not play a single down for Baylor and was sentenced to serve a six-month jail sentence in August.
“Ukwuachu is a guy we’re expecting to be back,” Bennett said. “We expect him to be eligible in July. That gives us probably five or six guys we can play at end.”
Bennett served as the head coach at SMU from 2002 to 2007, compiling an 18-57 record. This will be Bennett’s second term as an interim head coach, after he served Pittsburgh in the same role for a single game at the conclusion of the 2010 season.