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Raped 18 years ago on another campus, she says Baylor should suspend football for a year

Brenda Tracy thinks that Baylor’s McLane Stadium should stand empty for a year. (Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press file)

Brenda Tracy has a piece of advice for Baylor University as it seeks to come to grip with the sexual-assault scandal that cost the jobs of the head football coach, the athletic director and the school’s president/chancellor.

Tracy, who was the victim of rape at Oregon State University, thinks the university should walk away from football for a brief spell.

“I think they need to get rid of everybody and shut down the football program for one year. I think they need to start over [at Baylor],” Tracy told CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd. “Otherwise, they’re just trying to put a Band-Aid on it. What did we learn from Penn State?”

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It isn’t likely that the penalties levied against Penn State after the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal are going to come down. Even less likely is the possibility that Baylor’s program would be subjected to the death penalty by the NCAA. It is moving forward and football is central to its recovery, even as it was part of its downfall. Coach Art Briles has been fired, Ian McCaw resigned as AD after being placed on probation and Ken Starr is out as president and chancellor. Jim Grobe, the former coach at Wake Forest, has been hired to coach the football team.

But not so fast, says Tracy, who said she was raped by four men, two of whom played football at Oregon State, nearly 18 years ago. None has been brought to justice. Tracy, a 42-year-old nurse who is the mother of two sons who are young adults, wrote in an open letter to Baylor’s Board of Regents on Campus Rush that “it’s time for the NCAA and university administrators to go to work” to show leadership in ending campus sexual assault.

I know firsthand that change is possible. Oregon State issued an apology to me after my story went public. They hired me as a paid consultant and I now assist the school with issues related to campus sexual violence. OSU President Ed Ray has publicly stated numerous times that “human lives are more important than the reputation of a university.” Former coach Mike Riley, now the coach at Nebraska, also issued a public apology. [This] month I will travel to Nebraska to talk to his football team. I will stand before his players and explain to them what he did and the impact his decision had on my life.
When you’re the survivor of a sexual attack, there’s a small part of your brain that can rationalize “This is a rapist. This is what rapists do.” But how do you hold on to your faith in humanity when the people who are supposed to protect you turn their back? When the “good” people don’t help you? When your school, your coach and your administrators betray you? That hurt and devastation runs deeper than the actual rape. Institutional betrayal is a different, and in many ways worse, type of devastation.

Tracy described what happened to her on the night of June 24, 1998, for Omaha’s KETV. She was, she said, gang-raped by two football players from Oregon State, one from a community college and a man who went on to be a Division I athlete. At the time, Tracy was a 24-year-old mother of boys aged 5 and 4 and was dating a man who had recently graduated from OSU. She was living in Salem and, when a friend who was dating a football player too went to Corvallis, Ore., to see him, she went along.

“Women travel in twos all the time. We don’t go to the bathroom without each other,” she told KETV. “So it’s always buddy system, and I didn’t want her to go to an apartment with a bunch of guys by herself because it’s awkward and weird. So I went with her.”

Tracy said she had one drink, four ounces of Tanqueray and orange juice, and “started to feel dizzy.” Her friend and boyfriend went into a bedroom, leaving her alone with four men. She was in and out of consciousness for the next 10 hours and awoke covered with condoms, crumbs and garbage.

She went to a women’s crisis center and reported the rape to authorities, resulting in the arrest of the four men. But there was a backlash and death threats against Tracy and, when the prosecutor told her there would have to be four separate trials, she decided not to prosecute. “People ask me all the time, ‘Why didn’t you prosecute?’ I think the question for me is, why would I under those circumstances?” she told KETV. “Why would any victim continue to move forward when you have no support? When our community makes it so difficult for us to prosecute?”

Tracy at times contemplated suicide and initially was baffled and furious that Riley suspended his two OSU players for one game, saying they had made “a bad choice.” Tracy “despised that man,” she told The Oregonian in December 2014. “I hated him with every cell in my body.” After her story appeared there, Riley invited her to speak at OSU; he moved on to Nebraska, but the invitation still stood.

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“Doing the right thing is the key,” Riley told the Oregonian’s John Canzano recently. “What I’ve learned is that some things that are not negotiable about the opportunity to be on a team. One of those is certain kinds of assault, and one of them is anything to do with guns.”

Tracy, now a victim’s advocate as well as a nurse, says she doesn’t hate the coach any more and is ready for her June 22 trip to Lincoln, Neb.

“I feel like regardless of what happened in the past, what’s important is what he’s doing now and what he does moving forward. In that way, he’s being a great role model,” she told KETV. “And it’s helping me with my healing process. I’m very appreciative that he’s doing this. I think my trip to Nebraska will be very emotional for me, but it will also be a time for healing.”