“The football program was a black hole into which reports of misconduct such as drug use, physical assault, domestic violence, brandishing of guns, indecent exposure and academic fraud disappeared,” said the filing by Houston lawyer Rusty Hardin on behalf of board Chairman Ron Murff and regents J. Cary Gray and David Harper. Others named in the suit by Shillinglaw are Baylor’s interim president, David Garland, and two other school officials, plus Philadelphia law firm Pepper Hamilton.
Baylor hired Pepper Hamilton to conduct an investigation into Briles’s program, and its findings, presented in May 2016, formed the basis for the firing of the coach, Shillinglaw and others, plus the eventual departures of former president Kenneth Starr and athletics director Ian McCaw. The three regents’ aim with their filing was not only to refute accusations made in Shillinglaw’s suit, but to lay to rest lingering perceptions by supporters of the program that Briles and members of his staff were treated unfairly.
To that end, Thursday’s filing listed numerous episodes in which Baylor players violated criminal codes or the Baptist school’s own policies, yet were treated by Briles and others with either indifference or alarm as to the potential consequences for the on-field product. The document included the following list of incidents (with the wording unchanged, except for an expletive) collected by Pepper Hamilton, showing how the football program repeatedly failed to follow proper procedures and alert either the school’s office of Judicial Affairs or its Title IX compliance office:
- On April 8, 2011, after a freshman defensive tackle was cited for illegal consumption of alcohol, Coach Briles sent a text message to an assistant coach: “Hopefully he’s under radar enough they won’t recognize name — did he get ticket from Baylor police or Waco? … Just trying to keep him away from our judicial affairs folks …”
- On February 11, 2013, an assistant coach notified Coach Briles of a claim by a female student-athlete that a football player brandished a gun at her. Coach Briles responded: “what a fool — she reporting to authorities” The assistant coach texted back: “She’s acting traumatized … Trying to talk her calm now … Doesn’t seem to want to report though.” Coach Briles texted: “U gonna talk to [the player].” The assistant coach concluded: “Yes sir, just did. Caught him on the way to class … Squeezed him pretty good.” The matter was never reported to Judicial Affairs.
- On September 13, 2013, Shillinglaw sent a text to Coach Briles about a player who got a massage and “supposedly exposed himself and asked for favors. She [masseuse] has a lawyer but wants us to handle with discipline and counseling.” Coach Briles’ first response was “What kind of discipline … She a stripper?” When Shillinglaw said the player made the request at a salon and spa while getting a massage, Coach Briles wrote, “Not quite as bad.”
- On September 20, 2013, after a player was arrested for assault and threatening to kill a non-athlete, a football operations staff official tried to talk the victim out of pressing criminal charges. Meanwhile, Coach Briles texted Athletics Director Ian McCaw: “Just talked to [the player] — he said Waco PD was there — said they were going to keep it quiet — Wasn’t a set up deal… I’ll get shill (Shillinglaw) to ck on Sibley (local attorney Jonathan Sibley).” Athletics Director Ian McCaw replied: “That would be great if they kept it quiet!”
- In October 2013, Shillinglaw and Briles discussed their efforts to intervene on behalf of a player who was suspended for repeated drug violations. “Bottom line, he has to meet with (Vice President for Student Life Kevin) Jackson tomorrow morning. If Jackson does not reinstate President will,” Shillinglaw wrote.
- On May 14, 2014, after Coach Briles learned from an assistant coach that a player had been caught selling drugs, he texted: “I’m hoping it will take care of itself — if not we can discuss best way to move on it.” The offense was never reported to Judicial Affairs and Coach Briles arranged for the player to transfer to another school. The assistant coach texted: “Him just hanging around Waco scares me. [Another school] will take him. Knows baggage.”
- On August 15, 2015, after a player was arrested for possession of marijuana, Coach Briles texted an assistant coach: “[Expletive] — how about that — he’s gonna b (sic) in the system now — let me know what you think we should do … I can get shill (Shillinglaw) to call Sibley or we can … Do we know who complained?” The assistant coach responded that the complainant was the superintendent at the player’s apartment complex. Coach Briles replied: “We need to know who supervisor is and get him to alert us first.”
“Coach Briles, Shillinglaw, and certain of his assistants had enabled a culture within the program that treated football players differently by making sure they would not face the normal disciplinary processes and consequences that regular students would have faced,” the regents said in the filing. “The law firm found evidence that Briles relied on Shillinglaw to line up legal representation for players who had run-ins with the law.”
Shillinglaw’s attorney, Gaines West, described Thursday’s filing to ESPN as “very unorthodox.” In an email to the website, he said, “It’s really hard to discern just what it is these defendants assert. We are anxious for the complete truth to come out, instead of just a bunch of disconnected accusations.”
Briles’s lawyer, Ernest Cannon, said (via KWTX) that the ex-coach wanted to restore “his good name” with his lawsuit but dropped it after being “overloaded” by Baylor officials “in an endless supply of money, lawyers, resources, and no restraints on anything they’ll do to achieve their goals.”
“Art wants some peace in his life for him and his family, and to put as much distance between him and his family and Baylor as he can,” the lawyer said, “and I wholeheartedly agree with him.”
The regents’ filing went into greater detail about a pair of specific players, including defensive lineman Tevin Elliott, who “allegedly assaulted five students” from 2009 until an arrest led to his expulsion in 2012. Briles was said to have persuaded Starr to overturn a suspension that would have made Elliott ineligible for the 2011 season, then the president put the athletics department, rather than Judicial Affairs, in charge of making sure the player met the terms of his probation.
“That fall [in 2011], Elliott had attendance problems, was in danger of flunking his human performance class and was caught cheating on quizzes,” the filing stated. “This violated President Starr’s probation orders and Elliott’s academic plan. But two top Athletics officials shrugged it off. ‘Wow, what is this kid thinking?’ an Athletics Department official wrote on October 21, 2011 to his boss, Ian McCaw. ‘Unbelievable!’ McCaw replied.”
The following spring, the filing noted, Elliott went on to commit two rapes, and he was eventually sentenced to 20 years in prison. According to the regents, when Briles was informed that Elliott had gotten a lawyer in the wake of his second rape, he replied, “Dang it,” and it took the coach 10 days to contact Judicial Affairs, only doing so after a local reporter began asking about the player.
Another former Baylor defensive lineman, Shawn Oakman, was described as not being properly vetted when he transferred from Penn State in 2012, despite having been dismissed from that program for an episode of “retail theft.” Instead, Briles relied upon a note from PSU’s head coach, not identified but presumably Bill O’Brien (now the head coach of the Houston Texans), who wrote, “I believe that Shawn is a decent kid that should be allowed to play this season. I am sure that he has learned his lesson.”
According to the filing, Oakman physically and verbally accosted a female student in January 2013, who filed a report with the Waco police department and gave a copy to Shillinglaw and “two other people she believed to be assistant football coaches.” No Baylor official outside the athletics department was notified, and after declining to press charges, the student left the state.
The student returned to Baylor for the summer and fall sessions in 2013, but withdrew each time after further run-ins with Oakman. “The woman claimed that Oakman pushed her down some stairs the first time and punched a hole in a wall the second time,” said the filing, which also included this passage:
“In January 2015, the student and her mother met with a learning accommodation specialist. After that meeting, the specialist immediately contacted Baylor Judicial Affairs, the Title IX office, Student Life and the Office of General Counsel.
“Describing the student, the specialist wrote: ‘I haven’t seen a student as scared and upset as she was in a long time. She mentioned that she lives in constant fear, 24 hours a day she is scared that [Oakman] or his friends will come beat her up. The mom also talked about Baylor protecting the guy because he is a Baylor football player and that he had an assault record before he was at Baylor.’ ”
After playing the 2015 season and graduating that December, Oakman was arrested for sexually assaulting another Baylor student in April, and he was indicted by a grand jury in July. The filing noted that it was only after his arrest that some knowledge of the 2013 incidents became public.
In November, Baylor issued a statement claiming that in 2013, several senior members of its athletics department, including Briles and McCaw, were informed of a female student-athlete’s allegations of a gang rape committed by five football players, and none passed along that information to the proper authorities, as required by federal law. Thursday’s document added some details of that episode, including Briles’s reaction to being given the names of his accused players by the student-athlete’s own coach.
“Coach Briles studied the names on the piece of paper. ‘Those are some bad dudes,’ Coach Briles told the coach. ‘Why was she around those guys?’ Coach Briles offered no defense of his players and told the coach he should have his student-athlete inform the police and prosecute.
“The victim’s coach went back to McCaw, who incorrectly told the coach it was up to the victim to take action. McCaw told the coach that if the student did not press charges there was nothing else they could do. …
“[An] assistant football coach summoned the two players [of the five accused] and questioned them. They admitted to ‘fooling around,’ calling it ‘just a little bit of playtime.’ But they insisted they did not harm the student and that the conduct was consensual. The assistant football coach also said that he contacted other Baylor coaches, whose apparent response was to engage in victim-blaming. He concluded that the accusations of the gang rape were in a ‘gray area’ and there was no definitive evidence of sexual assault.”
On Friday, McCaw released a statement through his lawyer Tom Brandt, who said McCaw “was faced with a complex situation wherein he desired to honor the wishes of the alleged victim,” who reportedly “was unwilling to speak to police” about the matter.
This was not the only report of a gang-rape by Baylor players as noted by the regents, however. There was also one, the filing states, alleged by the student Oakman repeatedly terrified in 2013. “In all, at least six football players had been identified as allegedly participating in gang rapes,” claimed the filing.
The regents went on to describe how, when presented with law firm’s findings, they decided they had to fire Briles immediately but felt they could not make details of the law firm’s report public for legal reasons concerning the privacy of the victims and the accused. They also recommended that Shillinglaw’s employment be scrutinized by Baylor’s administration because he “did not fully cooperate with the Pepper Hamilton investigation.”
The fallout from a lawsuit filed by Baylor’s first full-time Title IX coordinator was also described, with the regents insisting that they had “a right and a duty to set the record straight.”
“When a college football coach goes 6-7, 5-7, and 5-7 for three consecutive years, no one blinks an eye when the coach is fired,” the regents said in the filing. “But when at least 17 women report sexual and physical assaults involving at least 19 football players, including allegations of four gang rapes, why is anyone shocked by his dismissal?”
Marissa Payne contributed to this report.