“Suspensions happen,” Rhule said at a news conference Wednesday. “I’m not saying they did anything wrong. We are just going to separate them from the team until we know what happened and so justice can be served.”
A fourth Baylor player has also been suspended for an unrelated reason, and Rhule said that all four — Eric Ogor, Tre’von Lewis, Justin Harris and John Arthur — will remain enrolled at Baylor. The coach declined to specify which three were connected to the sexual assault investigation, but he said that they had been separated from the team since November, when the allegations were made.
According to ESPN, female members of Baylor’s equestrian team filed a report with university police about an incident that took place at a campus apartment during the early-morning hours of Nov. 12. That was shortly after the Bears lost to Texas Tech, 38-24, at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Tex., en route to a 1-11 season.
“Baylor University takes any allegation of sexual assault seriously,” Baylor President Linda Livingstone said in a statement Tuesday. “The University’s new leadership team is unwavering in our commitment to follow our well-documented Title IX policy and procedures in regards to reporting and responding to incidents of sexual assault. The responsibility of responding to alleged incidents of sexual violence does not rest solely in the hands of any specific individual or unit. It is a University response dictated by our Title IX policy. Baylor University remains committed to providing for the safety and security of our campus community.”
“There’s a committee that steps in and says, ‘This happened, you’re separated from the team,’” Rhule said Wednesday. “The people that do this for a living, they handle the investigation. There’s no hiding.
“It’s been very transparent from this side. I don’t know much about the case, and I think that’s really a good thing because I probably shouldn’t know much about it as the football coach.”
November also saw Baylor announce that it had “fully implemented” all 105 recommendations made by an outside law firm, which was hired in 2015 to “conduct a thorough and independent external investigation into the university’s handling of cases of alleged sexual violence.” That firm, Pepper Hamilton, released a report the following year in which it found that the school “failed to take appropriate action to respond to reports of sexual assault and dating violence reportedly committed by football players.”
The report also “found examples of actions by University administrators that directly discouraged complainants from reporting or participating in student conduct processes, or that contributed to or accommodated a hostile environment,” adding, “In one instance, those actions constituted retaliation against a complainant for reporting sexual assault.”
Another law firm hired by Baylor to oversee its implementation of Pepper Hamilton’s recommendations declared in November that it had “seen tremendous effort and engagement that has met or exceeded the tasks set forth in the recommendations.” That firm, Cozen O’Connor, said its “hope” was that “Baylor’s efforts can continue to proactively, continuously and effectively prevent and respond to sexual and gender-based harassment and violence in a manner consistent with Baylor’s institutional values, mission and commitment to maintaining a campus free from discrimination and harassment.”
Rhule, entering his second season, sought to draw a distinction between the way he and other Baylor officials were responding to the reported allegations from November and the way such matters were previously handled. “People are going to say things, and I get all that, but that doesn’t mean there’s a bad culture,” Rhule said.
“There’s a bad culture when kids do things and grown-ups hide them,” the coach continued. “And nobody’s hiding anything here. And so that’s why I know that we’re doing things right.”
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