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Green & Gold blues (Op-Ed on the Baylor scandal by Corey Elliot)


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submitted Today, 12:59 PM in Big 12 By Corey Elliot   social_twitter.png @CoreyElliot
 

By: Corey Elliot, special correspondent to HornSports

After Joe Paterno was fired following the Jerry Sandusky scandal, fans gathered outside his home in State College. To this day, I'm still unsure of what was most important to those fans...was it Paterno losing his job; or the fact those adolescent boys (who are now grown men living with the horrific memory of sexual assault) were kept in the dark for so many years?

I can still remember those fans, and my utter confusion, as I watched them gathered outside Paterno’s home. They hoisted signs, chanted and euphorically pumped fists in support – no, defense -- of their coach in an attempt to exonerate him from the horrible events in Happy Valley.

Penn State faithful used every outlet available to them to defend the football program and its head coach. It was Jerry Sandusky at fault; not Paterno, or the players on the current and former rosters. They wanted everyone to leave Penn State’s football program, and Paterno, out of the story.

On Thursday, a similar scene played out, 140 characters at a time, on social media.

This time, it was Baylor University football fans reacting in the wake of a sexual assault incident from 2013 that involved a current Baylor football player— to be clear, I'm talking about "2013" as in, two years ago; and "current", as in, he was still on the team.

Baylor faithful took to every outlet they could to defend the football program and its head coach, Art Briles. It was Samuel Ukwuachu who committed such a heinous crime, not Briles, or the players. Leave Baylor’s football program, and Briles, out of this, they said.

Some demanded that nobody rush to judgement, blind to the fact that for over a year, Baylor’s head football coach without a doubt knew about Ukwuachu’s indictment, and the incident. Briles certainly didn’t rush to do anything.

Baylor University, nor its football program, mentioned the Ukwuachu’s indictment on felony sexual assault charges during the 2014 season. According to a Texas Monthly article, Ukwuachu didn’t play, but was still on the team and even participated in conditioning drills.

That article states Ukwuachu missed that entire 2014 season for "unspecified reasons" and at the beginning of fall camp, Baylor Defensive Coordinator Phil Bennett was championing Ukwuachu, expecting him to be ready for the 2015 football season.

The event in 2013 involved Ukwuachu and an 18-year old freshman on scholarship to play soccer for Baylor. Following the incident, Ukwuachu remained at Baylor, working out with the team, and was held from games for "unspecified reasons:. All while a young woman living with the post-traumatic stress of rape was forced to change her schedule, her routine and her study groups because Ukwuachu was still on campus.

The victim had her scholarship reduced and eventually transferred.

Had it not been for Thursday’s guilty verdict, which could put Ukwuachu in prison for up to 20 years, Ukwuachu would have been preparing for the 2015 football season, and Briles and the Baylor football program would have kept moving right along as if this had never happened.

Football is more important than rape, right? No. But the manner in which this was handled would suggest otherwise.

Football, apparently, is more important to Briles. Baylor's Head Coach goes into living rooms of young teens and makes promises, selling hmself and the program's high morals, quality standards, promises and trust.

Football is more important than taking immediate action by coming forward with information and announcing that one of your players has been dismissed from the team for specified reasons. In this instance, rape.

Football was more important to Art Briles, and Baylor’s athletic department, apparently, than a young woman’s well-being. Football was more important than a young woman who had the courage to tell her friends she was raped, come forward with what happened and provide her account of a traumatic event that many victims all too often keep to themselves.

She had the courage to come forward and detail a horrible crime. She had the courage to speak up, notwithstanding the embarrassment she, and every other rape victim experience.

Baylor officials and Art Briles hid behind the possibility Ukwuachu would be found innocent. Briles and Baylor officials hoped this would go away, and suffice it to say, probably hoped Ukwuachu was innocent.

According to Texas Monthly, Ukwuachu transferred to Baylor after being dismissed from Boise State for violating team rules. He had an All-American redshirt freshman season, but trouble off the field with his girlfriend ultimately led to Boise State's former Head Coach Chris Peterson dismissing Ukwuachu.

In a statement on Friday, Peterson reported that he told Briles about the incidents and troubles that led to Ukwuachu’s dismissal.

Briles, who could have still salvaged a little bit of dignity by taking fault, denied that Peterson told him. A grenade that Briles could have fallen on, instead, was kicked back towards Peterson.

Maybe Briles is ashamed. Maybe he is embarrassed. Or, maybe, he just doesn’t give a damn.

The latter seems most likely, considering the fact that it appears Ukwuachu would be playing this season if he would not have been found guilty.

The legal process needs to run it's course, but there are a few crimes that I would never wait for a verdict before taking punitive action. Harming or endangering women, children and animals, in any physical manner, is enough for me to cut ties with someone else. In those instances, forget about silently hoping for the problem to go away like Briles did.

So why did Briles allow Ukwuachu to remain a part of the program? Why is Briles still debating who told who what and when with Chris Peterson? Why hasn’t Briles come forward with a statement of regret, or reasoning, on behalf of his football program?

And why are fans defending Briles and Baylor? Why do Baylor faithful feel it’s their need, or obligation, to defend the program and Briles? Why is it so hard for people who are fans of what takes place on the field, to step away from their emotions, and grasp the impact of what happened off the field?

A terrible thing happened at Baylor. An even worse thing happened after the fact when coaches and those in the know didn’t remove Ukwuachu from the team, and the University didn’t remove him from the school.

Baylor fans need to understand that accepting those truths does not make them an accessory to the acts.

It is possible to be a Baylor fan and acknowledge this situation was botched. Fans could still show up for games this fall and cheer for the Bears while being upset with how this was handled.

Still, despite that logic, some Baylor faithful continue to blaze a trail of tweets and comments, defending their school, rather than condemning it. And fans continue to rally against those upset that Baylor didn’t speak up and act as soon as Ukwuachu was indicted.

Perhaps Briles set that tone for all of this.

Maybe that’s why some Baylor fans are more concerned about the football aspect, rather than the human element. Maybe that’s why some Baylor fans have reacted poorly, defending everything and anyone associated with Baylor, completely failing to realize the severity of the situation.

Even after reading the Texas Monthly article and learning of the guilty charges of felony sexual assault, some – no, most – Baylor fans mocked rival Big 12 schools. Bears fans claimed fans of said schools were only making a big deal out of the Ukwuachu incident because Baylor is currently a premiere Big 12 program, and said schools are not. Those same fans continue to defend Briles.

If Baylor fans want to defend someone, it should be the young woman who was raped.

Baylor fans and students should understand that it's okay to be critical of their head coach and school. They dropped the ball on a heinous scale. Acknowledging that doesn’t make a Baylor fan less of a fan.

The University and it's supporters need to acknowledge the widespread wrongdoing. Even the fans who lashed out at others for coming down on Baylor's football program, and its head coach, understand on some level that the crime and the lack of action was awful and handled horribly wrong.

A young man is going to prison for a disgusting crime.

A young woman, a victim of that disgusting crime, is moving on with her life the best she can.

Art Briles should be moving on, in search of another job. 

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Briles and Baylor officials hoped this would go away, and suffice it to say, probably hoped Ukwuachu was innocent.

 

 

 

First,  this was one very well written opinion piece. Thank you, I enjoyed it.

 

The only part I disagree with is the above quote. I don't think Baylor cared if he was innocent. All they cared about was him getting on the field, whatever that required.

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