Two Baylor football players have been suspended from the team because of allegations of sexual assault involving football players and female members of the university’s equestrian team.
In an interview with KCEN-TV in Waco, Texas, on Tuesday night, Bears coach Matt Rhule confirmed that two unidentified players had been “separated” from the team after an investigation was launched into allegations made against them in November.
“I can’t get into too many of the details on this specific incident,” Rhule told KCEN-TV. “I really don’t know too many of the details on this specific incident, but I do know things have been handled the right way.”
Rhule, whose team went 1-11 in his first season at the school, declined to identify the players.
According to a Baylor University Police Department incident report obtained by Outside the Lines, two female Baylor students told police they were sexually assaulted at University Parks Apartments in Waco during the early-morning hours of Nov. 12, hours after the Bears lost to Texas Tech 38-24 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
The two women reported the incident to Baylor police on Nov. 17, according to the report.
The identities of the four suspects, who were each identified as students, and six witnesses (three students and three faculty/staff members) were redacted. The women were identified by the pseudonyms “Jane Doe” and “Donna Smith.”
In a March 2 letter to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, an attorney representing the university wrote that the women had initially reported the incident to Baylor equestrian coach Casie Maxwell, who made a report and forwarded it to the university’s Title IX office, Clery Act specialist Shelley Deats and Baylor police Chief Brad Wigtil.
“I feel like the university put those processes in place, and it’s our job to carry them out,” Rhule said. “And, from what I’ve seen, the university has carried them out and everything has been done in a way that it should be done.”
The McLennan County District Attorney’s office is considering whether to bring criminal charges against the players but hasn’t yet presented the case to a grand jury. District Attorney Abel Reyna didn’t immediately respond to telephone calls from Outside the Lines.
Baylor president Linda Livingstone released a statement on Tuesday night:
“Baylor University takes any allegation of sexual assault seriously,” she wrote. “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.”
Baylor’s handling of sexual violence allegations and other complaints involving students and football players have been heavily scrutinized during the past two years. The scandal culminated in May 2016 with the firing of former football coach Art Briles, demotion of president Ken Starr and suspension of athletic director Ian McCaw. Starr and McCaw left Baylor soon after.
The scandal led to multiple investigations by the Texas Rangers, McLennan County District Attorney’s office, U.S. Department of Education, Big 12 Conference and NCAA. Ten lawsuits have been filed against the university by a total of 22 women, and the university has settled four of them.
Philadelphia law firm Pepper Hamilton — which was hired by the school’s board of regents to investigate whether the school properly handled allegations of sexual assault against students, including football players — was critical of the culture within the football program and Briles’ discipline of players. Pepper Hamilton’s findings, released in 2016, described Baylor’s football players as being “above the rules” with “no culture of accountability for misconduct.”
According to Pepper Hamilton, its findings “reflect significant concerns about the tone and culture within Baylor’s football program as it relates to accountability for all forms of athlete misconduct.” It also faulted the football team for not adequately vetting transfer students, including former Boise State defensive end Sam Ukwuachu and former Penn State defensive end Shawn Oakman, who were accused of sexual assault at Baylor.
The school announced last year that it had implemented 105 recommendations made by Pepper Hamilton, including Title IX training and mandatory online training in the football program.