By Alex Norman
If you ever wonder if there will come a day when most of college athletics will be a place in which the adults do the right thing… save your mental energy.
That day will never come.
The most high profile recent examples come from Waco and Starkville… two cities that aren’t exactly known for being progressive. These are two cities that are a few steps behind in terms of growing as a society, and the actions of the major universities located there hammer home this opinion.
First there is Baylor…
The head coach (Art Briles), athletic director (Ian McCaw) and president (Ken Starr) have all been forced out of their jobs. An investigation revealed that multiple women accused Baylor football players of sexual assault. Football staff members not only repeatedly refused to report these allegations, university administrators discouraged complainants from reporting these alleged assaults.
This is something that occurred for years.
In 2013 Baylor allowed defensive end Sam Ukwuachu to transfer to their school from Boise State despite reports that he has been kicked off their football team due to an incident of violence against a female student. In 2014 Ukwuachu was indicted on sexual assault charges against a Baylor female student. He was still allowed to take part in team activated after the indictment. He would later be sentenced to 180 days in jail.
That’s just one example of what was a sickening pattern of indifference on the part of Baylor University.
So why would they act in such a manner? Simple… Football trumps morality.
In the eight years Briles was head coach, the Bears went 65-37, including a 32-7 record from 2013-2015. This was a football program that had been at the bottom of the conference standings for years. Thanks in part to this resurgence the Bears were able to open a brand new $266 million stadium.
The money was rolling in, the football team was relevant on the national stage… and at the same time the adults in charge brought in and protected players they knew were awful human beings. This in turn made other students at this Christian university unsafe, and some were hurt by these decisions.
The sad truth is that even after everything that occurred, Baylor doesn’t get it. Somehow Ken Starr is still allowed to be a professor at the University.
Oh and by the way, undergraduate tuition at Baylor is approximately $38,000 per year. What parent would feel comfortable cutting that check and sending their kid to this school?
The Baylor situation blew up at the end of May. Then at the beginning of June, Mississippi State threw their hat into the ring of shame.
Back in March incoming freshman Jeffery Simmons was videotaped punching a girl multiple times as she was lying on the ground. Keep in mind that Simmons is a 5 star recruit that can rush the passer, so the Bulldogs were doing all they could to get him to campus.
Athletic Director Scott Stricklin announced that Simmons would be suspended one game for his transgressions.
For punching a girl.
Stricklin tried to defend this decision to media members at the SEC spring meetings in Destin. When SI’s Andy Staples pointed out that this suspension matched the one game suspension that comes with targeting in a football game, Stricklin had no response.
Mississippi State did release a statement with a quote from Stricklin in it.
“We expect the structure and discipline Jeffery will be a part of in our football program to benefit him. Jeffery will be held accountable for his actions while at MSU, and there will be consequences for any future incidents.”
Right. I’m sure that Mississippi State would let any prospective students in a similar situation into their school. This has nothing to do with the fact that Simmons can rush the passer.
God forbid Simmons hurts anyone while on the Mississippi State campus. Try winning those lawsuits.
By the way Mississippi State football coach Dan Mullen is unavailable to the media for the next month. That’s some convenient timing.
The sad thing is that Baylor and Mississippi State are probably not exceptions when it comes to putting a priority on athletics, at the potential cost of the safety of the student body. Tennessee certainly has its issues. As does Alabama. And Georgia. And Florida. And Ole Miss.
Sports are a big deal.
But they aren’t that big a deal.