Baylor: Pepper Hamilton Report Says "Football Was Above the Rules"


Art Briles has been fired as Baylor head football coach. The Findings of Fact have been released from the Pepper Hamilton report that is at the root of that dismissal. Those findings are summarizations of the result of their investigation and interviews. They do not make specific, detailed assertions of the underlying facts; Art Briles’ name, for example, never directly appears in the report though there are frequent references to things done by the football staff.

The report details both larger institutional failures in implementing Title IX standards and fostering a culture that would allow victims to come forward (“investigations were conducted in the context of a broader culture and belief by many administrators that sexual violence ‘doesn’t happen here.’”), and football-specific failures. The report said that the 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.”

“Leadership challenges and communications issues hindered enforcement of rules and policies, and created a cultural perception that football was above the rules,” the report states on page 11.

While the report doesn’t find specifics, it does make findings that all of the following occurred within the football program:

  • Football coaches took improper steps in response to disclosures of sexual assault or dating violence;
  • Football staff conducted their own inquiries and improperly discredited complainants, denying them rights to impartial investigations;
  • Reports prepared by football staff were not shared outside of the football department, prohibiting and hindering proper Title IX investigations;
  • Some players, rather than have their cases properly reported, were dismissed under the guise of violations of team rules and assisted in transferring to other schools;
  • Football staff were improperly involved in criminal and disciplinary matters and reinforced perception that “football was above the rules”;
  • The football program operated its own internal system of discipline, which relied heavily on individual judgment and not clear standards, and was inconsistent with effective Title IX implementation;
  • “The football program failed to identify and maintain controls over known risks, and unreasonably accepted known risks. Leadership in football and the athletics department did not set the tone, establish a policy or practice for reporting and documenting significant misconduct.”
  • The football program, and University, did not properly follow protocol in regard to transfers, including failing to do background checks and risk assessments.

That last part no doubt is referring to Sam Ukwuachu and his transfer from Boise State. Shawn Oakman, recently accused of a sexual assault after leaving the program, was also a transfer.

Reading between the lines, since the juicy underlying details are not included with each of those findings, the ones that most likely got us where we are today, besides the Ukwuachu matter, involved the coaching staff (Briles) improperly not reporting on allegations of sexual assault and conducting biased internal investigations within the program, and interfering in criminal investigations.