“The story at Baylor is so over-the-top that it would probably break your credulity if it appeared in a novel. A series of football players’ sexual assaults and an administration’s willful obliviousness ended in the ouster of the coach, the athletic director, and the university president, Kenneth Starr.”
College football fans, your new season has arrived. Here come the parties, the pageantry, the action, and if your team is as good as you hope, some stirring victories and bowl game glory ahead.
Sorry to spoil the fun, but are these worth it if your football team is cutting moral corners to get to the Promised Land? If the coaches, athletic department, and university administration are turning blind eyes to star players’ sexual predations?
These are real questions, made all the more pressing by the rise and fall of the Baylor University team and a just-released book that throws harsh new light on this Christian university and the sexual assault crisis around its football program.
The story at Baylor is so over-the-top that it would probably break your credulity if it appeared in a novel. A series of football players’ sexual assaults and an administration’s willful obliviousness ended in the ouster of the coach, the athletic director, and the university president, Kenneth Starr. There have been eight lawsuits filed against the university and two ex-players convicted. (An appeals court overturned one of those convictions and ordered a new trial for the defendant.)
All this at a school with that prides itself on its deeply Christian identity.
Extreme though it is, the Baylor debacle is anything but a one-off, says Paula Lavigne, co-author the new book Violated: Exposing Rape at Baylor University amid College Football’s Sexual Assault Crisis.
“This habit of shoving sexual assault cases under the rug is happening throughout the nation, throughout college sports,” says Lavigne, who authored the book with her ESPN colleague Mark Schlabach. “We hope that this story shows the dangers of doing that.”
Chief among those dangers: Young women experiencing the enduring trauma of sexual assault, compounded WHEN gaslighting authorities take the player’s side.
By one journalist’s count, there have been roughly 110 college football sexual assault investigations and cases the past 40 years. Jessica Luther’s list begins with an alleged gang-rape at Notre Dame in the mid-1970s and ends with a slate of cases from 2016, at campuses including North Carolina, USC, and Tennessee, in addition to Baylor. How many 2017 entries will she be adding?
Seen from afar, Baylor’s Christian piety makes the football rape crisis especially hard to comprehend. Affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas, Baylor has long touted a culture of sexual and moral purity among its students. A team of Christian chaplains has worked closely with its sports teams.