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Baylor’s Rebuild Is Off To A Shaky Start

The university’s first major hires since cleaning house in May don’t exactly inspire confidence that things are changing for the better.

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The Baylor Bears enter the field before a game against the Lamar Cardinals at McLane Stadium on September 12, 2015 in Waco, Texas.
Ronald Martinez/Getty

When head football coach Art Briles, athletic director Ian McCaw, and university president Ken Starr all disappeared from Baylor in the wake of a sexual assault scandal, the sweeping changes brought the hope of a controlled burn. By cleansing Baylor of the detritus of massive institutional failures when it came to handling allegations of sexual assault, then perhaps the university could build from the ashes a new and improved Baylor. But Baylor’s first two major hires, football coach Jim Grobe and athletic director Mack Rhoades, cast serious doubt on whether Baylor is making any progress.

Rhoades, who was announced as Baylor’s new athletic director last week, is bringing some baggage from the University of Missouri, where he held the same position for fifteen months. Last fall, Missouri erupted in protests over the university’s alleged mishandling of racial tensions on campus, according to the New York Times. Those tensions peaked in November, when dozens of black football players threatened to boycott their own season in an effort to force the university president to resign, which he later did. Then, in January, Missouri admitted its men’s basketball program violated NCAA rules dating back to 2011, and Rhoades self-imposed a one-year postseason ban and vacated all 23 wins from the 2013-2014 season, according to ESPN.

In the spring, members of the softball team announced they were playing under protest because they felt the athletics department was unfairly investigating allegations of verbal abuse by the team’s coach. “Student-athletes are expected to speak up when they see someone being treated unfairly,” the softball team wrote in a letter, according to the Kansas City Star. “We believe the administration should be held to the same standard, and should take action to put an end to Mack Rhoades’s long road of lies and hidden agendas. It is not fair to our coaches, players, and anyone that supports MU to let Mack Rhoades continue to undermine our athletic department and university.” (Rhoades continually defended his investigation).

When asked earlier this week about his time at Missouri, Rhoades told the Waco Tribune-Herald that he thinks the school is in a better place than it was before he started there. If that’s true, then it makes Rhoades’s willingness to jump from Missouri to a broken Baylor, a lateral move at best, seem rather odd. “I think certainly the culture has changed,” Rhoades said of the University of Missouri. “We’ve created a culture within that (Missouri) athletic department of we’re going to care about people. People come first. We’ll never do anything at the expense of people and we will create that same type of Christian culture here at Baylor University.” To do that, he’ll first have to convince his football coach, Grobe, that the culture actually needs changing.

Speaking to reporters during the Big 12 Conference’s media day on Tuesday, Grobe seemed dismissive toward the seriousness of Baylor’s sexual assault scandal. According to ESPN, Grobe bluntly said, “We don’t have a culture of bad behavior at Baylor University.” Of course, evidence seems to show overwhelmingly that isn’t the case. In its summary of the investigative report completed by independent law firm Pepper Hamilton in May, Baylor even admitted that it has “significant concerns about the tone and culture within Baylor’s football program as it relates to accountability for all forms of athlete misconduct.”

Grobe later tried to clarify his comments, saying that he meant to convey that he hadn’t noticed a culture of misconduct at Baylor so far during his short time on campus. But Grobe still seemed to downplay the extent of the scandal. “If you’re talking about culture that existed before I got there, where we didn’t deal with serious issues the way we should, probably so, but I was not here for that,” Grobe told Fox Sports. “I don’t mean to be disrespectful of anybody who has been violated, of anybody who has been a victim. What I do want for people to understand is the misbehavior of a few has hurt a lot of (people). We have a lot of (players’) parents that are really upset. They feel like their kids are doing great things but they’re being pulled into this so-called ‘culture of violence.’ I’m not disrespecting anything that happened before I got there. Obviously there were problems.”

Also disconcerting is the fact that Grobe has decided to keep the same staff that served under Briles intact, including defensive coordinator Phil Bennett, who had said before the 2015 season that he “expected” a player who he knew was facing rape charges to suit up and play. “If our assistant coaches’s conduct had been bad, if anybody told me that, if anybody can come to me to point out that the coaches have not behaved properly, then I would have no problems making changes. […] I think it’s the association with the program that hurt Phil,” Grobe told Fox, adding that while he has read the university’s summary of the investigative report, he has not been made aware of any specific staffers who were found to be at fault other than Briles, McCaw, and “a couple of support staffers” that he said he was told had already been dismissed.

As for how he would handle allegations of sexual assault against football players, Grobe said he came to Baylor to coach football, not to conduct investigations, and that he’ll take any sexual misconduct allegations directly to the university’s Title IX coordinator, then “go back to coaching and let her deal with it.” Grobe is clearly focused on football. “I’m an old West Virginia hillbilly, and we’ve got that feeling, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” Grobe told ESPN. “I’m not here to change things.”

None of this is what you want to hear from the man taking the reins of a program that is in absolute shambles off of the field.

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  • Baylor Dan

    Baylor is not going to burn the campus to the ground. Get over it. The idea of a “culture of misbehavior” is assinine. Most of our student athletes are amazing young men and women who serve the Waco and global community. They are constantly helping with community outreach events and mission trips around the world. You are too cowardly to actually investigate this yourself as it would put an end to your cash cow of the Summer: Baylor Football.

    The assistant coaches weren’t fired because they were found to have done the right thing. Two staffers were fired, by the way. If you would use a little common sense for a minute, you would ask yourself this: why would Baylor be willing to fire the Head coach, demote the President, and allow the AD to resign only to cover up the “evil” assistants? That doesn’t make sense. That’s like saying Baylor was willing to cut their own head off but not willing to prick their finger.

    You refuse to accept the words of one of the most respected men in college Football (Jim Grobe) because he won’t agree with your assessment of the remaining Baylor athletes. Anyone who knows Grobe knows you are full of it.

    It is becoming more and more clear that this is a media witch hunt. A few players did horrible things and have been punished. Likewise, those who were in charge of the football program and University are gone and yet you still are not satisfied. This has nothing to do with the victims and everything to do with people who want to see Baylor burn because of personal grudges.

  • Darren

    This article was written by what appears to be a frat boy fresh out of college, too wet behind the ears to complete an original thought. Tim Brando, a dean of sports journalism, has taken “reporters” like Leif to task this week. I suggest you all take a look.

    Speaking of, I have spent 5 minutes on Leif Reigstad’s twitter feed and Texas Monthly should be ashamed to be associated with him. Among other things, he calls into question a coach that for 40 years has done the right thing. Jim Grobe was the chair of ethics committees while Leif Reigstad was learning sentence structure, poorly.

    I would not line a bird cage with Texas Monthly. It is comprised of tabloid journalism, and the rest is funded by the Super Trial Lawyers section no one cares about. This explains why the publication has resorted to hiring scribes such as Leif, in addition to asking him to spew garbage such as this.

    Texas Monthly should stick to covering hamburgers. It clearly does not have the nuance to cover what happened at Baylor, and the unprecedented actions taken to remedy the situation.

  • Matt

    Leif,

    I wonder if you either attended or watched Big 12 Media Days. You’re the problem with journalism these days. You write opinion pieces, while cutting and pasting selective quotes to fit your agenda.

    “I’m an old West Virginia Hillbilly, and we’ve got the feeling, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”. “I’m not hear to change things”. This was his answer to keeping the teams current offense. Go back and check tvideo tape. You totally mislead your readers.

    • Chris Johnson

      Don’t people get sued or fired for intentionally misquoting a public figure?

      • Malbec

        Leif could be fired, but then is it really a job if they pay you with sample BBQ sauce packets?

  • Chris Johnson

    So, 2 years out of Buffalo State and Leif Reigstad has decided that one of the most tenured, respected, and ethical coaches in college football is off to a poor start at Baylor because he doesn’t agree with Leif’s presupposed narrative. The snowflake’s narrative is based on poor logic and misrepresented facts. The problem with asserting that there is a “culture” of bad behavior is that it assumes that there is a predominance of athletes who are behaving poorly.

    What Leif and Texas Monthly don’t realize (or it just doesn’t fit their witch hunt, so they disregard it) is that at the time of Art Briles’ firing, Baylor had 33 athletes including QB Seth Russell in Brazil on a mission trip giving up a part of their summer break to serve other people. Baylor athletes regularly spend more hours serving the community and receive more community awards than almost any other university. Our athletes graduate at one of the highest rates in the Big 12 and Baylor athletes regularly lead the Big 12 in composite GPA. This is at a university whose educational quality and competitiveness outrank Buffalo State and are near the top of the Big 12.

    Baylor’s football problem was related to 6 athletes out of hundreds and a coach that tried to hold things within football. That is not a “culture” in Baylor athletics. Your quote from the PH report doesn’t support your conclusion because the quote itself (and the supporting sentences around it in the PH report) refer only to accountability. That’s on Briles, McCaw, and Starr. They’re gone.

    And, 1 year off a fresh graduate degree, Leif has decided that Mack Rhoades is not a great hire because of controversy and problems that happened at Missouri BEFORE MACK ARRIVED. But, suddenly, Mack is responsible for Missouri’s culture? That makes sense Leif. In your own article you note that Mack STARTED THE INVESTIGATION and self-imposed punishments for things that happened before he arrived to clean up the problems. Again, Leif’s narrative is that Mack is not worthy because softball athletes complained ABOUT MACK’S INVESTIGATION of their coach. I’m not understanding how an AD trying to clean up a program at Missouri should be knocked….for cleaning up the program at Missouri. Makes no sense.

    Finally, your opinion also disregards $5 million in additional Title IX and counseling budgets and new hires on the ground. But hey yeah, rely on one or two quotes from Grobe for your sweeping generalization. Nice work.

    Leif, your Spy v Spy logic points back in on itself and collapses. Of all of the articles and reports on the Baylor football problems where unresearched sensationalized opinion is built from unresearched sensationalized opinion instead of actual source material, Leif, your blatant tripe qualifies as some of the worst.

  • Jeff Edwards

    UT needs as much help as they can get to bring Baylor down. This article proves Texas monthly cares little for victims or the truth. Baylor isnt going anywhere so get used to it.

  • Youreanidiot

    Looks like the Baylor rape enablers didn’t learn a thing. Wait til the biggest bomb shell yet hits this up coming week.

  • dormand

    Until the Board of Trustees, the Administration, and the alumni of Baylor University make the difficult decision to be either a ) just another football factory, or b ) a genuine academic institution
    with all of the accountability and responsibilities that that entails including full compliance with the letter and the spirit of Title IX, it would be wise for female students and faculty to chose safer places to study.

    Few would willingly make the choice to place themselves in danger of having to spend their lives in counseling just because the college does not want to disturb the momentum of the football team as it takes rejects thrown off the team by reputable colleges around the nation.

  • Robert Jones

    Baby Briles, Lebby and Phil Bennett knew about the rapes before Art Briles. Just pathetic that Bail U fans still don’t get it. Yes, lots of campus’ have rapes. Only Bail U covered it up and let the players stay on the team and continue playing. Shawn Oakman, Ahmad Dixon and Josh Gordon are the typical criminals Baylor sheltered. Gordon finally got kicked off but not before he had a second chance and a one quarter suspension. Bail U is the laughing stock of college football. Culture of bad behavior has been “over” for one second.

  • Robert Jones

    Hernandez complaint with Title IX now states evidence of cover up of a gang rape by Bail U football players. This is years from being over, meanwhile Bail U will be in ashes.

  • Ben Johnson

    Reading Texas Monthly is like trying to flush a stubbornly buoyant turd.