Texas Rangers open ‘preliminary investigation’ into Baylor

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And, unfortunately for the scandal-plagued Big 12 program, it’s not the Major League Baseball team.

Already mired in myriad federal lawsuits as well as NCAA and Title IX investigations, Baylor University is now the subject of what’s being described as a “preliminary investigation” being handled by the Texas Rangers, a Texas Department of Public Safety official confirmed Wednesday. The investigation centers on the how the university, the football program and campus police handled allegations of sexual assault made against student-athletes.

“The Texas Rangers are working with the local prosecutor to conduct a preliminary investigation to determine if further action is warranted,” a statement from a TDPS spokesperson read.

The confirmation of the probe comes a little over a month after details in one of the handful of lawsuits emerged, with that suit alleging that 31 Bears football players had committed 52 acts of rape over a period of four years beginning in 2011. It also comes the same week a state lawmaker, Rep. Roland Gutierrez of San Antonio, introduced legislation that would compel the Texas Rangers to investigate the university’s handling of the reports of rape.

“Gutierrez’s goal is to “really to see if there’s an obstruction of justice” on the part of the university, the Democratic lawmaker told ESPN.com.

The scandal cost the university’s head football coach, athletic director and president their jobs last year. In early February, the Big 12 announced that it will withhold 25 percent of future revenue payments to BU, only releasing the monies “pending the outcome of third-party verification review of required changes to Baylor’s athletics procedures and to institutional governance of its intercollegiate athletics programs, among other matters.”

In response to that measure, the university’s acting president, David E. Garland, released a statement touting “the unprecedented corrective actions” taken by the school. “No other university in the country has responded as aggressively and decisively as Baylor regarding incidents of sexual assaults on its campus,” Garland wrote.

In a statement Wednesday, BU pledged “to extend our full cooperation with the Texas Rangers surrounding the issue of sexual assaults within our campus community several years ago.”

Minnesota gives Fleck 1-year extension, plus raise

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Matt Krohn/USA TODAY Sports
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MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota football coach P.J. Fleck had his contract extended Wednesday by an additional year with a $1 million raise in annual salary, after the latest round of big spending by Big Ten rivals.

The new seven-year deal will run through the 2029 season, the university announced without releasing terms. Fleck will now make $6 million per year, a person with knowledge of the contract confirmed. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the deal had not yet been finalized.

Last week, Nebraska hired Matt Rhule and Wisconsin hired Luke Fickell to put them in the top tier of head coach compensation in the conference. In terms of average annual value, the 42-year-old Fleck is eighth in the Big Ten behind Michigan State’s Mel Tucker, Ohio State’s Ryan Day, Rhule, Fickell, Penn State’s James Franklin, Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh and Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz. All seven of those coaches make $7 million or more per season.

The Gophers (8-4) play Syracuse in the Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 29. They’re 3-0 in bowl games under Fleck, who was hired away from Western Michigan in 2017.

Minnesota tied for second place in the Big Ten West Division this year, behind Purdue. Fleck is 43-27 overall with the Gophers, including 26-26 in conference play. They’re 0-6 against Iowa and 3-3 against Wisconsin, their primary rivals.

Fleck’s winning percentage is third-best in program history among coaches with 45 games or more, behind Henry Williams (1900-21) and Bernie Bierman (1932-41).

“What P.J. and his staff have done in a short amount of time is remarkable,” athletic director Mark Coyle said in a statement distributed by the university. “He has recruited and developed some of the best student-athletes to ever play at Minnesota and his team continues to excel academically, athletically and socially.”

This is the fifth time in six years on the job that Fleck’s deal has been adjusted to keep up with the competition, as power conference coach contracts these days rarely have less than five years on them at any time. Minnesota extended his deal a year ago, too.

In that iteration of his contract, the termination fees Fleck would owe Minnesota if he were to hop to another program were bumped way up. Those numbers landed at $7 million in 2023, $5 million in 2024, $4 million in 2025 and $3 million in 2026. Details about those figures in the new deal were not immediately available.

Virginia players granted extra year of eligibility

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — The NCAA has granted an extra year of eligibility to Virginia players whose eligibility has expired in the aftermath of the slaying of three members of the team, the school confirmed.

Lavel Davis Jr., D’Sean Perry and Devin Chandler were killed last month as they returned to campus from a field trip to see a play in Washington, D.C. A former player at the school, Christopher Darnell Jones Jr., is facing three counts of second-degree murder and other charges in the shooting. A fourth player, Mike Hollins, and student Marlee Morgan were injured in the shooting.

Virginia canceled its final two games of the season after the shooting, and the team and university community memorialized the victims in a nearly two-hour service on campus. Team members also traveled to each of the three funerals held for their teammates.