NCAA hands Baylor probation, fine in sex assault scandal

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
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The NCAA said Wednesday that its long investigation of the Baylor sexual assault scandal would result in nothing more than probation and other relatively minor sanctions because the egregious, “unacceptable” behavior at the heart of the case did not violate its rules.

The NCAA ruling came more than five years after the scandal rocked the world’s largest Baptist university, leading to the firing of successful football coach Art Briles and the departure of athletic director Ian McCaw and school president Ken Starr.

The NCAA said the allegations centered on conduct never before presented to the Committee on Infractions, which has existed since 1951 – that Baylor “shielded football student-athletes from the institution’s disciplinary process and failed to report allegations of abhorrent misconduct by football student-athletes, including instances of sexual and interpersonal violence.”

The panel said Baylor admitted to moral and ethical failings in its handling of violence on the Waco campus but argued “that those failings, however egregious, did not constitute violations of NCAA legislation.”

“Ultimately, and with tremendous reluctance, this panel agrees,” the ruling said.

The infractions committee said the question it wrestled with was whether Baylor athletes accused of sexual assault or other violence were given an “extra benefit” in the form of more lenient treatment than other students — and the answer was no, a damning indictment of the campus environment at the time.

“To be clear, this is not a punt,” the NCAA report said. “The members of this panel understand that our voluntary service on the COI requires us to make difficult decisions and we do not shy away from that responsibility. But a question of this magnitude, in an area where the membership has not expressly legislated, requires collective membership consideration.”

Former Minnesota athletic director Joel Maturi, the chief hearing officer and a member of the committee for eight years, said the case was troubling that, while not violations of NCAA bylaws, there were crimes being dealt with legally and in other avenues.

“We all agreed the conduct was egregious. In some ways, we’ve never had discussions where we’ve wanted to penalize an institution. We’ve always gone into hearings trying to find out the truth and come to a right and fair conclusion,” Maturi said. “Here, in many ways, many of us felt that there should be some penalty. But the fact of the matter is, we could not come to that conclusion based on the bylaws that exist before us.”

For Baylor, the decision helps close a chapter on one of the most painful periods in its history. The scandal has lingered for the better part of a decade and Baylor is still embroiled in lawsuits over its mishandling of campus assault cases.

Baylor president Linda Livingstone and athletic director Mack Rhoades, both hired in the wake of the scandal, said the university agreed violations did occur, and that it takes full responsibility. They said the school’s legal teams would review the full report.

“As part of the NCAA process, the university acknowledged its significant and moral failings related to sexual and interpersonal violence, and we sincerely regret the actions of a few individuals caused harm to so many. We must remember that the prospect of NCAA penalties pales in comparison to the suffering of the survivors of such horrific assaults,” the two said in a public letter.

Livingstone, a former college athlete, said she has met with several of the sexual assault survivors since she became president in 2017, crying with them and offering apologies. She said the university has taken significant steps to ensure a safe, healthy, supportive and compliant community.

“These are extremely difficult conversations that no student should ever have to experience,” Livingstone said. “I am confident saying that Baylor is a much different university today than it was three, five and certainly 10 years ago.”

The NCAA did find rules violations occurred between 2011 and 2016, including impermissible benefits and drug testing violations in the football program, and violations involving the institution’s predominantly female student host program.

Along with four years of probation and a $5,000 fine, Baylor will face recruiting restrictions during the 2021-22 academic year. The school could also be forced to vacate records for games in which athletes competed while ineligible. Baylor won two Big 12 titles and had four 10-win seasons in a span of five years (2011-15) after only once having a 10-win season in a program that dates to 1903.

Rhoades said the school’s initial review shows that the ineligible athlete, who wasn’t named, took part in five wins during the 2011 season. Baylor went 10-3 that season, when quarterback Robert Griffin III became the school’s only Heisman Trophy winner.

Briles was fired after an external investigation revealed in May 2016 that the school had for years mishandled and failed to properly respond to numerous sexual allegations by students, including some against football players.

Briles has long defended his actions while at Baylor, but the infractions committee was scathing in assessing his conduct even while concluding he didn’t violate NCAA rules.

“In each instance, when the head coach received information from a staff member regarding potential criminal conduct by a football student-athlete, he did not report the information and did not personally look any further into the matter,” the report said. “His incurious attitude toward potential criminal conduct by his student-athletes was deeply troubling to the panel.”

Briles has not coached in college since his firing. His attorney, Scott Tompsett, told ESPN that Briles “has been completely exonerated and cleared of all NCAA violations alleged against him” and is clear to return.

The committee also criticized the Baylor Bruins, a mostly female group whose primary function was to work at football events and serve as student hosts for football prospects and their families. The group operated outside school recruiting protocols and was thus not allowed.

Universities have been on notice since 2004 that the use of gender-based groups is impermissible.

“The gender-based nature of this group is especially concerning in light of the campus-wide cultural issues and Title IX deficiencies at Baylor during this time, as well as the extremely troubling assertions reported by the Title IX coordinator, including that the Bruins were `kind of at the disposal of football players in a very inappropriate way,”‘ the report said.

The Big 12 Conference three years ago unanimously endorsed an independent report that found Baylor has implemented 105 recommendations for reforming its Title IX procedures. The conference had withheld a portion of Baylor’s share of conference revenue during it review, and fined the school $2 million.

The changes were recommended by Pepper Hamilton, the law firm that handled the initial investigation and in May 2016 issued a 13-page “findings of fact” that focused on the most troubling findings. In the wake of that report, Starr – best known for his investigation that helped lead to the impeachment of President Bill Clinton – departed along with Briles and McCaw, who is now the athletic director at Liberty.

No. 2 Michigan beats Purdue 43-22 for Big Ten crown

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
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INDIANAPOLIS – Donovan Edwards ran for 185 yards and a score, J.J. McCarthy threw three touchdown passes and No. 2 Michigan beat Purdue 43-22 on Saturday night for its second straight Big Ten title and a likely No. 2 playoff seed.

College football’s winningest program has the first 13-win season in school history. Two more victories would give the Wolverines (13-0, No. 2 CFP) their first national championship since 1997.

And with injured star Blake Corum sidelined by a season-ending left knee injury, Edwards stole the show for the second straight week.

After shredding rival Ohio State for 216 yards and two scores last week, Edwards broke open this game with a 60-yard on the first play of the second half to set up one score. He added a 27-yard TD sprint on Michigan’s next series to make it 28-13.

Purdue (8-5) never recovered from Michigan’s quick, seven-play onslaught after it trailed 14-13 at halftime.

But quarterback Aidan O'Connell and receiver Charlie Jones helped the Boilermakers make it interesting for a while.

O’Connell was 32 of 47 with 366 yards and two interceptions after missing some practice time early this week to mourn the death of his oldest brother. Jones, who lost to Michigan in last year’s game while playing for Iowa, had 13 receptions for 162 yards.

It just wasn’t enough.

Michigan showed no signs of a hangover after last week’s rout over the Buckeyes, taking a 7-0 lead on its opening possession with a 25-yard TD pass from J.J. McCarthy to Colston Loveland.

Purdue answered with Devin Mockobee’s 1-yard scoring run to tie the score then took the lead on Mitchell Fineran’s 33-yard field goal.

Michigan answered by taking advantage of an offside call on fourth-and-6 by going for the first down, picking it up and eventually converting the drive into a 7-yard TD pass from McCarthy to Luke Schoonmaker. They never trailed again.

Edwards big run set up Kalel Mullings‘ 1-yard TD plunge before Edwards celebrated his own scoring run.

All Purdue could muster was three more field goals.

McCarthy was 11 of 17 with 161 yards and one interception.

Corum posted a message on Twitter on Saturday morning to say his knee surgery went well.

THE TAKEAWAY

Purdue: The Boilermakers’ magical season ended with a solid showing in the championship game where they played better than most expected. Still, they won the Big Ten’s wild, wild West, both trophy games and should be bound for a warm-weather bowl game.

Michigan: Yes, the Wolverines may have already locked up a top-two seed thanks to losses by Southern Cal and TCU. Michigan now has back-to-back conference crowns for the first time since 2003-04 though the hard part remains – ending its national title drought.

DIALING UP TRICKERY

Brohm played one season in the now defunct XFL and has acknowledged that experience helped him understand how to inject personality and creativity into play calling. It was on full display Saturday.

A surprise end around set up Purdue’s first score, a fake punt helped keep its second scoring drive alive and then Mockobee sprinted 25 yards on a fake flea-flicker in the third quarter.

UP NEXT

Purdue: Will find out its bowl game, destination and opponent Sunday.

Michigan: Waiting to see where its headed and who it will face in the national semifinals.

Klubnik, No. 10 Clemson rout No. 24 UNC 39-10 for ACC title

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Backup quarterback Cade Klubnik completed 20 of 24 passes for 279 yards and a touchdown and ran for another score and No. 10 Clemson reclaimed the Atlantic Coast Conference championship with a 39-10 victory over No. 24 North Carolina on Saturday night.

Cornerback Nate Wiggins broke up two passes in the end zone, blocked a field goal and returned an interception 98 yards for a touchdown to help the Tigers win their seventh ACC title in eight seasons.

Clemson (11-2, No. 9 CFP) won six straight ACC championships from 2015 to 2020 before failing to reach the title game last season. But coach Dabo Swinney‘s Tigers rebounded in a big way, going 9-0 against ACC foes this season to reach the Orange Bowl.

They have Klubnik to thank for that.

With Clemson down 7-0, Swinney benched two-year starter D.J. Uiagalelei after the Tigers failed to pick up a first down on their first two possessions, Swinney turned to Klubnik, a 5-star recruit from Austin, Texas. He responded by leading the Tigers to four straight scores and a 24-10 lead at halftime.

Clemson stretched it to 39-10 heading into the fourth quarter.

It wasn’t the first time Swinney has turned to Klubnik.

He benched Uiagalelei in the second half against Syracuse and Klubnik responded by leading the Tigers to a come-from-behind 27-21 victory. Swinney also turned to Klubnik against Notre Dame, although the results were the opposite with the freshman throwing a Pick 6 in a 35-14 loss.

Swinney has never been shy about replacing veteran QBs with less experienced players. He did it in 2014, sitting Cole Stoudt for Deshaun Watson, and again in 2018 replacing Kelly Bryant with Trevor Lawrence.

ACC player of the year Drake Maye was limited to 268 yards passing and turned the ball over three times for North Carolina (9-4, No. 23 CFP), which was seeking its first ACC championship since 1980 when Lawrence Taylor was wreaking havoc on quarterbacks.

Maye got things started on the right foot for the Tar Heels, capping an 11-play, 78-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead on UNC’s first possession.

But the Tar Heels repeatedly sputtered on offense inside the red zone after that, the biggest blow coming when Maye misfired near the goal line and Wiggins – who had struggled in Clemson’s 51-45 win over Wake Forest – returned his pass for a touchdown to give Clemson a 32-10 lead with 5:05 left in the third quarter.

Klubnik provided an immediate spark for Clemson.

He led the Tigers on a nine-play, 71-yard drive, culminating in a 1-yard TD pass to Davis Allen. After Maye’s fumble, Klubnik caught a 19-yard pass from Phil Mafah to set up Mafah’s 4-yard touchdown run – Clemson’s second TD in a span of 40 seconds.

Klubnik then showed off his arm strength with a 68-yard pass to fellow freshman Cole Turner to set up his own 1-yard TD run for a 21-7 lead.

END OF AN ERA

This is the final year the ACC will feature its two division winners playing for a championship. In future years, all ACC teams will be lumped together and the two teams with the best records will advance to the title game.

THE TAKEAWAY

North Carolina: Maye garnered plenty of Heisman Trophy talk during the season, but the Tar Heels offense has stalled resulting in a three-game losing streak. But as long as Maye doesn’t transfer – and there are no indications he will given his family history at North Carolina – the Tar Heels have a good chance to get back to the ACC title game next season.

Clemson: The Tigers have set a high bar by winning national championships, so as much as they will enjoy getting back atop the ACC mountain there will be plenty of talk over whether Swinney cost his team a chance at a spot in the College Football Playoff by not turning to Klubnik at quarterback earlier in the season. It seems Uiagalelei might be a logical transfer portal candidate.

UP NEXT

Clemson will play in the Orange Bowl, while North Carolina awaits a bowl bid.