If you’re among the misguided souls who wanted to see the NCAA take action against Baylor for its irresponsible (at best) handling of allegations of sexual assault and other offenses against members of its football team, your wish has been granted.
No, the amateurism cops aren’t taking down the Bears. The program is still getting gutted nonetheless.
It’s akin to watching a Major League Baseball team go through a fire sale in reverse. The top signees in Baylor’s 2016 recruiting class have all backed out. The team’s 2017 class fell apart. And talented quarterback of the future Jarrett Stidham delivered a crushing blow to the program yesterday with his announcement that he is transferring.
That all came after the school canned a coach widely recognized as one of the best in the country.
We have a big enough body of evidence at this point to know that Art Briles’ regime fostered a rotten culture in his program. Those who played a role in the sordid scandal, including the Baylor administration, have earned every bit of scorn coming to them. The de facto dismantling of the football team now ongoing is well deserved.
But something about how all of this played out continues to bother me.
When this scandal broke, an outpouring of concern flooded my Twitter timeline for victims of sexual assault. There was more than enough condemnation of the perpetrators of these crimes to go around. It reminded me a lot of the keyboard righteousness that exploded when TMZ got its hands on the Ray Rice video.
Oddly enough, though, I only seem to witness all this outrage over violence against women when sports are involved. It’s possible that I just don’t hang out with the right crowd. It’s also possible that plenty of people are on some bullshit about how much it really matters to them.
Petty hate for a rival has fueled college football throughout its history and also made it the greatest sport ever invented. But this was different than snickering at garden-variety NCAA chickenshit like free tattoos or failing a drug test or a couple hundred bucks from a booster.
Our actions every day betray a casual indifference to women and their safety, so I have a hard time buying that much of the vociferous disgust directed towards Briles and Baylor represents anything more than a cover to celebrate the demise of a successful competitor. (Not surprisingly, fans couldn’t wait for their teams to start courting the Bears’ 2016 signees, either.) The perverse sense of revelry around Big 12 country as the allegations piled up against Baylor somehow seemed to add another layer of bad to something that was already really terrible.
The “why” part of the thirst for Baylor’s decimation might not seem like it matters, so long as the Briles and the Bears get what’s coming to them. It does.
Our willingness to indulge an opaque billion-dollar industry creates the perfect environment for all kinds of ugliness. Covering up a litany of sexual assaults is extreme; there’s plenty of room for bad up to that end of the scale in college football.
Fixing all of it requires substantial reforms to the enterprise itself, starting with reducing the amount of power that schools and fans confer upon coaches. But good luck telling that to people who see a sexual assault scandal as a chance to prove to the world how reprehensible that team is and your team isn’t.