John Hoover

John E. Hoover: For all its toxicity, the train wreck at Baylor is compelling to look upon

John E. Hoover: For all its toxicity, the train wreck at Baylor is compelling to look upon

Art Briles4For good or for bad, Baylor is quickly becoming the Big 12 Conference’s most compelling team.

And yet, we all know the Bears may be ever on the precipice of a sudden and fatal descent.

The Big 12’s only 3-0 team going into Saturday’s home game against 2-1 Oklahoma State, Baylor remains loaded with offensive talent. Quarterback Seth Russell, wideout KD Cannon and running back Shock Linwood are among the league’s best players at their positions.

But with its head coach, athletic director and president exiled after a program-wide scourge of sexual assaults and rapes, and with ongoing nihilistic behavior from the likes of former head coach Art Briles, acting head coach Jim Grobe and others, it may very well play out that these Bears have all the emotional fortitude of a wet tissue.

Translation: sure, they were 3-0 against a cotton candy schedule, but the very first sign of any adversity could produce a two-month fall and one hellacious impact crater.

Conversely, maybe the hard times and negative publicity will draw them together and harden them, like steel in a forge.

Who can say?

Either way, Big 12 followers get their first real clue on Saturday, when the Cowboys and Bears open Big 12 play in Waco. Kickoff is 6:30 p.m. at McLane Stadium, and the game is on Fox. Baylor is an 8 ½-point favorite.

But Baylor football these days goes well beyond just Baylor football.

Briles, who came off as disingenuous and disconnected in his ESPN interview two weeks ago, stayed in the news this week when he and former athletic director Ian McCaw were dismissed from a federal Title IX lawsuit by one of the rape victims of former player Tevin Elliott. Not to worry, though: the plaintiff’s attorney said both Briles and McCaw will face their own individual lawsuits in the state of Texas. Also, Briles’ face turned up in the crowd at last week’s game against Rice in Houston. That’s a bad look.

Also, Ron Murff, chairman of the Baylor Board of Regents, told the Waco Tribune this week that there was no wrongdoing and no miscommunications in recent years between the regents and those in the athletic department, even though a former faculty regent said it appeared that regents were collaborating with coaches about how to communicate with the Baylor administration and a faculty senator claimed Briles had a direct line of communication to the regents, which undermined the administration’s authority.

None of that is surprising in the realm of college football, of course. Many regents live to hobnob with the head coach and his star athletes. But it does run counter to Murff’s claims that regents have done nothing wrong.

And then there’s Grobe.

Grobe was asked during his weekly news conference on Monday if he knew former Bears defensive end Shawn Oakman — who is currently under indictment for sexual assault — had gone into the Baylor locker room after the teams’ 38-10 victory over Rice in Houston.

Grobe blithely replied that he didn’t know who Oakman was and wouldn’t recognize him if he walked in the room.

Then on Wednesday, Grobe essentially blamed the media for unfairly characterizing his Monday comments and somehow suggested those in the interview room didn’t ask him enough follow-up questions pertaining to his exact knowledge of Oakman’s identity.

This is the same man who was hired to help repair Baylor’s soiled image, and yet in July boldly stated, “We don’t have a culture of bad behavior at Baylor University” and that Baylor’s problems exist “at every university in the country.”

It’s too easy to say Baylor is a train wreck. Baylor is a train wreck in which the cars spilled radioactive waste across the Waco community and beyond, and fallout from the spill will have lasting and toxic effects for years.

Every other week, it seems, a three-headed toad hops into the headlines.

What if Baylor keeps it together in 2016 and runs the table in a weak, watered down Big 12 Conference and goes to the College Football Playoff? The Big 12, which can’t decide if it should expand, by how many members it should expand, or with which schools it should expand, represented on college football’s grandest stage by a school that exiled its president, AD and coach for ignoring or covering up criminal activity by its football players.

That would actually seem oddly appropriate, wouldn’t it, a dysfunctional football program winning a dysfunctional league?

Columnist John E. Hoover is co-host of “Further Review with Hoover & Rew” and can be heard on The Franchise Tulsa from noon to 3 p.m. every weekday with co-host Lauren Rew and most mornings on The Franchise in Oklahoma City. Listen on fm107.9, am1270, on the 107.7 Franchise app, or click the “Listen tab on The Franchise home page.

John Hoover

Hoover wrote for the Tulsa World for 24 years before joining The Franchise, where he's now co-host of "Further Review" on The Franchise Tulsa (weekdays 12-3, fm107.9/am1270) . In his time at the World, Hoover won numerous writing and reporting awards, including in 2011 National Beat Writer of the Year from the Associated Press Sports Editors for his work covering the Oklahoma Sooners. Hoover also covered Oklahoma State, Arkansas, Oral Roberts and the NFL as a beat writer. From 2012 to 2016, Hoover was the World's lead sports columnist. As a columnist, Hoover won national awards in 2012 and 2014 from the National Athletic Trainers Association for reporting on sports medicine and in 2015 won first place in sports columns from the Oklahoma Society of Professional Journalists. After receiving a journalism degree from East Central University, Hoover worked at newspapers in Ada, Okmulgee, Tahlequah and Waynesville, Mo. He played football at Ada High School and grew up in North Pole, Alaska. Hoover and his family live in Broken Arrow.

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