NORMAN — Enough, Baylor.
America has had enough of your flippant attitude. College football fans have had enough of your blatant disregard for human decency.
And the Big 12 Conference by now should have had enough of your legion of loyalists who defiantly continue to value football trophies over the rights of rape victims.
Baylor’s board of regents seems to be trying, at least. They fired head coach Art Briles, they forced athletic director Ian McCaw’s resignation and they neutered president Ken Starr into resigning.
They could always do more, of course. And in that light, they are still trying. Baylor announced on Monday a campaign to reform the board of regents and restore “integrity to the world’s largest Baptist university.”
So there is positive movement in Waco, and that’s good.
But there needs to be so much more, and it needs to start in Dallas, at Big 12 Conference headquarters.
No, kicking Baylor out of the Big 12 is not a practical option.
First, doing so would have a profound effect on the other nine members. It would create virtually irreparable scheduling difficulties for the rest of the membership and would also impact every other school’s already strained financial budgets — everyone counts on x-number of multi-million dollar paydays from home football games, as well as Baylor’s piece of the revenue-sharing pie that could cause television networks who carry games to become skittish about paying for game inventory that’s no longer there.
(All that said, a Houston-for-Baylor swap does have a certain appeal to it.)
Second, simply dumping the school from the Big 12 hurts hundreds of other student-athletes (and their families) in every other sport. No need for that.
But the Big 12 can and should step in and penalize Baylor, with impunity.
Make the football team irrelevant again.
Reprimand the athletic department for not firing its entire coaching staff, whether they were complicit or not in an active cover-up of the multiple sexual assaults that apparently included the intimidation of victims. And insist to the NCAA that some kind of show-cause penalty be given to any Baylor coaches who had a hand in the cover-ups. Otherwise these guys will just skate off to another half-million-dollar a year job. Then the ability to make a shining example of them and how not to be a college football coach is lost forever.
So how to punish the Baylor athletic department?
Hit them where it hurts. Make them pay. Fine them. Millions of dollars.
Withhold or significantly reduce the school’s 2017 and/or 2018 revenue distribution, projected between $32 million and $40 million.
The federal government already is looking into Title IX violations (the guess here the Fed will find plenty). That could mean the loss of massive amounts of federal grants. And that hurts the school.
But don’t make just the school pay. Impose punitive actions on an athletic department that has been allowed to run amok all for the glory of football.
Then, if the Big 12 is truly serious about integrity among its membership, it’s time to get medieval on Baylor.
It’s time for scholarship reductions.
Who can say what the appropriate number is? Five per year for four years? Ten? Maybe 15 total spread over three years, or 15 a year for four?
Whatever punishment is chosen, make sure it hurts.
Why? Where’s the fairness in punishing future Baylor teams for something that happened four years ago?
Easy: Penn State.
Translated, the culture at Baylor isn’t just rotted at the core. It’s gone beyond the president’s office and the athletic department and the head coach.
Judging by Saturday’s shameful events, the cancer has spread deep into the fan base.
After the Baylor staff further degraded themselves with a press release on Friday defending Briles — signed by 33 football staffers in all, including Briles’ son Kendal and son-in-law Jeff Lebby (but not by acting head coach Jim Grob, who wasn’t at Baylor when any of this happened) — Baylor fans were outside McLane Stadium ahead of Saturday’s TCU game selling “CAB” T-shirts (Coach Art Briles). Also, Baylor fans hung a “CAB” banner from a suite *inside* the stadium, and coaches have worn “CAB” on their bodies during games protesting the school’s decision to fire Briles.
Now, Baylor can’t fully police its fans selling unlicensed shirts outside the stadium (though at least one photographer documenting the moment was reportedly told by Waco Police to bug out). And even the most vigilant stadium security can’t tear down banners before some intrepid photographer captures the moment.
Which brings us back to the Big 12. And Penn State.
The hellish crimes of long-time Joe Paterno aide Jerry Sandusky and the heinous acts of Paterno and probably others to look the other way — for decades! — is reason enough for the Big Ten Conference to have torpedoed Penn State football years ago beyond just the $13 million penalty it imposed.
The school, the program and the fans in State College still hold Paterno as a god-like figure, still commemorate his football accomplishments for all to see, still claim he was railroaded and is the only real victim in Happy Valley and did nothing wrong, after all.
Five years after Sandusky was put behind bars, the words and actions of the Penn State fan base sickens the soul.
And that’s what the Big 12 must prevent from happening in Waco.
It’s painfully clear that Briles’ success on the banks of the Brazos River has poisoned the minds of otherwise reasonable people. They have contracted the malady known as winning football games — and a bad, bad case of it, perhaps terminal.
The best way to ensure that this cancer spreads no more and in fact goes into remission is to pound the football program into literal oblivion. Make Baylor football so bad that fans won’t care enough to get on social media and bully rape survivor Brenda Tracy and others for speaking out.
Inexplicably, that’s what happened Sunday.
After Tracy said Baylor should cancel the rest of its season for not shutting down the T-shirt sales, a Baylor fan messaged Tracy — now a staunch sexual violence activist who speaks on campuses and elsewhere about her gut-wrenching experiences as Oregon State and what measures can be taken by schools, football teams and young male athletes to avoid repeating them — on Facebook, telling her to “shut the **** up” and telling her “you put yourself in the situation,” that he’s “been around 15-20 athletes at a time and never got ‘gang raped’ ” and that her “(BS) is making people not even care about the rape” and calling her multiple vulgar names.
Later, after she published his comments on her social media channels, he claimed his Facebook account was hacked.
Think about it. As much of a lowlife scumbag as this person probably is in his everyday life, he only cares enough to bully Brenda Tracy because he cares so much about Baylor football.
Put Baylor football back where it was in the 1990s and 2000s — take their money, take their scholarships and make them irrelevant again; a nice 2-10 record every year, maybe winless in Big 12 play, like the old days — and the lunatic fringe will stop caring so much about the Bears. Proportionally, the number of social media trolls will drop, deviant T-shirt sales will drop, stadium banners will begin to carry appropriate messages and maybe the cancer will finally stop spreading throughout Central Texas.
It’s pie in the sky to think the NCAA can step in and do something meaningful. Significant missteps in how it handled the Penn State scandal as well as severe investigative and administrative transgressions in its dealings with Miami and North Carolina has left the NCAA weak and unwilling to take on problems like Baylor.
But the Big 12 Conference has the power to do the right thing.
Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said it himself, that there are mechanisms in the conference bylaws for dealing with schools who display a lack of institutional control. Unprecedented acts call for unprecedented measures.
(Of course, Bowlsby said this in July at Big 12 Media Days, on the very same day he also said, “It almost goes without saying that when you combine alcohol and drugs and raging hormones and the experiences of these 18- to 22-year-olds, it’s probably unrealistic to think that these kinds of things are never going to happen.” Ugh.)
Oklahoma hosts Baylor this week in Norman. OU, ranked No. 9, is a 14 ½-point favorite, but just like TCU did in Saturday a 62-22 victory last week in Waco, college football nation is pulling for a colossal margin of victory from the Sooners. After a 6-0 start, the Bears have lost two in a row — and that’s a good thing.
It’s time for the Big 12 to similarly step up and drop the hammer on Baylor. It’s time for Big 12 fans as well as fans in other conferences to see what real power looks like. Long derided for weak leadership and weak defense, the Big 12 now has an opportunity to shine a light on its strength of virtue.
Massive fines and crippling scholarship reductions are the best way to punish such widespread crimes — so widespread that the school’s own regents implicated 19 football players in 17 different sexual assaults in the last five years.
If the football team still is allowed to pursue championships, then the fan base’s priorities will remain dementedly maladjusted, and Bears fans will continue to harass, bully and victimize survivors of the cruel depravities that occurred in Waco and elsewhere.
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.