With pending lawsuits still hovering over the university, Baylor’s new head football coach, Matt Rhule, is not shying away from the tough topics and says he’s addressing them head on.
“I feel like I’m called to be here,” said Rhule, who left the University of Temple last year to become the head man in Waco. “To kind of fix this.”
The ‘this’ Rhule is talking about are the “specific failures within both the football program and Athletics Department leadership, including a failure to identify and respond to a pattern of sexual violence by a football player, to take action in response to reports of a sexual assault by multiple football players, and to take action in response to a report of dating violence,” as chronicled in Pepper Hamilton’s independent review of Baylor’s institutional responses to Title IX and related issues.
“Pepper’s findings also reflect significant concerns about the tone and culture within Baylor’s football program as it relates to accountability for all forms of athlete misconduct.”
The full report was never released, only a 13-page summary of the findings, which some have taken issue with.
The new coach said he is taking that as more than just a condemnation of prior actions. Rhule said sexual assault and gender violence is a higher education issue, not just a Baylor or football one, that he hopes everyone can learn from.
“We can be a leader in this,” said Rhule, a topic he “confronted day in and day out at Temple.”
While he acknowledged he’s a football coach, so winning games is a priority, he gave credence to the importance of everything else.
“We also want to make sure we’re part of the conversation,” said Rhule. “Let’s not make these mistakes again.”
There are currently seven Title IX lawsuits filed against Baylor University, some directly implicating football players in sexual assault, according to The Dallas Morning News.
Several newly hired administrators have discussed the changes being made, while fans and media have demanded more information on the past. Rhule did not say more information would be released, but believes addressing the problem is the only way to get past.
“That which we don’t acknowledge,” said Rhule. “We’re doomed to repeat.”
The Big 12 Conference continues to withhold 25 percent of Baylor’s revenue distribution until the matter is finalized – per Bob Bowlsby at Big 12 Media Days.