Before we get rolling with this morning’s editorial rampage, two quick news bits for your Monday morning.
Game time has been set for the Oklahoma State game on Saturday, and for once it’s not an 11am kickoff. The Bill will be on ABC stations within the Big 12 footprint at 2:30, and on ESPN2 everywhere else. That’s right, K-State gets the dreaded reverse mirror slot this weekend.
Garrett Kroeger at Today’s U says K-State’s improving on offense, and Jesse Ertz “has looked like a Power 5 quarterback”. Feel free to offer your reactions to that comment.
And now, today’s commentary.
Baylor lost to Texas on Saturday, and with the exception of about 100,000 people a nation rejoiced. As we’ll explain, this is simply right and proper, but there’s an ugly aspect to this as well. It’s unfortunate, but there’s no getting around it.
There is no questioning that the acts of sexual violence which were routinely ignored in Waco, and the ignoring itself, are reprehensible. It is absolutely one-hundred percent appropriate to chastise the institution, the football program, and the coaching staff. They deserve it, and most Baylor fans will openly agree.
(But not all, and we’ll get to them in a moment. Oh, we’re gonna get to them.)
That said, the players who are currently on the roster haven’t been accused of anything. They’re just guys who mostly signed on with this program before all this happened, and who for whatever reason haven’t transferred. So when we hear that Texas fans were yelling “Rapists!” at the Baylor players as they ran through the tunnel, or that Texas fans are acting like the Longhorns were some sort of victorious crusaders for justice, there’s really only one reaction.
It’s using a terrible situation as a weapon against your rivals. It’s making the victims of sexual violence into a tool with which to abuse the enemy. It trivializes their suffering, it degrades the victim, and it’s really just scummy behavior.
You never, ever, ever do this, people. Football is a game. It is, quite simply, not important enough to use rape as a way to punch your rivals in the face.
In order to explain why so many people are legitimately glad Baylor lost, we have to stress that it’s actually not about the players. The guys in uniform don’t deserve any of this vile garbage, even if you want to argue that they could have transferred. The abuse doesn’t fit the crime in this instance.
That, however, doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s a good thing Baylor lost. Baylor, the institution, stands to gain from the success of its football team, as does the football program itself, in terms of money, prestige, and general all-around happiness. And here’s where the situation becomes difficult, because the football program has actually gotten off scot-free. (The fate of the school itself is, of course, still up in the air, as they’ll certainly be hammered under Title IX.)
Yes, Art Briles was fired. And except for the lunatics who still think Art Briles was fired unfairly, there’s not a soul alive who truly believes that Art Briles was the only person within the football program who failed to do the right thing. But the program still stands, untouched; obviously the absence of Art Briles hasn’t really caused any damage.
So how do you make a football program pay for its sins without shutting it down altogether, or placing draconian sanctions on it such as the NCAA attempted with Penn State only to basically have to undo them later? Well, you can’t.
But what you can do is hope like hell that the program isn’t rewarded, especially when the stench of such a recent scandal still clings to it.
It’s hard to get a Baylor fan — even the decent ones, the ones who are openly ashamed and remorseful over the situation their school is in — to understand this, and I’m afraid I may still not be doing an adequate job explaining it. For people who aren’t just glad Baylor lost because they hate Baylor, the joy over Baylor losing on Saturday wasn’t actually joy over Baylor losing. It was joy that Baylor, a school which deserves some sort of retribution for what it allowed to happen, won’t be rewarded. It’s not that the program will lose money, but that it won’t get that money. It’s not that they will lose recruits, but that they won’t get the showcase which would lead to getting those recruits.
And perhaps most importantly, it’s joy that the portion of the Baylor fanbase who openly supported Art Briles to the point of subtly threatening the administration and taking out full-page newspaper ads don’t get to enjoy a playoff run. The idea that those reprehensible humans might have gotten to celebrate in January was galling to anyone with a sense of decency.
This, of course, underlines the real problem. It is those fans, specifically, that are ultimately responsible for Baylor’s failure to deal with these events in an appropriate manner. Baylor is not alone in this, by any means. We’ve seen it before in State College and Tallahassee; hell, we’ve seen it in Missoula and in Hamilton, New York.
When winning is so important that they’re willing to fight to keep a head coach who blatantly failed to exercise his duty as a human being, and they’ll accuse their school’s detractors of conspiring against them out of jealousy, and they’ll threaten to withhold their donor money if they don’t get their way... well, they’re the problem. They create the culture. They tell their institution that football is more important than people.
So, yes, Baylor. We’re glad you lost. Especially on a week where it’s been revealed that Art Briles didn’t report gang rapes, something which Baylor knew about back in May when the Pepper Hamilton report came out... but which Baylor still kept quiet about even while talking about how they were going to straighten up and fly right.
It’s sad for the players, who are just trying to play football. It’s sad for the decent fans who’ve been outraged with their administration over their handling of the situation, but who are hit from all sides on a near-daily basis. But the school doesn’t deserve a championship right now. The program doesn’t. And those football-over-everything donors don’t, either. Indeed, one could argue that true contrition on the part of Baylor would involve disassociating itself from those fans and telling them they aren’t wanted.
I don’t know that Baylor can truly atone. In many respects, I think it’s impossible for an institution to do so short of eliminating itself, just as you can’t expect an entire nation or religion to atone. Institutions are not people; they are simply made of people, each of whom has to make peace individually. As a result, the best we can hope for is that the individuals who guide Baylor’s course will correct its problems so that the institution can move forward properly.
The thing is, that doesn’t happen overnight. Saturday was relief. Texas won, and we’re now spared the unpleasant possibility of Baylor getting to bask in the glow of glory the very next season after this situation exploded.
Go win a championship next year. That’s fine.
But you don’t get this year, and that’s karma.