The Baylor scandal and its abhorrent, sickening actions — made worse by the fact that they happened in the years after the Penn State story broke — are still being sorted out.
If you are reading columns on the Baylor story from writers across the country, you are likely encountering words to this effect: “Hopefully, this is a wake-up call for other schools.” It’s the kind of statement found in many columns about Penn State from November of 2011 through the summer of 2012.
We didn’t know about Baylor in the summer of 2012. We might not have thought, but we at least hoped, that Penn State would have more of a positive effect on our society than it has.
This time, with the fallout of the Baylor scandal still fresh, it’s well worth noting that there IS another program which has exhibited at least some of the signs of the Baylor mess.
It doesn’t mean this program is guilty of everything which has been alleged or suspected.
It doesn’t mean the head coach is guilty to the extent Art Briles was and is.
It doesn’t mean the athletic director or other administrators should be presumed guilty or viewed in the same negative light we can legitimately apply to Ken Starr and Ian McCaw in Waco.
However, it’s certainly a situation which bears monitoring… and could very probably benefit from internal actions and reforms on the part of leaders.
That program is the University of Tennessee football program.
The school circled the wagons in support of the football operation. Matt Brown of Sports On Earth wrote about that sorry spectacle in February. You need to read about it if you didn’t at the time:
— Matt Brown (@MattBrownCFB) February 24, 2016
Again, it could very well be that in sifting through the finer details of what has transpired at the University of Tennessee, administrators and Butch Jones did not look the other way in relationship to alleged sexual assaults and the legitimate concerns raised by young women who feared for their safety. Yet, it cannot be denied that the “promote the football program” gathering of various Tennessee sports coaches (presented above in Brown’s column) occurred in the midst of a very difficult month for the university. It also can’t be denied that more bad news continued to flow from Knoxville in the days and weeks AFTER that staged coach convention took place.
Perhaps a full overhaul and accounting must wait in Tennessee, but the school could very likely announce a few self-correcting steps right now, in the immediate aftermath of the Baylor episode, to promptly send a very important message about its values and culture, and how it intends to improve. Such a statement — and the measures attached to it — wouldn’t represent a guarantee or a certain declaration that the program’s (extent of) waywardness would cease to exist. It would, however, represent a sign that the University of Tennessee takes these matters seriously.
That’s more than a little important at a time like this.