Every week for the past few months, we’ve considered writing a piece comparing the Baylor Bears and Penn State Nittany Lions to determine which one has come off worse following their respective scandals.
However, by the time we’ve gotten around to writing it, the latest awful bit of news has already passed and we’ve all moved on. And then something new comes to light or one of them does something so terrible that it brings us right back around.
Whether it’s celebrating the legacy of Joe Paterno without irony or selling t-shirts to honor disgraced coach Art Briles (one wonders where the profits went…), the two schools and fanbases seem like they’re locked in an arms race to determine which one can be more tone deaf than the other. So, we figured we’d help them out and determine it for them.
We’re going to use a system similar to Nick Bakay’s old Tale of the Tape columns for ESPN, pitting Baylor and Penn State against one another to determine which program has fared worse reacting to aspects of their scandals. We do want to note that we’re not here to compare the actual alleged crimes that took place within both programs, as to do so would assign a value to both of them that is anything other than horrific. The alleged victims deserve a solace that neither the Baylor or Penn State communities seem interested in offering, so let’s put our focus on how both schools have put their energies into closing ranks and protecting themselves rather than providing any sense of decency or closure to those affected.
Remember, in each instance we’re trying to figure out who handled thing worse. So the “advantage” goes to who is more terrible.
INITIAL HANDLING OF CRIMES
Penn State: As far back at 1971, Penn State began settling legal claims against Jerry Sandusky over alleged child abuse, which was only two years into Sandusky’s tenure as a PSU coach. Sandusky continued to work for Penn State for another 28 years. According to insurance company PMA, there were also reported incidents in 1976, 1987, and 1988. Head coach Joe Paterno and the Penn State athletic department are said to have been made aware of some, if not all, of these allegations. The school did nothing of any merit against Sandusky until news reports in 2011 brought the entire situation to national attention and authorities finally stepped in.
Baylor: In 2009, a female student testifies that Baylor football player Tevin Elliott assaulted her after she passed out. The school was aware of the incident but did nothing. In 2012, another female student accuses Elliott of rape. She reports it, is placed on probation for violating school policies and eventually drops out. By year’s end, six different women will have reported being assaulted by Elliott and head coach Art Briles is said to have been aware of this. As the years go on, more sexual assaults from a notable number of Baylor football players happen and the coaching staff, athletics program, and school are aware of most of them. Baylor even brings in two transfers with known sexual assault records to join their team during this time. Both of them commit alleged sexual assaults while at Baylor. In all, 17 women reported violence or sexual assault incidents from 19 football players during Art Briles’ tenure.
TREATMENT OF VICTIMS
Penn State: One alleged victim says that Joe Paterno told him to let his allegations go after a 1971 assault, threatening to call the authorities on the boy. In 1998, after being caught in the shower with a boy, Sandusky is investigated, promises to never do it again, charges are dropped against him, and the university continues to employ him and give him full access. Despite the fact that there have been multiple claims against Sandusky, he is given full access to Penn State facilities after he retired in 1999, including locker rooms and showers, routinely sharing that space with minors. Multiple people who worked there say they saw Sandusky committing sexual assaults there in the years to come. Many complaints are made to superiors in the athletics department but no action is taken until 2002 when his keys are taken away. Still, the matter is kept away from police, a breach in state laws.
Baylor: Baylor employees pulled out all the stops in attempts to get victims to just walk away. One sexual assault victim was told by a Baylor Health Services worker that she waited too long for a sexual assault exam and was therefore not treated. An assistant dean told one student to “withdraw from the university” after reporting an incident. A campus police officer told one victim she should think twice before filing criminal charges. The school chaplain put sexual assault victims on waiting lists that kept them from receiving counseling for days. The university punished victims for reporting incidents and admitting they had been drinking, therefore violated the Christian school’s values code. Victims were asked what they were wearing when the assaults occurred. As one victim put it, “I was treated like I committed the crime.”
REACTION BY PERSON IN CHARGE
Penn State: According to one accuser, Paterno not only knew about an allegation as far back at 1971 but he also told the alleged victim to drop the accusation. As for how many alleged crimes and assaults Paterno knew about over the years, it’s unclear. But we do know that he was told by an assistant in 2002 that Sandusky had sexually abused a 10-year-old boy on campus. Paterno took that to his bosses but no legal investigation was launched. Paterno never took it upon himself to go to authorities or protect children seen with Sandusky, despite decades of evidence and/or allegations.
When the scandal broke, Paterno announced that he would retire at the end of the 2011 season but the board of trustees instead fired him immediately. Joe told reporters “I wish I knew,” which by all accounts is a lie. He also said, “I didn’t know exactly how to handle it and I was afraid to do something that might jeopardize what the university procedure was,” basically admitting that his allegiance to Penn State was stronger than his will to help children in danger.
Baylor: It’s hard to tell exactly how many sexual assaults involving his players Art Briles was aware of, but there seem to have been plenty. Multiple victims claim to have reported their assaults to him directly but responsible action was not taken at the time. Briles also accepted the transfer of Sam Ukwuachu from Boise State, claiming to not know he had been accused of sexual assault. Boise coach Chris Peterson disputes that claim. We later learned the final nail in his coffin was the fact that Briles knew of an assault and did not alert police, the school’s judicial-affairs staff, or the Title IX office.
After being fired, Briles released a statement saying, “I have certainly made mistakes and, in hindsight, I would have done certain things differently.” He then later told reporters “I’ve never done anything illegal, immoral or unethical.” Then came an apology tour in which he never quite admitted what he was apologizing for in what was clearly a PR attempt to get a new job.
REACTION BY PERSON IN CHARGE
Penn State: AD Tim Curley was one of the people above Joe Paterno who had been advised of Jerry Sandusky’s crimes but chose not to seek serious action. After he lied to a grand jury about what he knew, he was charged with perjury. The Freeh Report concluded that Curley, along with others, had knowledge of the many abuse allegations against Sandusky and chose to concealed them rather than take proper action. His contract was not renewed by the school.
Baylor: Ken Starr was accused of having knowledge of multiple sexual assaults but choosing not to take action. Instead, Starr made strange statements in which he referred to himself in the third person (Uncle Ken), downplayed the number of incidents, defended the football program for taking chances on troubled men, blamed media coverage, blamed victims for drinking and attending off-campus parties, and added the classic line “I’m behind a veil of ignorance.” Initially stripped of his role as president, Starr eventually stepped down as chancellor.
REACTION TO DISGRACED FORMER HEAD COACH
Penn State: Joe Paterno seems to be as much a God today as he was then. His good-guy image made it hard for many in the community to imagine he was anything but altruistic. And even if they didn’t believe that, defenders became legal experts on the finer points of a football coach’s requirements and where they ended. Even now, the school president defends Paterno’s legacy. Meanwhile, there are calls for a Joe Paterno statue to be re-affirmed and he was honored to loud cheers during a game this season.
Baylor: Art Briles would probably still be employed by Baylor right now if it were up to many in the community and even within the university. Following the release of the Pepper Hamilton report, the school suspended Briles with intent to fire, which set off a series of reports about high-ranking school boosters fighting to bring the coach back.
In the months since, there have been rumblings of many Baylor fans wanting Briles back, which was confirmed when the Bears hosted TCU on November 5. The team wore black uniforms, which was rumored to be in honor of their former coach (though that may have been debunked or at least tempered). Meanwhile, a group of fans sold t-shirts with #CAB (Coach Art Briles) printed on them outside the stadium. While the school did not condone the t-shirts or message, they also didn’t condemn it.
— Ryan Osborne (@RyanOsborneFWST) November 5, 2016
Advantage: Penn State, because Baylor fans might be sycophants but they don’t see Briles as a living deity. We don’t think…
REACTION BY DISGRACED FORMER HEAD COACH’S REPLACEMENT
Penn State: Bill O’Brien did his best to toe the line for a while but there’s a reason he left town after two seasons.
“You can print this: You can print that I don’t really give a [expletive] what the ‘Paterno people’ think about what I do with this program. I’ve done everything I can to show respect to Coach Paterno. Everything in my power. So I could really care less about what the Paterno faction of people, or whatever you call them, think about what I do with the program. I’m tired of it.
“For any ‘Paterno person’ to have any objection to what I’m doing, it makes me wanna put my fist through this windshield right now.”
Baylor: “We don’t have a culture of bad behavior at Baylor University.” – Jim Grobe
Advantage: Baylor by a mile
WHO DO THEY SEEM TO THINK IS REALLY AT FAULT
Penn State: ESPN. The Media. Victims.
Baylor: Alcohol. Off-campus parties. Victims.
Penn State: The Ray Gricar conspiracy is perhaps the one that gives people the most pause. The former district attorney chose not to prosecute Sandusky and later disappeared along with all of his case files. But the really good conspiracy is the idea that THEY are trying to smear Joe Paterno’s good name and it’s a theory many are more than happy to buy into. As to why THEY care about taking down Joe Paterno, who knows. There’s even a few PSU folks out there defending Sandusky as a victim of a conspiracy, if you can believe that. Also, ESPN is responsibile because REASONS.
Baylor: One assistant coach flat-out told a sexual assault victim who spoke with the team that there was some kind of conspiracy in the works against Baylor. Is it because Baylor got too good, too quick? Seems like there are easier ways to take down a college sports program. But don’t let that stop you…
Advantage: Penn State, because they’ve put in more effort.
ADMISSIONS OF GUILT & ATONEMENT
Penn State: The Penn State board of trustees eventually took full responsibility for the scandal and said it was “deeply ashamed” of everything. They vowed to ensure it never happens again. The university has paid out “high and in some cases extremely high” settlements to most of Sandusky’s alleged victims. There is also a campaign run by some in the PSU community raising money to prevent and treat victims of sexual abuse.
Baylor: Ken Starr kinda-sorta apologized. Art Briles kinda-sorta apologized. The board of regents apologized for the “fundamental failure” at the school (though they didn’t fully fire Starr at the time). The school is currently in legal proceedings with multiple alleged victims who have filed lawsuits. Those lawsuits could end up revealing details that the schools seems unable or uninterested in revealing, so for now they haven’t done nearly enough.
Advantage: Baylor, but there’s still time.
WHICH SCHOOL IS THE WORST
Trick question! I wrote this section before I wrote any of the above sections out. The answer is… they’re both The Worst!
To be fair, there are plenty of good people in both communities who don’t see things like this. The problem is that none of those people seem to be in any position of power. The key is for them to demand change and acceptance at their respective schools and maybe, just maybe, one of them will no longer be The Worst. Until then, we remain dubious of both schools.