Baylor football deserves the death penalty
In 1987, the highly successful football program at Southern Methodist University died, not figuratively, but literally. There is a reason SMU doesn’t get much national recognition anymore. Due to a multitude of infractions over a few years, the NCAA saw it fit to kill the program, to burn it to the ground. The school’s 1987 season was cancelled by the NCAA, and the 1988 season was subsequently cancelled by the school due to lack of the ability to field a team.
No football program has received the death penalty since SMU, and for good reason. It literally kills the program. SMU—a program that was continuously competing for national championships—did not have another winning season until 2008. The NCAA, seeing the impact it had on SMU, is wary to even mention it, and usually, there is no reason to. That is, until the football program at Baylor University decided to cover up atrocious crimes.
There is a reason Art Briles is not the head coach of the Cougars, even though he was available for the job.
Unraveling the problem
In mid-2014, former Baylor football player Sam Ukwuachu was indicted on sexual assault charges and convicted in late 2015. Also in late 2015, Rami Hammad (who has also been charged with stalking and trespassing) was accused of sexual assault. In February 2016, former All-Big 12 player Tre’Von Armstead was expelled from Baylor after being dismissed from the football team; there was no official investigation into the rape claim against him. From there, the floodgates began to open.
At the time of this column, a Title IX lawsuit claims that 52 sexual assaults by football players occurred over a 4 year period. The suit also alleges that 31 football players were involved. If you want to read more about the scandal, the Waco Tribune has an updated and in-depth timeline of the events, and ESPN’s “Outside the Line” released a comprehensive report on the Baylor scandal.
Death penalty is necessary
It is time for the NCAA to make an example of Baylor and its football program. Everyone and their mother talks about how important it is to prevent sexual assault on campus. There is ample evidence showing Baylor knew about these incidents and did nothing. The NCAA needs to make a statement with its Baylor ruling.
Some have called for Penn State-style sanctions against the program. However, the inherent difference between what happened at Penn State and what happened at Baylor is who was involved; Penn State involved one coach and a quiet cover-up, while Baylor involved football players and a cover-up that spanned university officials. There was collusion between the football program, the chancellor’s office and the Title IX office. If there is such a concern about sexual assault on campus, something drastic must be done.
Baylor deserves the death penalty.
The NCAA’s decision
Now, there are some issues with giving Baylor the death penalty, which is only supposed to be used when a football program is on probation and subsequently commits another violation. Then, it is up to the NCAA to determine whether or not the program should die.
If the government was determining whether or not to hand Baylor the death penalty, I would advocate against it. Determining punishment on the basis of relativism creates a slippery slope for all areas of the law. But the NCAA is not a government agency; it is a collection of universities that decide to join the organization (even if there there consequences to not being a member). The NCAA uses its discretion to decide when a program deserves the death penalty.
Now, there should still be due process. Everything is “alleged” at the moment, but it’s clear that big things happened.
The NCAA and the Big 12 stand to lose a lot of money if Baylor is condemned to death (for one season, or probably two, like SMU). When games are cancelled—especially for a high-profile team like Baylor—everyone loses money. Yes, it is terrible for those small teams, like Kansas State and others, but are we genuinely more concerned with the loss of money than a cover-up of a multitude of felonies?
If the Big 12 is worried about money, it can remove Baylor. There are a good number of teams that would be excited (and good for the Big 12, since it’s been on a downward slope since A&M’s departure for the SEC) to join the Big 12. Is it terrible for the students and players at Baylor? Yes, it is. But it was worse for the victims.
The players can leave for other, less inhumane schools, just as the players were allowed to leave SMU after it received the death penalty. The students will still receive a good education from the academic institution, but the football program cannot be allowed to continue. It wasn’t just a few people involved, it was the whole university.
No one wants to see a program die, but the NCAA must do the right and necessary thing to ensure a safer and better future. A code red needs to be ordered on Baylor. SMU paid players. Baylor destroyed lives.
Assistant opinion editor Jorden Smith is a political science and creative writing junior and can be reached at [email protected]