CZ’s Bleacher Meditations: Does Baylor Football Deserve the Death Penalty?

Christian Zylstra-Staff Writer

Baylor football has some major issues.

As I’m sure many of you are aware, there are major issues surrounding the culture and integrity of Baylor University, and with each passing day, those same issues seem to only multiple in number and degree of severity.

For those unfamiliar with Baylor’s plight, the issues stem from alleged widespread misconduct by members of Baylor University’s football program and high-ranking university officials.

What exactly does that mean? What kind of misconduct are we talking about?


According to the Washington Post, the misconducts are detailed in a federal lawsuit filed in late January. The woman filing this lawsuit alleges that two members of the Baylor football team gang-raped her in 2013. But the lawsuit goes far beyond that one incident.


This same lawsuit alleges that 31 Baylor University football athletes committed 52 different “acts of rape” between 2009 and 2015. Fifty-two different alleged instances of rape. That’s a lot higher than what Baylor’s Board of Regents initially revealed to the Wall Street Journal back in October.


Five of those alleged “acts of rape” involved multiple members of the Baylor football program. The Washington Post reported that according to the lawsuit, two of the alleged five gang-rapes involved 10 or more players at the same time, and that some players even recorded the acts on their phones and sent them to other football players.


All of these numbers alone are staggering, horrifying and despicable. If even a small fraction of these alleged acts ultimately prove to be true, Baylor will face major ramifications.


Characterized as a “widespread culture of sexual violence and abuse of women,” the issues for Baylor football don’t stop there.


The initial lawsuit mentioned earlier, includes a complaint alleging that The Baylor Bruins, a female hostess program, encouraged women to engage in sexual relations as an added recruiting tactic for the football program.


But wait, there’s more.


TMZ recently grabbed hold of numerous text messages allegedly sent by Art Briles, the former Baylor football coach. From academic fraud and underage drinking, to possession of illicit drugs, and indecent exposure to illegal possession of weapons, the text messages cover a wide-range of alleged wrongdoing at Baylor.


And to make matters even worse, the text messages allegedly sent by Briles detail ways for Baylor to help ease any potential player punishment or eliminate player punishment altogether. Whether legal, academic or both, the text messages detail numerous instances in which Briles and his staff allegedly worked to free players from serious university and judicial punishment.


All of these instances of wrongdoing allegedly occurred during Briles’ tenure as head coach of Baylor football. Since Briles’ arrival on Baylor’s campus in 2008, the number of alleged “off-the-field” issues for Baylor University and Baylor football has only risen.


So what does all of this mean for Baylor University and the NCAA?


Obviously, there’s some need for due process. Again, the majority of these detailed acts are only alleged at this point, and it could take quite some time before we ever receive a ruling or some closure on the issues at Baylor.


But it’s important for the NCAA to act now. Odds are there’s at least some truth to the stories and alleged acts of misconduct committed by Baylor football athletes. Internal investigations revealed enough for several members of the football program and university, including Briles and former Baylor University President Ken Starr, to be relieved from their positions at Baylor.


Even if only a small fraction of these alleged acts–both sexual and non-sexual in nature–prove to be true, Baylor faces major ramifications. There appears to be something deeply wrong within the culture of the Baylor football program, and the NCAA needs to act before everyone moves on.


It’s far too easy for those who aren’t directly impacted by these allegations of misconduct to forget about the issues at Baylor. The longer the NCAA waits to make a decision on the sanctions that need to be levied against Baylor, the “less-damaging” the alleged acts seem, the longer those who committed erroneous acts get away without punishment and the more likely innocent people are to be harmed or impacted by NCAA sanctions or more heinous acts.


To me, I think Baylor’s alleged crimes are worthy of the NCAA’s “death penalty.” Shut the program down for a year, remove football scholarships from the university and force those who committed these wrongs to pay. Remove them from college campuses across the country, and prevent them from playing or coaching football.


The longer the NCAA waits to levy the “death penalty,” the more innocent people will be hurt. Individuals and Baylor University alike need to pay for these alleged wrongdoings and crimes.

If the NCAA allows Baylor, the nation’s largest Baptist University, to get away with these alleged horrible acts, then perhaps it’s the NCAA that needs the “death penalty.”


What does all of this mean for the NAIA and Dordt College?


Now more than ever, it’s critical for students, faculty and administrators to stay alert. Sin permeates all corners of the globe and affects all peoples, even to the point where one of the largest religious educational institutions in the United States can forget the principles and values it stands for to focus on success and money.


Athletics are major factor in the decisions colleges, universities and students. It’s becoming increasingly common for people and institutions to sacrifice some of their beliefs and values for the sake of winning. Everyone must be on guard and remain vigilant.


But most importantly, everybody must remember their beliefs and values. It’s when people sacrifice those values that they lose sight of who they are, and that’s when the greatest harm occurs.

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