Two Baylor football players have been suspended from the team over sexual-assault accusations involving female members of the university’s equestrian team—once again thrusting the Texas university into the national spotlight for its inability to shake a reputation for violent student-athletes.
Head Football Coach Matt Rhule confirmed in an interview with KCEN-TV that the players were “separated” from the team after an investigation was launched.
Rhule reportedly declined to name the players, who are accused of still-unclear involvement in a sexual assault at off-campus apartments in Waco, Texas on Nov. 12. ESPN first reported the allegations, but little information has been released about the incident, which was reported to police on Nov. 17 and involved at least four suspects and six witnesses.
The McLennan County District Attorney’s Office told KCEN that it had not yet presented any charges to a grand jury.
“We have 115, 120 guys on the team,” Rhule said. “We try to do our best to educate them.”
“When a disappointing incident happens—when an allegation is made—we have processes and protocols in place that are there to make sure we do the right thing,” he added. “We hope our players do things right, but when they don’t—or if they don’t—we have to make sure we handle things the right way.”
“Baylor University has handled things the right way,” he continued. “Things are being done the right way.”
The Baptist University was first thrust into the public eye for its rampant sexual assault problem in 2015 when football player Sam Ukwuachu was convicted of raping another student and sentenced to just 6 months in prison.
A stunning report by Philadelphia law firm Pepper Hamilton was released the following year, and it found a “fundamental failure” by the school to obey Title IX laws in protecting female students—and an apparent belief that the football program was “above the rules.”
Investigators for the firm found that administrators even engaged in retaliation or victim-blaming, and the report sparked the ouster of Football Coach Art Briles, Athletic Director Ian McCaw, and beloved university President Ken Starr.
At least ten lawsuits have been filed against the university by 22 women, and the university has so far settled just four of them.
Last May, one Jane Doe claimed that the football team, under Briles, “had run wild, in more ways than one, and Baylor was doing nothing to stop it.”
That complaint, previously reported by The Daily Beast, alleged that the gang-rapes served as a “bonding” activity for the team, and that players took photographs and videos of “semi-conscious” girls and then shared them with other players.
Baylor said then that it had initiated and “structurally completed” 105 wide-ranging recommendations from Pepper Hamilton “in response to issues of sexual violence within our campus community, in addition to making changes within the university and athletics leadership and investing significantly in student support services.”
This week, Baylor President Linda Livingstone released a statement affirming that the school still “takes any allegation of sexual assault seriously” and that the university’s new leadership team—implemented after the Pepper Hamilton report—”is unwavering in our commitment to follow our well-documented Title IX policy and procedures in regards to reporting and responding to incidents of sexual assault.”