Exactly four years ago, the nation’s premier college football matchup took place under a cloud of uncertainty and defiance when Baylor’s unbeaten team hosted Oklahoma.
For a lot of people around the country, the game was secondary. In August of that year, details began to emerge about the widespread sexual assault scandal that would later consume the university. At the same time, questions about whether coach Art Briles and his staff enabled a culture of violent behavior in the football program started to gain momentum, creating an uncomfortable dynamic with many fans who refused to believe he had done anything wrong.
Not many outside the Baylor community shed a tear when the Bears lost that night, 44-34, ultimately fading into irrelevance by the end of the season. And from a football standpoint, that’s pretty much where the Bears have remained — until now.
For people who are immersed in college football, Baylor’s return to the national spotlight Saturday — once again unbeaten, playing at home vs. Oklahoma — seems like a feel-good story.
Some of that is related to Matt Rhule, the coach who cleaned up the toxic culture left by Briles and spent much of his first two years trying to fix the program’s public image. And while nobody will forget how badly the university failed young women who were raped and assaulted, Baylor has basically done what it needed to do with a new administration, new athletics personnel, and a legitimate Title IX reporting structure.
But for a lot of people watching Saturday night, it will be difficult to get past the name Baylor. And perhaps that’s fair. Even though the school has seemingly taken the right steps since 2016, maybe it’s too soon to look at this merely as the story of an ascendent football team.
For Brenda Tracy, an advocate for sexual assault prevention who was the victim of a 1998 gang rape involving Oregon State football players, it’s OK to celebrate the achievements of Baylor football and the current players who had nothing to do with the atrocities committed by others. Read More