Shocking news from Baylor University on Thursday as the school as announced it is firing the most successful head football coach in school history, Art Briles, in the wake of a scathing report on the football program and school administration overall in response to sexual violence on campus — mostly by football players, who went unpunished. The Bears were +2500 on college football odds to win this coming season’s College Football Playoff but they rose to +3500 in the wake of this news.Baylor is accused of failing to respond to reports of rape and/or sexual assault filed by at least six female students from 2009 to 2016. Two former football players, Tevin Elliott and Sam Ukwuachu, have been convicted of rape. In March, Jasmin Hernandez, Elliott’s sexual assault victim, filed a federal lawsuit against Baylor. In April, former Bears defensive end Shawn Oakman was arrested on sexual assault charges. More alleged transgressions by Baylor football players were alleged in a recent ESPN report. Briles, Starr and the team chaplain were aware of sexual assault allegations against former Bears running back Devin Chafin, but the school didn’t hand down any discipline. In the fall of 2015, Baylor hired Philadelphia law firm Pepper Hamilton to review its past treatment of sexual assault claims. And that law firm’s report, just released, was incredibly damaging to Briles and the school. The firm found a “fundamental failure by Baylor to implement Title IX.” The investigation also determined that university administrators had “directly discouraged” complainants from reporting sexual assault, and that the football program and athletic department had failed to “identify and respond to a pattern of sexual violence by a football player.” Board of Trustees chair Richard Willis said that the school contacted the NCAA about potential rules violations related to the matter and that Baylor would cooperate with an NCAA inquiry. Not only was Briles fired, and he just got a huge extension not long ago, but Kenneth Starr will no longer serve as the president of the school. Athletic director Ian McCaw was sanctioned and placed on probation. The Bears suffered 12 consecutive losing seasons before Briles was hired in December 2007. After going 4-8 in each of Briles’ first two seasons, Baylor went 7-6 and played in its first bowl game in 16 years in 2010. Since 2011, Briles has guided Baylor to a 50-15 record, winning 10 games or more four of the last five seasons. The Bears won at least a share of consecutive Big 12 titles in 2013 and ’14; the 2013 title was the school’s first outright conference championship since 1980. Baylor was the highest-scoring team in college football the past few years thanks to Briles’ fast attack. Briles is a brilliant offensive mind so his loss can’t be overstated even though Baylor brings back Heisman Trophy candidate QB Seth Russell. Defensive coordinator Phil Bennett will serve as interim coach. Bennett was the head coach at SMU from 2002-2007. He took over as Baylor’s defensive coordinator in 2011 and has been on the staff since. His career head coaching record is 19-52. Briles’ son, offensive coordinator Kendall Briles, will apparently remain on staff. Baylor returns only nine starters next season, but this team was still positioned to make a run at the Big 12 title. The offense features one of the nation’s top collections of skill talent, and Russell is on his way back to full strength from a season-ending neck injury. Briles was a terrific play-caller. But now, who knows? It’s like when Florida lost Urban Meyer. Baylor’s non-conference schedule is easy but has to visit Texas, Oklahoma and West Virginia in Big 12 play. The Bears have a wins total of 9.5 on college football odds. I would have recommended over with Briles around. Now I’d go under. And there will be no College Football Playoff.
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