Lawsuit: Baylor Football Coaches Covered Up Sexual Assault

Emails and text messages unveiled in court offer a damning version of Baylor's attempts to cover up sexual assault by football players

Former Baylor head coach Art Briles — Getty Images
Feb 03, 2017 at 12:16 PM ET

Damning text messages and emails sent by former Baylor head coach Art Briles were made public in a court filing on Thursday, showing that Briles was not only aware of the alleged cases of sexual assault, but also acted in a callous and dismissive manner, subverted disciplinary measures, and at times actively participated in a cover-up, contrary to Briles’ repeated assertions that he was unaware of the severity of the problem.

On Tuesday, former director of football operations Collin Shillinglaw sued Baylor for libel and slander, claiming that he was unfairly terminated and his reputation damaged as a result of the University’s investigation into the numerous alleged cases of sexual assault which occurred during his tenure.

Lawyers representing Baylor responded on Thursday, providing communication between Briles, Shillinglaw, former athletic director Ian McCaw, and another unnamed assistant coach, in which they responded to the multiple cases of sexual assault and other alleged crimes. The filing reiterates the claims made in the 13-page “findings of fact” that were released in May 2016 following an investigation by the law firm Pepper Hamilton.

Via the Dallas Morning News:

The football program was a black hole into which reports of misconduct such as drug use, physical assault, domestic violence, brandishing of guns, indecent exposure and academic fraud disappeared. In all, investigators compiled a lengthy list of such offenses, which had gone largely unknown to the rest of the University.

These cases showed that Coach Briles, Shillinglaw, and certain of his assistants had enabled a culture within the program that treated football players differently by making sure they would not face the normal disciplinary processes and consequences that regular students would have faced. The law firm found evidence that Briles relied on Shillinglaw to line up legal representation for players who had run-ins with the law.

But the text messages and emails, if accurate, make it impossible for Briles or Shillinglaw to claim ignorance or that they attempted to comply with Title IX investigations. Per the lawsuit, when confronted with an allegation that a Baylor player exposed himself, Briles appears to shrug it off.

On September 13 2013, Shillinglaw sent a text to Coach Briles about a player who got a massage and “supposedly exposed himself and asked for favors. She [masseuse] has a lawyer but wants us to handle with discipline and counseling.” Coach Briles’ first response was “What kind of discipline… She a stripper?” When Shillinglaw said the player made the request at a salon and spa while getting a massage, Coach Briles wrote, “Not quite as bad.”

Another series of exchanges shows Briles claiming he’d work with law enforcement officials to keep a potential assault out of the public eye.

On September 20, 2013, after a player was arrested for assault and threatening to kill a non-athlete, a football operations staff official tried to talk the victim out of pressing criminal charges. Meanwhile, Coach Briles texted Athletics Director Ian McCaw: “Just talked to [the player] – he said Waco PD was there – said they were going to keep it quiet – Wasn’t a set up deal… I’ll get shill (Shillinglaw) to ck on Sibley (local attorney Jonathan Sibley).” Athletics Director Ian McCaw replied: “That would be great if they kept it quiet!”

The filing also alleges that Briles was told by an assistant that a student claimed she had been sexually assaulted by Tevin Elliott, then failed to remove him from the team or contact student affairs, only making a public statement after reports surfaced in the press. Elliott was convicted in 2014 and received a 20-year sentence.

A lawsuit filed on January 27 by a former student alleges that, contrary to claims made by Baylor regents, there were far more cases of sexual assault from 2011 to 2015. Fifty-two “acts of rape” by 31 Baylor players in total, as part of a “show ‘em a good time” culture. According to the lawsuit, sex was offered when one assistant allegedly told a prospective recruit, “”Do you like white women? Because we have a lot of them at Baylor and they love football players.” Briles had previously sued Baylor for libel as well, but the lawsuit was dropped on Wednesday because he “wants some peace in his life for him and his family,” Briles’ attorney said.

The court filing can be read in its entirety here.