The Just-Revealed Conversations Between Art Briles And Baylor Staff Are Exactly What You’d Expect
9:08 AM EST on November 13, 2023
A civil jury in Waco, Texas, recently found Baylor University negligent in how it handled reports of domestic violence involving a football player back in 2014. Specifically, former student Dolores Lozano said in her lawsuit that when she was a Baylor student, she was assaulted by her then-boyfriend, football player Devin Chafin, and she reported what happened, but the university mishandled it. Lozano sued two years later in 2016, saying that negligence violated her rights under Title IX, the federal law that is supposed to protect all students from discrimination on the basis of their sex.
Lozano's story was just one of many that emerged from Baylor at the time in which women said they had been assaulted or raped and reported it to university authorities, but very little or nothing happened. In 2015, Baylor football was a rising power on the college football scene and its head coach, Art Briles, both charmed with his Texas drawl and, most importantly, won. Within a matter of years, Briles would be ousted, as well as athletic director Ian McCaw and university president Ken Starr (yes, that Ken Starr). What happened at Baylor was soon followed by the uncovering of a sytstem in which USA Gymnastics protected coaches who sexually abused, the MeToo movement, the reporting of rampant sexual abuse by a doctor at Ohio State, the reporting of rampant sexual abuse by a doctor at Michigan, and USC paying out more than $1 billion to settle with more than 700 people who said they had been sexually abused by a university gynecologist.
But Baylor lingered, in part because multiple civil lawsuits filed against the university went on for years. Another lawsuit, filed by 15 women, settled a few months ago. Now the Lozano suit is resolved too; a jury awarded her $270,000 in damages. And, by going to trial, Lozano's lawsuit turned up and made public a document that had remained unpublished for years—what outside lawyers actually uncovered at Baylor.
In 2015, Baylor hired the law firm Pepper Hamilton to investigate how the university handled reports of sexual assault. This is now part and parcel for universities or large organizations in the midst of a public scandal: hire an outside law firm, have those lawyers investigate and generate a report, then release a detailed report to the public and promise it won't happen again. Except Baylor didn't release a detailed report to the public and, when pressed, it said that was because leadership never had Pepper Hamilton write a document—instead they received all the information orally. It sounded like there was no paper trail to be had at all except, it turns out, as with many oral reports, this one included a PowerPoint presentation. That PowerPoint presentation became an exhibit during Baylor's recent trial, making it a public record.
What was entered into the court record was still incomplete. Names have been redacted, as well as about 88 pages of the 143-page presentation. A few details are hard to make out in the transition of turning a PowerPoint presentation into a printed-out document. What Defector is publishing is about one-third of the presentation Pepper Hamilton showed to Baylor leadership, and none of the pages made public discuss sexual assault. But what it shows still matters because it offers an unedited glimpse into how a football coach, an athletic director, a vice president, and even general counsel talked about the various ways that Baylor kept football players away from consequences no matter what. They are, in these exchanges, unguarded.
I've taken the report and broken it down into different types of communication, starting with how Briles would talk with his athletic director and his lieutenants about keeping players on the field. All messages here are as they were reproduced in the Pepper Hamilton presentation.
Not every single message from the PowerPoint is in here, though the full presentation is below. Misspellings are in here as they were shown in the report. What context can be given is provided but some slides didn't provide any at all.
Art Briles's text messages and emails
An exchange between defensive coordinator Phil Bennett and Briles about a player getting arrested for cannabis possession:
Bennett: They ended up arresting [redacted] had 2 or less ounces of weed in his apartment. Misdemeanor."
Briles: "Hope nothing happens!!—we need a chance to save that kid"
Bennett: "Should we call Sibley to help bail him? ... I'm fucking sick ... Said someone above him complained."
Briles: "Shit—how bout that—he's gonna b in system now—let me know what u think we should do—I can get shill to calm sibley or we can"
Briles: "Anybody else involved?.... Do we know who complained?"
Briles: "Call sibley?"
Bennett: "Sorry I was getting Haircut. We are calling his mom, so she can call a bondsman. I'm about to call Dish. Someone above him told supervisor and he called campus cops. [Redacted] and [redacted] were there. I think they searched them too."
Briles: "Only arrested [redacted]?"
Briles: "We need to know who supervisor is and get him to alert us first."
Bennett: "That's what Dish told him. New guy. Just talked to Dish and his mom is going to use bondsman bail him out. I called and they said it only 150."
Briles: "K—we'll deal with it—nothing on other guys."
Bennett: "Dish, said [redacted] and [redacted] were upset but I think dish being there helped. The cop told Dish [redacted] name has been on their hot list this summer."
Briles: "Gotta try n help him—hopefully a wake up call."
Bennett: "That's what Dish and I just said. Could be a positive. If he is willing to learn. Dish said he was really scared."
An exchange between Briles and athletic director Ian McCaw about a physical assault:
Briles: "Just talked to [redacted]—he said Waco pd was there—said they were going to keep it quiet—Wasn't a set up deal—I'll get shill to ck on sibley."
McCaw: "That would be great if they keep it quiet!"
An exchange between McCaw and Briles about a player who got in trouble for cannabis possession and failing multiple drug tests, leading to a dismissal from the football team.
McCaw: "Coach, I agree with you on [redacted]. Judicial was too heavy handed. We need to get this fixed. We can touch base on the other issue when you are free. I'm back in the office."
McCaw also sent this email to Baylor vice president Kevin Jackson: "Art is very upset about the sanctions and handling of the [redacted] case. Can we discuss for a few minutes following the 4:00 p.m. meeting today?"
Later, McCaw texted Briles: "Good conversation with Kevin Jackson. He will get involved and understands our concerns about how it was handled. [Redacted] will be able to stay in the apartment while he sorts this out."
Briles: "Thanks chief .. That is definitely a common sense step in the right direction. thanks for stepping in and making a difference."
What happened isn't said in the PowerPoint. It picked up again about a month later saying the same player had been suspended again for a positive test for cannabis. McCaw wrote an email to then-vice president Reagan Ramsower: "Kevin did send me a text about [redacted] today. I gave Art a heads up and he is not happy. This one may be tough to manage." Ramsower sent an email two days later, noting this was "not coming at a good time as we negotiate with Art." A day later, Ramsower sent another email saying the player could continue with football-related activities during the appeals process.
Meanwhile, Briles texted with then-Baylor football staffer Colin Shillinglaw while the player appealed:
Shillinglaw: "Just want to make sure you knew this is until appeal heard but they are working on this now."
Briles: "I don't need to know scenarios—just bottom line—all it does is piss me off."
Shillinglaw: "Bottom line. He has to meet with Jackson tomorrow morning. If Jackson Does not reinstate President will."
A month and a half later, Briles texted with McCaw:
Briles: "Chief, how'd it go yesterday with judicial—we can get Dary involved early if we need to"
McCaw: "[Redacted]'s appeal is in front of Judge/Regan, so it is up to them. Reagan seemed good with us having [redacted] go to a treatment center to get help, so I am looking into some other options. I'll keep you posted."
Briles: "Thanks—that is a great option for judicial—just don't want them reacting and then we have to try and save him"
McCaw: "I gave Dary the background this morning and he thinks we have a good plan for [redacted]
Briles: "Perfect. thank you."
A day later, Briles sent this text message to [Baylor regent] Dary Stone: "Chairman I know Ian spoke with u bout [redacted]—per our ath drug policy this is his 2nd positive—which is a 1 game suspension—I think we give him every opportunity to make it—as a friend of mine says—spike dykes—'I've sen sicker dogs get well'—thanks for listening"
A month later, a text from Briles to Shillinglaw: "I've got Dary on it—back off of Bradshaw—I sent Dary email."
More months later, a text exchange between McCaw and Briles about it
Briles: "Chief left u a voicemail about [redaced]—he will have completed 40 hours of community service after this wkend which was what was required by Baylor—he has also passed 31 hrs since he's been enrolled—gpa this spring 2.38"
McCaw: "This is all good. I'll check with Dary tonight on [redacted] ..."
Briles: "Dary says ... looks good for [redacted]"
An exchange between Bennett and Briles about a player getting a ticket:
Bennett: "Coach big A just called me and told me [redacted] was issued a ticket for minor in consumption. He called Big A at 3 am and told him immidiatly. He said he did not appear to be drunk."
Briles: "Hopefully he's under the radar enough they won't recognize name—did he get ticket from Baylor police or Waco?"
Bennett: "I think it was on campus. I will call big A and find out"
Briles: "Just trying to keep him away from our judicial affairs folks—not a huge deal, we can talk with him next wk—how was willies g crawfish?"
Bennett: "Big A just talked to [redacted] and it was Waco PD."
Briles: "That's good—y'all enjoy tonite."
Exchange between then-strength coach Kaz Kazadi and Briles:
Kaz: "Big Coach, a girl at the d-hall on the equestrian team says [redacted] was 'flashing hardware' this weekend"
Briles: "Shit—what a fool—she reporting to authorities"
Kaz: "She's acting traumatized ... Trying to talk her calm now ... Doesn't seem to want to report though"
Briles: "U gonna talk to [redacted]"
Kaz: "Yes sir, Just did. Caught him on the way to class ... Squeezed him pretty good."
Briles: "K—I mentioned to Norwood."
An email exchange between Shillinglaw and Briles:
Shillinglaw: "Ian got a call about [redacted]. He got a message at main event and supposedly exposed himself and asked for favors. She has a lawyer but wants us to handle with discipline and counseling. Ian said to get him with Wes and Katz."
Briles: "What kind of discipline."
Shillinglaw: "He do not say. I am sure some type of punishment."
Briles: "She a stripper?"
Shillinglaw: "I don't think so but I really don't know. Sounds like a hair place."
Briles: "Is main event strip club? .... I bet he was getting a massage."
Shillinglaw: "Yes, he was. It was a salon and spa."
Briles: "Not quite as bad."
Even more people knew
Briles was far from the only person whose messages made it into the Pepper Hamilton PowerPoint. So did everyone from the police chief to a vice president to Baylor's general counsel.
Here is text from an email sent from then-Baylor police chief Jim Doak to then-Baylor vice president Reagan Ramsower. The email began with Doak saying he had met with Shillinglaw, a football staffer, that morning and had a "productive discussion" about communication during the "Briles years." The Pepper Hamilton presentation highlighted this:
Doak: "We recommitted to each other to call at the first sign of a football player 'straying' from the desired path so that he and his colleagues can address issues before they become headline grabbers."
The PowerPoint also included a 2012 email from then-associate general counsel Chris Holmes to then-general counsel Charlie Beckenhauer and Doug Welch, another member of the general counsel's office. This followed after something called "the cashier's office incident." It's short: "UNBELIEVABLE! Ian—wonder whether there is an ethics problem in athletics?????!!!!"
Six days later, Holmes sent an email to Welch and one other person. It read: "I'm sure everyone will be relieved that Colin Shillinglaw, the Assistant AD for Football Operations has looked into the matter and is reporting to Baylor Police that the Athletics Department has met with the coaches and 'all is fine.' Again, all may very well be fine ... but I'm not sure the Football Program is the most objective office to make that decision."
That same day, Beckenhauer emailed Holmes and Welch, and the presentation highlighted this text: "The cryptic, seemingly self-serving clearance is not reliable it seems to me. If I remember our discussions, we are dealing with felony level criminal conduct that may have had coaches with knowledge, at a minimum, a potential NCAA extra benefit case, or potential criminal culpability at worst."
Football and academic affairs
How discipline was handled for football players versus other students also came up, especially in emails from associate dean for student conduct administration Bethany McCraw. In one email, McCraw wrote, "I'm also concerned that students involved with the football program feel like they don't have to respond to anyone but the athletic department."
This came in multiple McCraw emails. At one point, she emailed Briles directly. As quoted in the PowerPoint, she said, "... until this office receives a genuine apology and response to this incident and reassurance that future communication from the Football Program will be ethical and in compliance with Baylor's Mission and Code of Ethics, I will assume that the partnership between the two departments is not important to the Football Program."
McCraw would also mention this to Holmes in the general counsel's office. This message, per the presentation, came after someone had been arrested for burglary at a library: "I hate bringing these issues up—but I feel like you (and Charlie) and Martha Lou are the only individuals I feel comfortable raising these concerns with—I don't want to become a target for getting fired because I continue to ask about issues connected with the athletic department."
The players knew
The presentation also cited evidence that players were aware of these systems that protected them. In one page, text is pulled from a police report. It said: "[redacted] explained that Coach Odell takes care of any of them that are in trouble. That he will try to get them out of trouble."
On another page, it came up again: "Officer Flores said that after the assault [redacted] threatened Rodgers that he would kill him and his family if he reported this incident to the police. Rodgers informed Waco Officers he felt the threat was valid and he was concerned for his safety from [redacted]'s harm."
The PowerPoint even included this, from a statement given to Baylor police: "Then he said he didn't want the head coach to limit [redacted] play time or caches over this and have to get lawyers invold and have this on the team."
The full presentation, minus the pages that were completely redacted by the court, is below.