“Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing” is a well-known quotation in sports.
UCLA Bruins football coach Henry Russell (“Red”) Sanders is the man who coined the phrase in 1950, but many attribute it to Green Bay Packers’ legendary coach Vince Lombardi.
That statement is the root of all evil in college sports. Rules, coaches think, are meant to be broken as programs try to win national championships.
Look at the meteoric rise of Ole Miss under Hugh Freeze and possible NCAA sanctions forthcoming. Now look at the meteoric fall of Baylor University with the disgust of how the football program was being built to sustain prominence.
Head coach Art Briles, a legendary high school coach in Texas, turned around the fortunes of two floundering collegiate programs. He started at the University of Houston (five years) in 2003 before leaving for Baylor University (last eight years) in 2008. He was considered an offensive innovator with his high-scoring attack.
None of that matters now. He is losing his $4.2 million a year job, according to Baylor’s most recent IRS filing. His reputation is tarnished for turning the other cheek for the sake of winning.
Baylor University is a private Baptist university in Waco, Texas where you would think there is a higher standard of morality. Unfortunately, that appears not to be the case.
An investigation into the handling allegations of sexual and physical assaults against women by a select few football players reflected a fundamental failure by Baylor to implement Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX) and the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (VAWA).
Baylor, as a football program and university, reportedly conspired with local police in Waco to shield its players from investigations and punishment stemming from those allegations.
“We were horrified by the extent of these acts of sexual violence on our campus,” said Richard Willis, chair of the Baylor Board of Regents, during a recent interview. “This investigation revealed the University’s mishandling of reports in what should have been a supportive, responsive and caring environment for students. The depth to which these acts occurred shocked and outraged us.
“Our students and their families deserve more, and we have committed our full attention to improving our processes, establishing accountability and ensuring appropriate actions are taken to support former, current and future students.”
Two of the players involved have been found guilty in court and sent to prison. Tevin Elliot was sentenced to 20 years for raping a Baylor student in the mud outside a party in 2012. Sam Ukwuachu was sentenced to six months in prison and 10 years probation for raping a Baylor soccer player in 2013.
Defensive lineman Shawn Oakman was arrested and charged with sexual assault stemming from an incident that happened April 13, 2016. Oakman had been accused of domestic violence in 2013 while attending Penn State.
Three more players reportedly had sexual assault or domestic violence allegations against them buried by some combination of the football program, the university, and the police department.
My question to all three entities is, “Why?”
It’s impossible not to feel like the organizations that run an entire city in Texas privileged these specific men, first and foremost, because they played football.
Maybe the late Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders owner Al Davis said it best for those who think like Baylor officials: “Just win baby!”
Sports must be better than that, though. And, thankfully, it is, most places.