IRVING, Texas (AP) — Big 12 Conference directors have unanimously endorsed an independent report that found Baylor has implemented recommendations for reforming its Title IX process after a campus sexual assault scandal more than two years ago.
The move, announced Tuesday, means the Big 12 will no longer withhold part of Baylor's share of conference revenue. Nearly $14.3 million has been withheld over the past two academic years, though that money won't go directly back to the school.
"We are in full support of Baylor leadership and have confidence they are moving the university forward from this chapter," West Virginia President and board chairman Gordon Gee said.
The Big 12 last year started withholding 25 percent of revenue payments to Baylor pending verification of the 105 changes recommended by Pepper Hamilton, the firm that handled the initial investigation in 2016. The scandal led to the departures of school President Ken Starr and athletic director Ian McCaw. Art Briles, a two-time Big 12 champion football coach, was fired.
Baylor is still waiting for the outcome of an NCAA investigation into the scandal.
Of the nearly $14.3 million withheld from Baylor, about $1.65 million will be reimbursed to the league to cover its legal costs associated with the verification process. The remaining money, about $12.6 million, will be invested for the next 48 months. The net earnings from that will be distributed annually in equal portions to all 10 conference schools to be used for funding anti-violence and anti-harassment efforts on campus and in athletics.
At the end of the 48-month period, the Big 12 board made up of university presidents and chancellors from the member schools will determine the amount of money returned to Baylor, minus a $2 million fine for "reputational damage to the conference and its members."
The report done by Polsinelli PC was intended to legally assess whether Baylor had taken the necessary steps to implement the recommendations adopted by Baylor regents in May 2016.
"The verification team is of the opinion that Baylor has in all material respects structurally completed and practically implemented the (105 Pepper Hamilton) recommendations as of the date hereof," reads the report, dated Aug. 31. "Whether the recommendations that require future action or are aspirational in nature will continue to be implemented in a sustainable manner will only be verifiable over time."
Polsinelli's verification team focused only on the recommendations. It did not address any legal claims or investigations into Baylor by the NCAA or other agencies, such as the Department of Education.
Baylor was engulfed in the sexual assault scandal surrounding its football team in 2016, ultimately resulting in the firing of Briles and the departure of other school officials.
Baylor hired Pepper Hamilton to review how the school handled sexual assault claims after several incidents involving football players. In May 2016, the school issued a 13-page "findings of fact" that focused on the most troubling findings, including a football program that was portrayed as acting as if it was above the rules. The document suggested that some staff interfered with investigations and witnesses.
Briles, who was paid $15 million by Baylor to settle his contract after his dismissal, has insisted he did not cover up reports of assaults by players. He said he encouraged alleged victims to go to the police.
Baylor officials have said the investigation found that 17 women had reported incidents of sexual and domestic violence involving 19 Baylor football players since 2011, including several cases that involved gang rapes.
In May 2017, the school said all 105 recommendations from the Pepper Hamilton report had been implemented. Baylor has settled federal Title IX lawsuits against the school related to the sexual assault scandal and previously settled with at least three women who hadn't sued. Other lawsuits are pending.
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