WACO, Texas – An outside investigation of the Baylor University sexual violence scandal found 17 women who had reported sexual or domestic assaults involving 19 Baylor University athletes since 2011, university regents have told The Wall Street Journal.
Those included four reports of gang rapes, the Journal reported in a story posted to its website Friday.
The investigation by the Pepper Hamilton law firm in Philadelphia found some players were alleged to have participated in what one regent called a "horrifying and painful" series of assaults over several years. The regents said then-Baylor football coach Art Briles knew of at least one reported incident but didn't inform police or school officials.
Baylor previously had said the review found that the football program operated as if it were above the rules. However, the university had released few details from the Pepper Hamilton report. That led to increasing public demand, especially among alumni and Baylor critics, for transparency.
"There was a cultural issue there that was putting winning football games above everything else, including our values," said J. Cary Gray, a lawyer and regent of the Southern Baptist university. More generally, "we did not have a caring community when it came to these women who reported they were assaulted, and that is not OK," Gray told the Journal.
Briles and Baylor's athletic director were fired earlier this year. President Ken Starr was removed from his post by regents and he later resigned as chancellor.
Two days before his firing, Briles was called before the regents to discuss the scandal, Gray said. "Art said, 'I delegated down, and I know I shouldn't have. And I had a system where I was the last to know (of the assault allegations), and I should have been the first to know,'" Gray told the newspaper.
Briles' attorney, Ernest Cannon of Stephenville, Texas, said his client never discouraged any victims from filing complaints against players. He also said Baylor's regents appeared to be violating a non-disparagement clause that was part of the settlement agreement his client signed with the university.
Cannon also accused the regents of scapegoating Briles for Baylor's overall failure to maintain a strict Title IX program to guard against sexual discrimination. Numerous lawsuits alleging violations of the federal Title IX laws allege such an overall failure.
"They are pulling their own house down to justify the mistakes they made. He's the football coach" with no responsibility to enforce Title IX requirements, Cannon said.
"That's their job," he added, referring to university administrators.
Earlier this month, Patty Crawford, Baylor's former Title IX coordinator, resigned and said top campus leaders undermined her efforts to investigate sexual assault claims and were more concerned with protecting the Baylor "brand" than the students.
She also noted the sexual violence problem was a campus-wide issue not limited to football. The university has said football players were involved in just over 10 percent of all alleged Title IX violations in the four years ending with the 2014-15 school year.
In response, Gray said, "Football is a fraction, but it is a bad fraction."
The regents' statements failed to impress Crawford's attorney, Rogge Dunn of Dallas, who argued they continue to try to shape the narrative surrounding the scandal and protect the Baylor image. He told The Associated Press that the full story will not come until those concerned are placed under oath.
"Baylor's never going to get past this until it has full transparency," Dunn told the AP Friday night.