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Big 12 confirms Baylor has implemented all recommendations, announces new $2 million fine

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At least in the eyes of its conference, Baylor has taken significant steps in the wake of the sexual assault scandal that rocked the university in general and the football program specifically.

In February of 2017, the Big 12 announced that it will withhold 25 percent of future revenue payments to BU, only releasing the monies “pending the outcome of third-party verification review of required changes to Baylor’s athletics procedures and to institutional governance of its intercollegiate athletics programs, among other matters.” Tuesday, the conference confirmed in a press release that the university “has in all material respects structurally completed and practically implemented the (105 Pepper Hamilton) Recommendations” as required by the league.

The conclusion of the independent verification process was unanimously approved and accepted by the Big 12’s Board of Directors.

“On behalf of the entire Board of Directors, I want to thank Baylor president Linda Livingstone, athletics director Mack Rhoades, and their staffs for their cooperation during this Verification Process,” said Big 12 Board of Directors chairman and West Virginia president Gordon Gee in a statement. “We are in full support of Baylor leadership and have confidence they are moving the university forward from this chapter.”

The league also laid out the financial ramifications for Baylor to date, including a previously-undisclosed $2 million fine for what was described as “reputational damage to the conference and its members.” Additionally, the university will not receive previously-withheld revenue for at least another 48 months — and even then, it will be minus legal fees and the seven-figure fine.

To date, the Big 12 Conference has withheld $14,255,000 from Baylor’s revenue distribution. From the amount currently withheld, Baylor will immediately reimburse the Conference for its legal costs associated with the Verification – currently $1,651,000. The approximately $12.6 million remaining will be invested for the next 48 months. Net earnings realized on the investments will be distributed in equal portions to the 10 members of the Conference on an annual basis and will be used in funding campus-wide and athletics prevention efforts focused on sexual and gender-based harassment and violence, intimate partner violence, and stalking, including, but not limited to, programming addressing healthy relationships, LGBTQ+ discrimination, and bystander awareness. At the end of the 48-month period the Board will determine the amount to be returned to Baylor minus a $2,000,000 fine for reputational damage to the Conference and its members.

Moving forward, however, Baylor will receive its full share of future conference revenue distributions.

In response to the development, BU president Kinda Livingstone issued the following statement:

Dear Baylor Family:

I am pleased to report that the Big 12 Conference has completed its Verification Review of Baylor University’s 105 recommendations in response to past reports of sexual assault and interpersonal violence within our campus community and has confirmed all recommendations as complete and implemented. Additionally, the Big 12 has affirmed Baylor’s compliance with all relevant conference bylaws and the University’s receipt of full league financial distributions moving forward.

This is now the second external verification of our completion of the 105 recommendations, which have already helped the University prevent and respond to reports of sexual assault and interpersonal violence on our campus. We know that this is a very important issue, not only for Baylor, but for each of our Big 12 member institutions and other colleges and universities nationwide.

The comprehensive report of the Big 12’s Oversight Committee is publicly available at Big 12 Board of Directors Conclude Baylor Verification Process, along with the resolution approved Monday by the conference’s presidents and chancellors.

Today’s announcement provides another testament to Baylor’s unwavering commitment to the safety and security of our students, faculty and staff through our training, education and response efforts within a caring community. It also underscores Baylor’s strength and resilience as we continue on our path to becoming the preeminent Christian research university and competing at the highest levels of intercollegiate athletics.

Despite the progress made with the conference, the university still has some potentially choppy NCAA waters to navigate. Earlier this month, it was confirmed that Baylor had received a Notice of Allegations in which it is being cited for lack of institutional control.

What type of penalties that could potentially arise from the investigation remain unclear.

In June of 2018, it was reported that “if people are expecting some sort of ‘Death Penalty,’ I think they are going to be disappointed.” Nearly two months later, the university bristled at reports that they had been encouraged to self-impose a bowl ban.

In that early-August report, it was reported that the NCAA’s investigation took a “left turn” at some point in the not-too-distant past that wasn’t favorable towards Bears football.  That left turn, coincidentally or not, came not long after several current and former BU officials, including ex-athletic director Ian McCaw, spoke to NCAA investigators.

In a late-June deposition in connection to a lawsuit filed by nearly a dozen women against Baylor, McCaw, now the athletic director at Liberty University, claimed that BU officials had engaged in “an elaborate plan that essentially scapegoated black football players and the football program for being responsible for what was a decades-long, university-wide sexual assault scandal.” The university subsequently fired back at McCaw’s portrayal.

The conclusion of the NCAA’s investigation and any subsequent penalties would serve as the bookend for what’s been a disturbing, years-long series of revelations connected to the tattered Waco institution and it’s beleaguered football program.

In late January of 2017, damning details in one of the handful of the lawsuits facing the university emerged, with that suit alleging that 31 Bears football players had committed 52 acts of rape over a period of four years beginning in 2011.

Not long after, a legal filing connected to the libel lawsuit filed by a former BU football staffer produced emails and text messages that paint a picture of the former head coach, Art Briles, and/or his assistants as unrestrained rogue elements concerned with nothing more than the image of the football program off the field and its performance on it. The details in a damning document dump included allegations that Briles attempted to circumvent BU’s “judicial affairs folks” when it came to one player’s arrest… and on Briles asking, in response to one of his players brandishing a gun on a female, “she reporting [it] to authorities?”… and asking “she a stripper?” when told one of his players expected a little something extra from a female masseuse… and stating in a text “we need to know who [the] supervisor is and get him to alert us first” in response to a player who was arrested on a drug charge because the apartment superintendent called the police.

In reference to a woman who alleged she was gang-raped by several Bears football players, Briles allegedly responded, “those are some bad dudes. Why was she around those guys?

Briles was fired Memorial Day weekend of 2016.  A coaching pariah in the United States ever since, the disgraced coach was hired by a CFL team in August of last year; a couple of hours later, after the hiring was denounced by fans and sponsors, the organization announced that Briles would no longer be joining the team.

In August of this year, Briles was named as the head coach of the Guelfi Firenze American Football team in Florence.  Florence, Italy.

Running back Deshawn McClease is latest player to leave Hokies

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It has been quite a busy couple of days for Virginia Tech transfer news. Within hours of Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente releasing a statement about the program’s dedication to strengthening the culture of the Virginia Tech football program after a handful of players had decided to leave the program, running back Deshawn McClease added his name to the list of transferring Hokies.

“After discussing with my family, we believe that it is best for me to transfer to another university following graduation this spring,” McClease said in a statement shared on his Twitter account Wednesday evening. “I am very eager to continue my football journey and further my education.”

McClease did not say where he is heading next. His departure is another blow to Virginia Tech’s offensive outlook for the 2019 season on a day that also saw starting quarterback Josh Jackson decide to transfer out of Virginia Tech a day after a couple of other transfer headlines surfaced around the program. As McClease mentioned in his statement, he is scheduled to graduate from Virginia Tech this spring. That will mean he will be eligible to play right away next fall for whatever team he ends up joining. He has one year of eligibility remaining.

McClease was Virginia Tech’s second-leading rusher in 2018 and likely would have been the starting running back in Blacksburg for the 2019 season had he decided to stick around. McClease rushed for 433 yards and two touchdowns last fall behind senior starter Steven Peoples.

Oklahoma State QB Keondre Wudtee leaving Stillwater via transfer

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The quarterback competition at Oklahoma State this spring has been reduced by one. Keondre Wudtee is one his way out of Stillwater after entering his name into the NCAA’s transfer portal, it was reported on Wednesday.

As noted by Pistols Firing, redshirt freshman Spencer Sanders appears to be the most likely candidate to land the starting job at quarterback for the Cowboys in 2019 following the graduation of Taylor Cornelius. Wudtee was the only other quarterback to record any passing stats for Oklahoma State in 2018 in his backup role, completing two of five attempts for 26 yards and a touchdown. A pair of wide receivers, Tylan Wallace and Dillon Stoner, were the only other players to attempt a pass for Oklahoma State in 2018.

Oklahoma State’s quarterback depth chart will still be padded even with the departure of Wudtee. Dru Brown, who transferred to Oklahoma State from Hawaii, is still around and the Cowboys added an early enrollee in three-star Class of 2019 quarterback Brendan Costello. Being enrolled early will allow Costello to get started with spring practices this semester in Stillwater and could potentially have him prepared to step in if needed in the fall.

As for Wudtee, we’ll see where he heads next. He will have to sit out the 2019 season due to NCAA transfer rules, of course.

After dustup with Uga, Texas president says Bevo is not leaving the sidelines

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Finally, a story NOT about the transfer portal.

Prior to the Sugar Bowl between Texas and Georgia, somebody decided it would be fun to do a photo with the live animal mascots of the Longhorns and Bulldogs. As Uga made his way over to see Texas mascot Bevo, the longhorn burst out of his caged area and made it known he was not about being a part of a fun photo opp. Fortunately, there were no injuries to report for any people or animals in the incident, but concerns about the handling of Bevo were certainly raised.

And despite pressure from PETA to stop including live animal mascots as part of the gameday experience and any others who may have voiced concerns about the worst-case scenarios involving a live steer, Texas president Gregory Fenves says Bevo will not be retired and forced to watch Longhorns football games from the ranch.

“We take the safety very seriously, but we’re going to continue to have Bevo as our mascot,” Fenves said in a recent interview with the American-Statesman. “He’s an incredible animal and a great symbol for the university. Seriously, we’re always looking at the protocols for Bevo at public events. I don’t think they need to be revised.”

So there you have it. Bevo stays. Sorry, not sorry, PETA. Unless Bevo does decide to enter the transfer portal…

Wisconsin TE Kyle Penniston enters transfer portal

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I have never seen it myself, but the transfer portal must be the place to be. Wisconsin tight end Kyle Penniston is just one of the many players putting his name in the transfer portal, as reported Wednesday, as he begins to look for a new place to finish up his college football career.

First reported by 247 Sports, Penniston will have one year of eligibility left to use for the 2019 season. He will be eligible to play right away this fall as a graduate transfer. Penniston enrolled at Wisconsin in 2015 after accepting an offer from Wisconsin over offers from Oklahoma and a handful of other top programs in the Class of 2015.

Penniston appeared in 13 games for the Badgers in 2018 with three receptions for 18 yards and a touchdown. The instant rise of Jake Ferguson at the tight end position on his way to becoming the second-leading receiver for Wisconsin meant Penniston likely wasn’t going to play a pivotal role in the offensive gameplan in 2019. Wisconsin should still be in decent shape at the tight end position this fall, not that losing an upper classmen at the position is ever a good situation for a program. It’s worth noting Penniston was recruited under former head coach Gary Andersen, who adopted a different type of offensive scheme that would have potentially been a better fit for Penniston.

Where Penniston goes next remains to be seen.