Mac Engel: Don't expect a big penalty in NCAA's Baylor investigationJune 14, 2018 8:46am

June 13-- So much time has passed you may have forgotten that Baylor University is being investigated by the NCAA.

The NCAA began its investigation of Baylor in May 2017 to look into the specifics of a rape scandal that shadowed the university for well over a year and ultimately led to the dismissal of football coach Art Briles in May 2016.

According to officials close to the situation, the school is expecting that the investigation and interviews will be completed shortly before the start of the 2018 academic year. This process, according to sources, has gone faster than expected. Sources said the school hopes for a resolution by the spring of 2019.

As far as a serious penalty levied by the NCAA, do not expect much.

"If people are expecting some sort of 'Death Penalty,' I think they are going to be disappointed," a source said.

SMU's football program received the famous "Death Penalty" ruling by the NCAA in 1987 for rampant cheating. SMU was not allowed to have a football team for one year, and the school added a self-imposed season as part of the penalty.

Do not expect such a penalty at Baylor.

There is a chance the findings of the NCAA's investigation could also potentially exonerate Briles, who has not worked since he was fired by Baylor.

Sources said Baylor is hoping/expecting the precedent set by the NCAA in the University of North Carolina's academic fraud case will yield similar results in Waco.

The issue for the NCAA is to determine whether the Baylor athletic department afforded opportunities and treatment to the student-athletes that were not available to all students. Or whether it violated other NCAA rules.

Finding an NCAA violation or two is usually not hard; it's akin to a policeman who has pulled over a motorist. The cop can usually find some violation. The question is the severity.

In the case of the University of North Carolina, which was concluded in October 2017, school officials openly admitted to rampant academic fraud. UNC slipped away without an NCAA penalty because the fake classes and essentially a bogus major were available to every student at North Carolina.

The "academic programs" allowed countless student-athletes, especially members of the wildly successful men's basketball team, to retain their athletic eligibility.

The NCAA's report said it did not have the power to punish the UNC athletic department under its rule book.

The fallout was a few harsh words from the media, with one of the most celebrated state universities in the nation going on its merry way, secure in the knowledge that it brazenly violated its mission statement as a place of higher learning with zero penalty.

Baylor, however, is also aware that the NCAA historically has wielded a sharper sword at programs that do not generate the wattage or revenue the University of North Carolina does. Baylor is a Power 5 school, but it's not North Carolina.

The issues, however, between the two schools have no just comparison: widespread academic fraud and sexual assault and rape claims that went ignored.

As in the North Carolina case, the problems at Baylor were not specific to the athletic department. As written in the Pepper Hamilton report by the Philadelphia law firm, Baylor's Title IX issues regarding sexual assault claims were campuswide.

If the NCAA agrees with Pepper Hamilton that Baylor's issues were a university issue, there is a good chance Baylor's athletic department, and specifically its football program, will not be punished.

If the NCAA wants to punish Baylor, the most likely scenario would include a reduction in football scholarships, a bowl ban or reduced recruiting time for coaches.

Consistent rulings are not exactly common with the NCAA infractions committee.

By next spring, you may have again forgotten that the school was under investigation.

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(c)2018 Fort Worth Star-Telegram

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