DALLAS (AP) – Mack Rhoades doesn’t pretend to fully understand the mistakes Baylor has made. The school’s new athletic director is just intent on doing his part to make sure they don’t happen again.
Rhoades was formally introduced Monday by Baylor, a program reeling from allegations that it didn’t properly handle sexual assault claims against some football players.
“There are just certain things that we won’t tolerate and moving forward, you know, everybody will be on that same page,” Rhoades said. “And when I say everybody, that’s the university, that’s the athletics department, that’s our coaches, our student-athletes. Everyone.”
His introduction came on the first day of Big 12 football media days, and a day before interim president David Garland and two Baylor regents make a presentation to the league’s board of directors and answer questions. That board, made up of league presidents and chancellors, could possibly levy sanctions against Baylor.
Garland said Baylor officials will tell board members all they know from the external independent review by the Pepper Hamilton law firm that accused football coaches and staff of interfering with investigations into sexual assault complaints against players, and even impeding potential criminal proceedings.
Big 12 board members already have a copy of the 13-page findings of fact prepared by Pepper Hamilton, the only written report about the investigation. Baylor regents were also given a more extensive oral report.
Rhoades, who won’t start full-time at Baylor until Aug. 15, said the best thing is for the school to be transparent and forthright.
“I want a culture where we understand that there is no one entity, anything bigger than Baylor University itself,” Rhoades said.
At least three lawsuits have been brought against Baylor by women who claim the school was indifferent to or ignored claims of sexual assault and didn’t enforce federal gender discrimination protections under Title IX.
When Baylor released the Pepper Hamilton report in May, football coach Art Briles was immediately suspended and was gone a month later after reaching a mutual agreement with the school. Baylor president Ken Starr was demoted and AD Ian McCaw later resigned.
“Sexual violence is a topic throughout our country and it certainly happens on other campuses, and this is an opportunity for Baylor University, and certainly the athletics department, to be a leader in how we deal and handle sexual violence,” Rhoades said. “I’ve got three unbelievably beautiful daughters that I love, and if you ask what’s your motivation, there’s my motivation.”
Rhoades then pointed out his daughters, ranging in age from 18 to 22, sitting in the front row.
The 50-year-old Rhoades had been Missouri’s athletic director for 15 months. Before that, he was AD for nearly six years at Houston, where he hired former Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman as head coach of the Cougars. He was the athletic director at Akron from 2005-09 and worked in the athletic departments at UTEP, Marquette and Yale.
“Much has been written about my motivations for coming to Waco. Let me be clear: This is an opportunity,” he said. “An opportunity to help lead one of the world’s leading Christian universities in our familiar Texas. A state where we came to love many, many years ago. A state where my grandfather, my hero, was born and raised.”
Garland called Rhoades a relationship builder who cares about people campus-wide and strives to know them.
“I’m confident that he’s going to build the kind of partnerships that we need to make the improvements that Baylor is committed to make,” Garland said. “Mack is a man of faith and he believes in and is excited about the mission of Baylor University that is 170 years old.”
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