I remember seeing the press release come through the city desk at the Lariat.
“More spending?!” I thought.
The headline we wrote later that day read:
Regents approve $34 million for practice facility
Spending that much money on a practice facility for the then-failing Baylor football team seemed absurd and had the Lariat editorial board (of which I was a member at the time) buzzing.
Once a week we had the chance to write an editorial about pressing issues of the day, but since we’d already addressed misallocated spending the week before (for a large on-campus residential project), the point seemed too repetitious.
I know this sounds unlikely, but I’ve never forgotten that series of events. Watching the university spend millions on initiatives that didn’t seem to directly support the academics of the university left me feeling queasy.
At the time, Baylor was five years away from its self-imposed 2012 imperative and objectively speaking, I understand why this spending made sense to university leaders. The justification for the football spending was similar to rising tide economics:
“If we spend this money now, the rest of our academics will improve, donations will increase and then eventually professors will have the resources they need to teach their classes.”
At the time, I was taking an English class in the Carroll Science Building, which could only afford one overhead projector per floor. My English instructor had to interrupt another class and “borrow” the antiquated projector on more than one occasion. It seemed absurd to me: not only did she not have a computer to teach her class—she had to barter with her colleagues to borrow an antiquated piece of "technology."
The discrepancy in spending was tough to swallow.
But the message was clear:
“Hang tight. The football program is on the way.”
That same year I graduated with a degree in journalism and went on my merry way into the world of publishing. I watched from the alumni sidelines as the football program grew and brought Baylor the recognition it’d been seeking.
Like any other Baylor bear, I was proud. Football was interesting to watch for the first time, primarily because we actually had a shot at winning every now and then. I also directly benefited in job interviews, no longer greeted by a head tilt and “What's Baylor?” while potential bosses looked at my resume. It felt good to be part of a nationally recognized school, but for each milestone the school reached, I couldn’t help but wonder if Ms. Callan ever got the computer she needed.
The past 48 hours I've been wondering the same thing.
The price of a football program
Yesterday I was driving to a business meeting and listening to sports radio as the guys on 103.3 confirmed the suspension-with-intent-to-fire Art Briles, the demotion of Ken Starr and a general flogging of several university departments. When I got to my laptop, there was an email waiting for me from the university: “eNews: Baylor University Board of Regents announces leadership changes and extensive corrective actions following findings of external investigation.”
I’ve watched my Facebook news feed nearly implode with opinions about the situation, and the general one is:
We’re heart broken.
A few friends of mine have speculated that most colleges don’t know how to properly enforce Title IV of the NCAA rules—and that Baylor is being made a lesson to learn for all other colleges. This perhaps has some merit. The trouble is that our university must face an even larger discrepancy than when, where and how we spend our money or enforce nationally required mandates for student treatments.
We must look seriously at our hearts and the hearts of the administration and ask how we got so tangled up on the wrong side of issue. No reasonable person with a human heart turns away a young woman asking for help after sexual assault. This isn't a gray issue. And as Christians, defending the oppressed should've been the default in every instance where a young woman had been victimized.
Unfortunately, it seems like this wasn't my alma mater's default response. And there's some serious cleaning house that was initiated yesterday. I'm comforted by the clear and sobering language from the Baylor regents.
Yes, we're all "horrified."
But the question I still don't have answered is this:
"What's the real price of a football program, and is it one we're willing to pay?"