As Baylor reviews transfer athletes, ex-football player cites unfairness

ByPaula Lavigne and Max Olson ESPN logo
Friday, June 10, 2016

A Baylor spokeswoman told Outside the Lines the university is reviewing the backgrounds of all incoming athletes who have transferred to the school from other athletic programs.

At least one player is no longer part of the football team and university in part because of the review. Defensive tackle Jeremy Faulk, who played at Garden City (Kansas) Community College and at Florida Atlantic University, told Outside the Lines that he was questioned by Baylor coaches on June 1 about an incident he was involved in at Florida Atlantic. He said he was also questioned about an alleged sexual assault that may have occurred in April on the Baylor campus, when he was on the Baylor team. No charges were filed in either case; Faulk, who denies sexually assaulting anyone, said he's never been asked by police to discuss the alleged April incident.

Faulk's departure has angered Jeff Sims, a former assistant at Florida Atlantic and the former head coach at Garden City. Sims, who coached Faulk at both schools, says Baylor is trying to rid itself of anyone who has had an allegation made against him, true or not. And he's disturbed by something he said new Baylor interim coach Jim Grobe told him when he called to ask why Faulk's status on the team was in jeopardy over the alleged April incident.

"Grobe says to me, 'Listen, if he just leaves, he can go on, and we won't stop him from playing anywhere, and this investigation will stop.'" Flabbergasted at the notion a sexual assault investigation might disappear if an accused player were to leave the team, Sims said he pressed Grobe, but Grobe struggled to be more specific before implying that Baylor administrators had made him remove the player from the team.

Baylor has been at the center of nationwide attention over its handling of sexual assault allegations and investigations, including several that have involved athletes. In recent weeks, Baylor has dealt with the fallout from that negative attention: the demotion and then the resignation of former university president and chancellor Kenneth Starr; the pending firing of football coach Art Briles; the suspension and then the resignation of athletic director Ian McCaw; and the firings of multiple athletic department employees. At least one lawsuit has been filed, and a complaint about school officials' handling of sexual assault cases has been made to the U.S. Department of Education.

In a recent review, conducted by Philadelphia law firm Pepper Hamilton, of how Baylor officials have dealt with sexual assault complaints, the football program was faulted for not doing background checks on potential transfers: "Baylor did not consistently follow previously implemented processes regarding criminal background checks, request for records of any prior college disciplinary actions, and character reference screening forms."

The Baylor spokeswoman told Outside the Lines that its reviews of athletes include "pertinent documents from their previous institutions, which should detail any disciplinary actions. Once these records are received, they are used to inform our decisions related to these student-athletes becoming members of Baylor's athletic teams."

Sims said the university's handling of Faulk's departure from the team -- and Grobe's statement to him -- is problematic for the alleged victim and for Faulk, and also shows Baylor still doesn't understand what it's done wrong in recent years.

"To me, that's the whole reason they got in trouble -- either Jeremy's innocent, and they should go through the process, and he should get his scholarship back and play. Or he's guilty, and this girl should get some justice," Sims said.

Grobe could not be reached for comment. The Baylor spokeswoman emailed Outside the Lines on Thursday, saying, "Coach Grobe has a different recollection of the conversation," and "he has made clear that his standards emphasize accountability, integrity and character -- for the entire program."

During a press conference last Friday, Grobe told reporters about his vision for his players: "My main goal right now is to make sure that they do all the good things off the field. They know there's absolute no tolerance policy right now, zero tolerance for misbehavior."

The circumstances of Faulk's departure from the team and school are unclear: Faulk told Outside the Lines that he was initially told he was expelled from the university. Baylor officials would only confirm to Outside the Lines that he is no longer enrolled in school. Faulk provided to Outside the Lines an email from a Baylor academic support official sent Tuesday morning stating that his withdrawal had been finalized, but Faulk said he never asked to withdraw from school.

Despite being a private school, Baylor is required by the federal Title IX statute to investigate allegations of sexual assault and violence thoroughly and to provide security, counseling services and academic help to those who report assaults. Part of the law's goal is to help keep victims in school.

Outside the Lines reviewed Faulk's emails, which showed that the same morning he had received the email telling him his withdrawal from the university was final, he received another from the athletic department compliance office saying there "is not a Title IX report at Baylor" involving him. Faulk responded a few hours later by sending an email requesting a hearing and a chance to defend himself anyway. Only then did the Title IX office send him -- two hours later -- an email stating he'd been named as a respondent in a case and had been accused of violating the school's sexual discrimination, violence and harassment policy. The email provided no further details of an incident.

"No one's given me a reason why I've been released," Faulk said. "If I just leave, it will look like I'm guilty, and I didn't do anything."

While Baylor officials would not address Faulk's situation or say why he's no longer a student, thespokeswoman wrote in an email that any result of a Title IX investigation would be communicated to any school to which a student transfers. "It is inappropriate to allow an accused student to quietly transfer to another institution in order to avoid accountability ... [and] to dismiss and expel an accused student without appropriate process under university policy."

Details about the alleged sexual assault in April are unclear, in part because Baylor University campus police have not yet provided a police report about the incident to Outside the Lines.

Faulk said he returned to campus after Memorial Day for summer classes and practice. He said that on May 31, he was called into an office with assistant football coach Chris Achuff, and other defensive line coaches, and questioned about what happened between him, another player and a female student who had come over to their apartment after a party during the school's Diadeloso celebration in mid-April.

He said coaches told him that the woman reported that she had consensual sex with one of the players but that the sex with the other player was not consensual. Faulk said he told coaches he had consensual sex with her, she left his room, and he never saw her again. The other player was a junior college transfer who had enrolled at Baylor in January and participated in spring practice. Faulk said the player did not return for practice last week, and when Briles was fired, the player wanted to transfer.

Baylor football officials confirmed this week that he was no longer on the team. The Baylor spokeswoman said the player voluntarily left the team and withdrew from the university.

Faulk, who joined the Baylor program in January, said he has never been contacted by any Baylor police officers.

"The coaches told me they know I didn't do anything," Faulk said. "They told me I have nothing to worry about." He said they asked him what happened with the other player and the woman, but Faulk said he didn't know.

Faulk told Outside the Lines that he had exchanged a few text messages with the woman a couple days after the encounter, messages he described as being "random conversation." He said he's trying to retrieve those messages. He provided her name and number to Outside the Lines and said she would corroborate his story.

But when Outside the Lines reached her Thursday, she did not verify his account and instead said that Faulk and the other player "forced me to do things that I didn't want to do against my own consent." She declined to go into any further detail about what happened. She said Faulk texted her a few days later and asked to see her again, and she declined. She said she texted him one more time to inquire about his sexual medical history, and he did not respond.

The woman reported the alleged assault May 5 but told police that she did not want to press charges. She said someone from Baylor's Title IX office contacted her, and she met with someone a few weeks ago, but she didn't want an investigation; she said officials told her they had to do a preliminary investigation regardless. She said she is in counseling but is worried about retaliation and wants to move on.

Faulk said that on June 1 he was called back into the coaches' office, and they presented him with a report they found from Florida Atlantic University, where Faulk played in 2013 and 2014. He said that while he was there, he and a friend got in trouble after they burst open the door to a teammate's room and teased him and his girlfriend -- who were both naked in bed -- and threatened to pull off the sheets. Campus police were called, but no criminal charges were filed. Outside the Lines obtained the police report Thursday; the description of the "suspicious incident" on Nov. 3, 2013, matches Faulk's account.

Sims said Grobe told him during their phone call Saturday that Baylor had to let Faulk go because of the two incidents: "They said two strikes, and he was out."

Faulk said he didn't get much information from Grobe when the Baylor coach called him into his office Friday.

"He was, like, due to all the stuff that's been going on, and Title IX and all that, the school is releasing me," Faulk said. "He didn't say the football team. He said the school is releasing me ... I asked him why, and he just told me it's out of their hands." He said he was then told to meet with the compliance office to get the paperwork that would release him to play at another school.

According to the Baylor spokeswoman, coaches can make independent determinations to remove a player from a team, but that does not mean a student is automatically expelled from the university. "A student's academic enrollment status is determined either by the student or a university student conduct or Title IX process that prevents the student from attendance."

Sims said the school should have told Faulk why he was in trouble and suspended him from the football team -- but allowed him to remain in his summer classes -- while officials conducted an investigation. Then a decision could have been made about the findings, he said.

"Now they won't give him his due process," Sims said. "Baylor is only worried about taking care of Baylor, and they're not worried about the men -- or the women -- in this process."