When Barry Switzer was building his juggernaut at Oklahoma he routinely swept "minor" criminal offenses under the rug. He could because he was Barry Switzer, head coach of the Oklahoma Sooners, the only game in town. Hell, the only game in the state. All it would take was a quick phone call to the authorities and crisis averted. “I’d have local county people call me and say, ‘One of your guys is drunk and got in a fight and is jail down here.’ And I’d go down and get him out. Or I’d send an assistant coach down to get his ass out. The sheriff was a friend of the program. He didn’t want the publicity. He himself knew this was something we didn’t need to deal with in the media or anything with publicity.”
Switzer, like most coaches, preferred to handle criminal activity in house. “I’d get his ass up at 5 o’clock in the morning for two weeks in a row and run his ass, up and down the stairs, the stadium steps. We could handle things internally in an era 30 years ago that you can’t today. You get a traffic ticket today, it’s everywhere. No one escapes what we have today, the attention and technology we have today."
In the wake of the Art Briles revelations, the college football universe has redirected its judgmental eye towards Waco, and with good reason. Regents came through with all the smoking guns necessary to justify the Briles firing, though for some reason the university clearly left staff in place for the 2016 season that were complicit in Briles' attempt to cover up players' criminal activity. Briles' greatest ally, and there were several key ones, was athletic director Ian McCaw. Text messages show that Briles and his staff could rely on McCaw and others in the athletic department to shelter his program from judicial scrutiny. Apparently Baylor also had the Waco Police Department in its pocket as text messages reveal that authorities agreed to keep criminal activity by players quiet.
Briles didn't invent the practice of sheltering his players from criminal scrutiny, he and Baylor are just the latest program to get caught. Switzer didn't invent it either. Where ever there is prestige and money to be had, those who can deliver both will be protected. What develops is a rotten culture that teaches players that they are bullet proof, untouchable.
After two dozen Nittany Lions forced their way into an off-campus party and proceeded to assault several individuals Joe Paterno ordered his players not to cooperate with Penn State's Judicial Affairs department. As a result, sanctions weren't nearly as harsh as they would have been had they involved non-football players. Paterno's solution was to force his players to clean the stadium. Running bleachers and cleaning stadiums are common punishments, but certainly aren't an adequate deterrent, especially when players are taught from arrival on campus that they are untouchable.
Of course we now know that Paterno's desire to control his own program allowed a sexual predator to roam State College for three decades. But hey, they sure won a bunch of games, right? It's sickening. Baylor built a temple on the banks of the Brazos, but in doing so allowed players to commit deplorable acts including sexual assault.
The history books will lead with Paterno, Switzer, and Briles' records and championships, the off-field incidents will always be a foot note. And lest you think your beloved alma mater is aobve reproach, they aren't. Wherever there are 70,000 seats to fill and millions of dollars in revenue at stake, values will be compromised, dispensation will be given. Paterno was literally the most powerful man on campus and above reproach in the media. What was hidden below the surface was a king protecting his kingdom by all means necessary. Penn State actually fired the Vice President of Affairs, responsible for investigating student indiscretions, because she wouldn't cater to Poe Pa's whims. That's what Joe wanted. Joe got what he wanted.
At Baylor, Briles and his staff pressured victims, controlled the judicial affairs process, and let rapists run free on Saturdays. We now know the problems at Waco included other assaults, gun crimes, and selling drugs. It's like a broken record. At OU Switzer didn't just cover up minor crimes, players were involved in gang rape, drug trafficking, and on campus shootings. Still in spite of it all, Switzer supporters took out a full page ad in support of their coach. There were no #TruthDontLie or #CAB hashtags, but the broken record played on. At Penn State there are former players and alums who want Paterno's statue resurrected.
The sentiment is always the same, just win no matter the cost.