Brenda Tracy: Players were engaged, but assistant questioned her presence at Baylor

ByPaula Lavigne ESPN logo
Saturday, October 1, 2016

An alleged rape survivor who visited Baylor football players in July to discuss sexual assault prevention spoke out Friday about an assistant coach who questioned her visit and who she says denied that the football program had anything to do with the school's recent problems addressing sexual assaults.

Brenda Tracy, who has said she was gang-raped at Oregon State in 1998, wrote a blog for The Huffington Post on Friday about her experience speaking at Baylor this summer. It was a response to what she said was a series of harassing and offensive social media messages, including death threats, from self-described Baylor fans and supporters.

"I felt like the players were great. They were all engaged. They were all listening and all paying attention," she told Outside the Lines of her talk July 25 with the Baylor football team. "I was really surprised and caught off guard when this coach pulled me aside. I was really surprised that he was that bold to say those things, but he was really awful and terrible."

Tracy said the assistant coach grabbed her and ushered her into an office as soon as she started to leave the room. She said she was accompanied by Baylor Title IX coordinator Patty Crawford. Tracy did not name the coach in her Huffington Post blog.

"One of the first things he says is he didn't understand why I was there," she told OTL. "He said this wasn't a football issue. This was an issue on the rest of the campus. And he just went on and on that [former head coach] Art Briles did absolutely nothing and this was all unfounded and nothing happened and they were being treated unfairly and there was some conspiracy going on against Baylor football."

Baylor said in a statement Friday evening that it was looking into the conversation between Tracy and the assistant coach.

"We have great respect for the work Brenda is doing and for her courage in telling her story. Her interaction with the young men on our football team was incredibly positive and we are grateful for her engagement with our university," the statement read.

Tracy has been speaking publicly to college football teams across the country since she met with Nebraska coach Mike Riley and his team in June. In 1998, Tracy reported being drugged and raped by four men, including two Oregon State football players, on the school's Corvallis campus. The men were arrested, but Tracy did not press charges.

Riley, who was Oregon State's coach at the time, suspended the players involved for one game. Tracy, who lives near Portland, Oregon, told her story to a newspaper in 2014. Her summer visit to Nebraska -- where she and Riley made amends -- drew nationwide attention. It also prompted Baylor interim coach Jim Grobe to invite her to speak to his team in Waco. Her visit came on the heels of Briles' firing in connection with the Baylor board of regents' review of a report detailing the school and athletic department's handling of sexual assault complaints.

The findings issued in May from law firm Pepper Hamilton, which also resulted in the ouster of former university president Kenneth Starr and the resignation of athletic director Ian McCaw, described the football program as being "above the rules," with "no culture of accountability for misconduct," and that "some football coaches and staff abdicated responsibilities" under federal gender equity laws.

Crawford did not immediately return email or phone messages left Friday afternoon by Outside the Lines.

Tracy told OTL that she immediately told Baylor associate athletic director Nick Joos about the exchange with the assistant coach, whose name she did not know at the time. She identified him later by looking at photos of the coaching staff online.OTL reached out to the assistant, who did not return a phone message or email.

Tracy said she told Joos, "If this was an indication of the rest of the staff, then they're going to have a problem. He said that he would look into it."

Tracy said she felt like she was"going to the principal's office" when the assistant coach pulled her in. "He just didn't understand why I was there talking to them," she told OTL.

She said she and Crawford explained how preventing sexual violence is everyone's responsibility and that football players are "in a position of power on campus to influence other students" in patterning good behavior. "I was not there to comment about Art Briles," she said.

Tracy said she left the office feeling "defeated."

"I'm leaving, and this is what these kids are left with? This horrible attitude? That is not conducive to any type of change," she told OTL. "If you're not going to acknowledge that anything is wrong, it's a problem."

Tracy's speaking out about her experience with the assistant coach comes shortly after the school received criticism for an incident during Baylor's Sept. 16 game at Rice, where former player Shawn Oakman -- who was indicted in July for felony second-degree sexual assault -- was spotted on the sideline walking alongside assistant coach Chris Achuff. Oakman also was present in the locker room with the team. Grobe said he was not aware of Oakman's presence, and the university later issued a statement saying Oakman was banned from all Baylor-owned facilities and locker rooms at future away games.

Last Saturday, Starr defended Briles, saying he was unfairly criticized by the media for his handling of allegations of sexual assault against some of his players. During an interview at the Texas Tribune Festival in Austin, Starr said Briles was an "honorable man who conducted an honorable program" and that a "grave injustice" was done to him.

Tracy said she has received a great deal of backlash after making recent comments in the media about Baylor and Briles.

"The players have worked hard and they are winning. You can't take that from them. However, there is nothing wrong with expressing compassion for the victims and understanding that 'winning' may be hurtful for them," she wrote in her Huffington Post piece.

"Yes, there are young men left on the football team and they are suffering. And there are victims who are suffering. Many things can be true at once," she said. "[Fans] are so angry about Art Briles being fired that they're not taking into consideration anything else. I hope the victims are being supported as vehemently as Art Briles is."

Related Video