Letter to the Editor

In college athletics, the “death penalty” has been implemented by the NCAA a total of five times, with the most infamous example falling to the Southern Methodist University (SMU) football program in 1987. The severity of the death penalty requires a minimum one year ban from NCAA athletics and is meant to serve as the highest form of punishment from the NCAA. The rule is meant to punish programs that habitually violate major NCAA rules, ranging from recruiting violations to academic misconduct. The wording of the death penalty by the NCAA mentions a “pattern of willful violations” grounds to enforce a ruling. In the case of SMU, the NCAA deemed the prolonged process of paying recruits and players as a suitable offense to institute the death penalty. It may be difficult constitute what is worthy of the death penalty with so few previous cases, but it seems that no program has exhibited a “pattern of willful violations” more so than the University of Baylor football program.

The most recent investigation alleges 51 sexual assault incidents involving Baylor football players ranging from 2011-2016. Baylor has previously acknowledged 17 incidents of sexual assault. Even numbers half that large seem to sufficient meet the NCAA definition of a “pattern of willful violations”. This can be no mere coincidence, but rather must stem from a systematic failure and the creation of a violent and dangerous culture. One of the six federal laws filed against Baylor concluded that Baylor incorrectly addressed and responded to sexual assaults allegations by students. Their proven inability to address widespread allegations of sexual assault, clearly indicates an ineptitude to enforce a university judicial system. With Baylor failing as a university to impose significant ramifications against themselves, it seems as if this constitutes grounds for NCAA interference. The allegations must go through the due process of the judicial system, but if allegations of Baylor are found to be true and even as partially widespread as proposed there is only one suitable option.  If the NCAA is to serve as the regulatory body to all collegiate sports programs, they could not under good conscious fail to impose the death penalty on a program displaying a “pattern of willful violations” as egregious as the Baylor University football program.

-Donald Hamm

Senior, Exercise Science