Baylor faction's post-Art Briles turmoil shows ugly side of college fandom

Nobody knows exactly what percentage of Baylor fans and alums oppose the sweeping administrative changes the school undertook in late May to correct abject failures of leadership and conscience in the wake of multiple violent acts by football players in recent years.

But we do know that those people exist. And they are not going away. Specifically, we know that a faction of the school’s backers appear to be tangibly more upset by the loss of their winning football coach than the physical and psychological damage done to several women by Bears players.

Some members of the Baylor Board of Regents are trying to get football coach Art Briles reinstated after a one-year suspension, as opposed to firing him. That has been reported by multiple media outlets, and a few regents past and present have put their names behind that sentiment this week. There was considerable speculation Monday that a regents conference call would include a vote to lessen Briles’ punishment and keep him as coach, though Baylor interim president David Garland subsequently threw cold water on that scenario.

Regardless what did or did not transpire on that call, some powerful and connected Baylor people want their winning coach back.

Then there is the Twitter account that sprang to life earlier this month, @BayloRevolution. It links to a blog of the same name. In a post dated June 2, it lists the following reason for its existence:

“Baylor Revolution is a blog about one thing: change. It's time for change. It's time to fight for Baylor.

Whether Baylor regents discussed bringing Art Briles back, a faction of the fan base clearly wants it to happen. (AP)
Whether Baylor regents discussed bringing Art Briles back, a faction of the fan base clearly wants it to happen. (AP)

“For too long, Baylor has been attacked by the regional and national media bent on her destruction. National epidemics being pushed as a Baylor only problem will not go unchallenged any longer. The landscape of college athletics, rooted in the almighty dollar run by media goliaths, is not fond of Baylor Football's emergence. Facing a playing field tilted against them, it's time our coaches and athletes had an unyielding advocate. The future of Baylor clouded in questionable decision-making and one public relations disaster after another simply must change.

“The spirits of old Baylor will not stand for it any longer. It's time for the Baylor Revolution.”

In less than two weeks, @BayloRevolution has accumulated 879 followers as of 5:40 p.m. EDT Tuesday. That’s hardly a huge following, but it’s worth noting that Baylor’s sexual-assault awareness Twitter account, @ItsOnUsBU, had 310 followers at the same time. That account has existed for a year longer than @BayloRevolution.

Last week I attempted to reach @BayloRevolution through its contact link on the blog. I requested a phone interview to find out more about who runs it and why. There was no response. A blog that says “facts and truth matter most” apparently was not willing to share any facts about itself with Yahoo Sports.

On June 9, one week after the original post announced the creation of a blog dedicated to getting back at the media and fighting for a university that clearly was being smeared because it just got too good, too soon, in football, a new note was sounded. Here came a “foundational statement” that actually acknowledged the victims of sexual assault at Baylor.

Oh, yeah. Them.

Among the paragraphs therein: “Please, please hear me and my colleagues on this: Any woman who has been assaulted or sexually assaulted deserves justice. We want you to know that you matter, we hurt for you and we want the facts and truth of your case to be known. We stand with you against interpersonal violence and we demand your case be adjudicated properly and your needs supported.”

Noble. And notably tardy.

The blog did not exist during the months when those victims were telling their stories, or when documents were coming to light that cast massive doubt on whether anyone in positions of authority at Baylor gave a damn about those women. Nor was that “foundational statement” the first statement from the blog’s creators. That was the call to arms against the media goliaths. It reads as if – ding, ding – someone pointed out that this was one more tone-deaf lamentation over the fate of Baylor football without regard to what had happened to Baylor coeds. So the bloggers patched over that gaping hole in their motivation.

Then they moved on to bashing a woman who made a potentially dubious claim of assault against a former Baylor running back. And to other posts that tilt sympathetically toward Briles and hopefully toward his return.

So there is your Baylor Revolution. Revolting, isn’t it?

Baylor hired Jim Grobe to lead its football program after the 'suspension with intent to terminate' of Art Briles. (AP)
Baylor hired Jim Grobe to lead its football program after the 'suspension with intent to terminate' of Art Briles. (AP)

The problem with some Baylor backers is the problem with the JoeBots who rushed past acknowledging the Sandusky victims in order to wage war over Joe Paterno’s firing. It’s the problem with the Ohio State fans who wanted to reduce Jim Tressel’s firing years ago to an overreaction to free tattoos (you hear from fewer of those now, because Urban Meyer). It’s the problem with a faction of every college fan base that refuses to accept reality and consequences when their favorite program screws up.

Consequences that can include the dismissal of the winning football coach. Which is apparently intolerable for some.

This mentality is the worst of all college fan behaviors. Most of the people who dwell in this dark place simply want their program to keep winning more than they want anything else – more than they want accountability, and more than they want class and integrity. And they care about that more than anything else  - including, in the case of Baylor, women who were not just assaulted by the players but also victimized all over again by their university.

But here’s the question: How many of those people are there? What is the percentage of fans who would trade anything and everything for on-field glory?

We don’t know – at Baylor or anywhere else. They are almost certainly in the minority – but their existence can make the majority of a fan base look bad.