Kim Mulkey won her 500th career basketball game Saturday afternoon and the Big 12 regular season title when Baylor defeated Texas Tech. Mulkey has spent the last 17 seasons as the head coach of the Baylor program and in that time she’s guided the Bears to two National Championships and 15 NCAA appearances. Accomplishments worth celebrating, yet no one found themselves celebrating anything Saturday. Many instead were questioning the coach and the perception of an unchanged culture at Baylor.
In post game comments, Mulkey told a crowd of supporters while speaking from the Ferrell Center floor “If somebody is around you and they say, ‘I will never send my daughter to Baylor,’ you knock them right in the face,” Mulkey then continued “Because these kids are on this campus. I work here. My daughter went to school here…And it’s the damn best school in America.”
The coach continued her tirade at post game press conference telling the media “I’m just tired of hearing it, I’m tired of people talking on it on a national scale that don’t know what they’re talking about. If they didn’t sit in those meetings and they weren’t a part of the investigation, you’re repeating things that you’ve heard. It’s over, it’s done.
“I would send my daughter here and I’d pay for anyone else’s daughter to come here. I work here every day. I’m in the know and I’m tired of hearing it. The problems we have at Baylor are no different than the problems at any other school in America. Period.”
Mulkey’s comments seem to insinuate that somehow Baylor is the victim in the sexual assault scandal that has engulfed the Waco campus for more than a year. It implies that the Bear community needs to be consoled and helped, not the numerous women who were assaulted. Mulkey’s comments speak a to much deeper issue at Baylor, loyalty to the university still out weighs anything else. Sadly, she is hardly the first coach to either out of loyalty or something else to stick up for players or an institution that has no business being defended.
Most recently, Tracy Claeys was fired at Minnesota after defending his player’s decision to boycott after the university had suspended 10 football players during a sexual assault investigation. The boycott, which lasted just two days briefly put Minnesota’s bowl game with Washington State in jeopardy. Claeys in a tweet said “Have never been more proud of our kids. I respect their rights & support their effort to make a better world!” Claeys decision was not received well by the administration or some fans. Ultimately Minnesota’s athletic department felt Claeys actions and loyalty to his players was too much, and a change was made.
The trouble is for many coaches walking a fine line of player or institutional loyalty and acknowledging the truth is often times difficult at best. Coaches have the dubious task of needing to be a players coach in order to still recruit yet still showing enough discipline to appease an administration. Loyalty is noble and a trait that is often served well in many of life’s avenues, especially college athletics. Yet at the same time, too much loyalty cost Claeys his job and allowed Mulkey to say what she said.
While Mulkey has since walked her comments back telling ESPN “I hate that I used the remark about punching them in the face,” Mulkey said. “That was not literal. I was trying to make a point, to be firm in what you are saying back at them. I’m not a violent person. I apologize for the very poor choice of words.”
Coach Mulkey clearly felt the need to address the scandal at Baylor and defend the university. Perhaps it was out of loyalty and she expressed herself poorly or perhaps Mulkey’s comments point a larger issue at Baylor. If the Baylor community still sees themselves as the victim, then the Bears have a long way to go in understanding what truly happened on the Waco campus. Blind loyalty can not trump acknowledging or excusing an issue and it can not get in the way of supporting and allowing much-needed change.
No matter how loyal one may be to a certain institution or group of players, there must be a place and time to draw a line and recognize what is really going on.
That line was passed long ago in regards to Baylor.
Cody Junot joined College AD in November, 2014 as a contributing writer and was shortly promoted to Associate Editor in July, 2015. Cody graduated from UL Lafayette in 2011 with a degree in Sports Management.