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Baylor scandal is a slap in the face to all women, none more than Kim Mulkey

Wonder what Kim Mulkey thinks about all this?

That question has been running through my head in recent weeks as continually damning information about Baylor football and its mishandling of rampant allegations of violence against women. Reports piled up indicating that football players were assaulting women, and worse, the university and the police were not handling the cases properly.

An independent investigation by a third-party law firm was recently commissioned by the school.

We can assume what it discovered wasn't good.

On Friday, Baylor fired football coach Art Briles.

And again, I'm thinking of Mulkey.

I know, I know, in these parts, the women's basketball coach is not a popular figure. She stalks up and down the sideline. She rants and raves at referees, not to mention her own players. But more than anything, she beats the dog out of opponents.

Sooners and Cowgirls alike might let the crazy stuff go, even the over-the-top outfits, if Mulk wasn't so darn good.

But the reason she keeps popping to my mind is that Mulkey started this current Baylor renaissance. Tons of credit has been given to Briles over the past few years for what is going on in Waco. New stadium. Powerful vibe. Strong pride. But there's a good chance Baylor football wouldn't be where it is without Mulkey.

She was hired to take over women's basketball in 2000, and while track and baseball had long been strong programs at the school, Baylor was struggling in the Big 12. Success was limited across the board. But Mulkey quickly got results, taking the Bears to the NCAA Tournament in her first season and darn near winning the Big 12 regular-season crown in her second.

Not long after, Baylor found itself engulfed in scandal. A member of the men's basketball team was dead. A teammate was arrested. And charges of impropriety and immorality by then-coach Dave Bliss were rampant.

Losing ball games was one thing. But this? It was a black eye that lasted years, bringing Baylor down even more.

Then in 2005, Mulkey and her Bears won the national title.

Suddenly, everyone associated with Baylor and Waco and anything green and gold was walking a little taller. The Bears were national champions, and it wasn't often that Baylor could say that. 

I've had numerous folks over the years tell me how much of a catalyst that title was. It brought the school together. It made people believe that greatness was possible. It planted the seeds of possibility that bloomed into Robert Griffin III and Big 12 football titles and a gleaming new stadium hard by the Brazos River.

What's more, the change was instigated by women.

The Bears had a roster that was beloved by Baylorites. Sophia Young was the star, but she was as gritty and tough as any. Then, there were players like Steffanie Blackmon and Emily Neimann and others that captured hearts. They were strong and talented and powerful and successful.

Baylor fans thought of them as "our girls."

And no one was more "theirs" than Mulkey, strong and talented and powerful and successful in her own right.

But now, a campus and a school once buoyed by a group of women is now in the cross-hairs for how it has treated and valued women. Their accusations of rape and assault were swept under the rug. Their well-beings were forgotten about. In essence, they were devalued. These are ugly and awful accusations that lead you to only one conclusion -- women on the Baylor campus weren't as important as football wins.

Wonder what Kim Mulkey thinks about all this?

A school that she did so much for has now treated women so badly. It's a slap in the face for all women everywhere, but it hurts worse when you love the abuser like Mulkey loves Baylor.

Jenni Carlson

Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football... Read more ›

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