In the aftermath of the sexual assault scandal at his beloved Baylor University, billionaire Drayton McLane has yet to read the Pepper Hamilton report that prompted the Baptist school to fire football coach Art Briles and demote president Ken Starr, and forced athletics director Ian McCaw to resign.
A little more than four years ago, he made the lead gift in the campaign to build McLane Stadium, a quaint 45,000-seat facility on the edge of the Brazos River. The Aggies, Longhorns and Dallas Cowboys have larger and more imposing stadiums, but the picturesque view at McLane Stadium is unparalleled in Texas.
“As a family, we wanted to do something that would shine a light on the university we love, while enhancing student life at Baylor and impacting positively the city of Waco and Central Texas,” McLane said in March 2012 after he made his donation, which was reported to be $25 million.
Like most Baylor alums, McLane has been saddened by the sexual assault scandal. As the former chairman of the Baylor Board of Regents, he understands his opinion still carries a lot of weight at the school, which is why the former Astros owner turned down all interview requests on the subject until he gave an in-depth interview recently to the Post-Dispatch.
“I’m just devastated,” McLane said. “Just devastated. You can’t condone that anywhere. I talked always about commitment to the Astros and honesty, integrity and high Christian principles. I’m devastated that the problem wasn’t solved quickly when they knew that it happened so that it wouldn’t take several years.”
McLane, who spent 19 years on Baylor’s board of regents, is quick to point out that he has been off the board for six years. Although McLane is Baylor’s biggest benefactor, he is adamant that he hasn’t had access to the Pepper Hamilton report. Late last week, Starr resigned as chancellor and the AD resigned as well.
McLane, 78, was close to Briles and Starr. Those men convinced him to let the school call the football stadium McLane Stadium. The McLane family initially named the facility “Baylor Stadium” after giving the lead gift to start the fundraising campaign to build the facility.
Starr urged McLane to put his name on the stadium because it might help garner more funds from the business community.
“And Art Briles said it would help in recruiting,” McLane said. “I went to Baylor. My sons (Drayton III and Denton) went to Baylor and a number of my family went to Baylor.”
McLane is a great example of the benefits of a Baylor education. Surely, football studs interested in studying business would be impressed to know a billionaire attended the school and thought enough of Baylor to send his sons there.
If only Baylor’s leadership had bothered to learn how McLane ran the Astros from 1993 through 2011.
You can be certain Baylor would not be in this mess if the university’s leadership had taken a page out of McLane’s book. McLane didn’t tolerate domestic violence under his watch. He didn’t wait for the police to determine guilt.
McLane had a decision to make on April 30, 2003, after Houston police officers walked into the home clubhouse at Minute Maid Park and arrested starting shortstop Julio Lugo on suspicion of spousal abuse.
McLane ordered the Astros to designate Lugo for assignment the very next day although he knew releasing the shortstop would cost him the remaining of Lugo’s $1.575 million contract.
Lugo’s wife Mabely accused him of punching her in the face on the drive to the stadium and then slamming her face against a car window in the parking lot.
Lugo was acquitted three months later, but McLane never had any regrets. He had more than enough evidence to know he didn’t want Lugo on his team.
“Two or three of the players saw him in the parking lot,” McLane said. “And they saw him in the act. When the manager told me, I just said I didn’t want any part of him. We owed him a million and a half. You got to take responsibility and not wait for committees or long deliberations.”
McLane also didn’t hesitate to act after pitcher Shawn Chacon assaulted Astros general manager Ed Wade in the home clubhouse dining room in front of several teammates in 2008.
In the aftermath of the Baylor scandal, a few people close to McLane have asked him about the Lugo incident.
“Would you have appointed a law firm to come study Julio Lugo’s incident?” McLane says he has been asked.
For the record, the answer is no.
“You see in a lot of sports teams and professional teams and universities, they appoint investigations, but when they have highly credible sources, they should act,” McLane said. “If there was — and I have not seen the evidence and the review in the Pepper Hamilton report — if there were victims they should have investigated quickly and taken proper actions.”
Unfortunately, Baylor’s leadership was too busy building a football powerhouse to bother with dismissing the criminals on the football team.
“The choices made by football staff and athletics leadership, in some instances, posed a risk to campus safety and the integrity of the University,” Baylor’s Board of Regents reported. “In certain instances, including reports of a sexual assault by multiple football players, athletics and football personnel affirmatively chose not to report sexual violence and dating violence to an appropriate administrator outside of athletics.”
Now it’s up to the people who love Baylor to get the school back to the Christian principles it proudly claims.
McLane Stadium should house a team that truly represents the values that are dear to Drayton McLane Jr. and the majority of the Baylor family.
“I’m just crushed at what happened,” McLane said. “We need to clean it up and get back to higher Christian values of education.”