Former Baylor D-coordinator Phil Bennett addresses sexual assault scandal

FORT WORTH, Texas -- Former Baylor defensive coordinator Phil Bennett said the review launched by a legal firm after the school's sexual assault scandal included an interview he describes as a "fraud."

Bennett told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in a question-and-answer segment published Wednesday that he met in early 2016 with two investigators from the Pepper Hamilton law firm.

"I told [other Baylor staffers] it was a fraud setup from the get-go," said Bennett, who claimed he wasn't allowed to have an attorney with him or record the session. The investigators "were so out of touch with the structure of college football it was comical."

The Pepper Hamilton firm from Philadelphia was hired by Baylor in September 2015 to conduct an independent internal investigation of the school's Title IX policies and procedures regarding sexual assault claims, including some against football players. That investigation led to 105 recommendations for the school to reform its Title IX process after finding the football program operated as if it was "above the rules" and that assistant coaches and staff interfered or stifled investigations into alleged assaults by players. Football coach Art Briles, who had built the program into a Big 12 power, was fired. School president Ken Starr was demoted and later resigned.

Baylor has settled several lawsuits and still faces others that claim the school ignored or mishandled complaints of sexual or physical assault for years.

Baylor issued a response to the newspaper about Bennett's interview, noting that Baylor regents in December 2016 unanimously reaffirmed their full confidence concerning the Pepper Hamilton investigation. That came after a report by a special committee that reviewed the methodology, scope of work and findings of the investigation.

"After receiving the committee's review and analysis, the Board found no facts to support concerns raised and concluded that the Pepper Hamilton investigation was comprehensive, unbiased and professional," Baylor said its statement Wednesday. "The Board voted unanimously against engaging another firm to review the investigation."

In his interview with the Star-Telegram, Bennett said never did a member of the Baylor coaching staff try to suppress or hide allegations of sexual assault against members of the football program.

"The biggest thing was the Pepper Hamilton report put there was that all of the coaches knew in the 'Finding of Fact .' That threw all of us in the same hopper; that we were concealing something," said Bennett, adding that a PR firm hired by Baylor "was going to hatchet everybody."

After Briles was fired in May 2016, Bennett stayed as Baylor's defensive coordinator for the 2016 season when interim coach Jim Grobe retained all the assistant coaches from Briles' staff. They were all gone after Matt Rhule became Baylor's head coach in December 2016.

Baylor said the facts concerning the school's past handling of incidents of sexual assault have not changed and the university was confident in the personnel changes that came after that. Along with the departures of Briles and Starr, athletic director Ian McCaw also left Baylor.

Bennett was the defensive coordinator at Arizona State last season. When head coach Todd Graham was fired, new Sun Devils coach Herm Edwards had hoped to keep the D-coordinator. But the 62-year-old Bennett said in December that he was leaving for personal and health issues.

The Star-Telegram reported that Bennett is taking a year away from coaching.