Litigation Update: Where Baylor leaders involve Walter Abercrombie and Tommye Lou Davis asks for Buddy Jones’s help

August 13, 2015

“What Walter (Abercrombie) doesn’t understand is his job will be in jeopardy if he connects this (golf sponsorship) with the BAA.” 

–Tommye Lou Davis to John Barry, March 2012

“I just hope and pray those terrorists try to complain that Baylor shouldn’t build an on campus stadium if it takes their building.”

–Buddy Jones to group of Regents in November 2011, the very day Baylor decided to hire Populous to design McLane Stadium.

Dear BAA Members,

Back in June, I provided an update (In Their Own Words) on the things we had learned to that point in the discovery phase of Baylor’s lawsuit against the BAA. We outline today some of the new things we’ve learned, with links to the e-mails included throughout. The BAA and Baylor University are connected by more than 156 years of cooperation, history and tradition, but also by legal contracts giving the BAA the right to serve as the official alumni organization of Baylor University. Baylor filed this lawsuit on June 6, 2014, seeking to avoid its obligations under two key provisions in those agreements:

  • The Independent Voice: Baylor’s lawsuit asks the court to void the perpetual, fully-paid license signed by Baylor that gives the BAA the legal right to use its own name, to publish the Baylor Line alumni magazine, and to speak in a voice free from control by the Board of Regents and administration.
  • Baylor’s Demolition of the Hughes-Dillard Alumni Center: Baylor demolished the Hughes-Dillard building in August 2013 and has refused to provide the BAA with a replacement in violation of a contract between Baylor and the BAA. Baylor claimed to “need” the land under Hughes-Dillard to build McLane Stadium, which is located approximately half a mile away from Hughes-Dillard, beyond the Daniel Historic Village, beyond the law school, and on the opposite bank of the Brazos River. At issue in the lawsuit are (A) whether Baylor’s statement of need was fraudulent and, (B) even if there were a need to demolish the building, why Baylor is breaching its agreement to provide a replacement.

In recent weeks, depositions have been taken from former BAA Executive Vice President Jeff Kilgore and former BAA Chief Operating Officer Chad Wooten about the finances and membership of the organization; from former Regents Chair Buddy Jones; and from current Baylor VP for Constituent Relations Tommye Lou Davis.  Transcripts of those depositions are not yet available to share with our membership.

The evidence continues to show the broad scope of the effort being pursued by a few senior Baylor regents and administrators against the BAA for reasons that defy explanation, and their efforts to mask their actions with the PR slogan “courtesy, respect and hospitality.”

Ken Starr’s “Pivotal Words” of “Courtesy, Respect and Hospitality.” 

President Starr responded to our last litigation update by writing a guest column in the July 12 Waco Trib.  President Starr did not challenge the accuracy of our reporting or deny the authenticity of the business records we cited in our update. But he wrote that, from his earliest days as Baylor’s president, he encouraged all to embrace what he called the “pivotal words” of “courtesy, respect and hospitality” toward the BAA.  Tommye Lou Davis, Baylor’s VP in charge of alumni relations, used that same phrase in her June 26, 2015 letter to the editor of the Waco Trib when she apologized for failing to follow President Starr’s stated intention to treat the BAA with “courtesy, respect and hospitality.” Yet, e-mails produced by Baylor suggest that Ken Starr’s administration did not intend to actually treat the BAA with “courtesy, respect and hospitality.” Baylor’s own business records show that the Starr administration’s policy was — in their words—to “put the BAA out of business” and to mask their efforts with false, outward “courtesy, respect, and hospitality.”  Consider the following business communications among President Starr’s most senior administrators:

  • On June 26, 2011, regarding the placement of the BAA tailgate tent in a remote, undesirable location to prevent the BAA from engaging with alumni, Tommye Lou Davis wrote to President Starr’s chief of staff Karla Leeper, “I have been saying to Buddy [Jones] when he calls re tailgating that we are making progress (‘putting the BAA out of business’) with the strategy of courtesy, respect, and hospitality.”
  • Karla Leeper also acknowledged President Starr’s strategy was to “put the BAA out of business” in a March 15, 2011, e-mail to President Starr and Tommye Lou Davis. Addressing the e-mail to her “Fellow BAA warriors,” Leeper informed President Starr that Regent Dary Stone “believes that someone is working intentionally at cross purposes with our strategy of driving the BAA out of business.
  • Tommye Lou Davis touted this strategy in yet another e-mail to Regent Buddy Jones, writing on Feb. 28, 2011, “Don’t ever doubt how I feel about the BAA. I have a strategy. They need to go away. I am and will continue to work with that goal always in mind.”

Threatening a Legend’s Job Security

The extent to which senior members of President Starr’s administration were willing to go to put the BAA out of business is shocking.  For example, the “B” Association hosts an annual golf tournament to raise money and engage with its members. In 2012, the “B” Association was an independent non-profit corporation with close ties to Baylor. Walter Abercrombie, a beloved Wacoan, Baylor football All-American, and former Pittsburgh Steeler, is the long-time Executive Director of the “B” Association.  Baylor’s administration had arranged in 2010 and 2011 for regent Bob Beachamp to donate the $10,000 title sponsorship for the “B” Association’s annual fundraising golf tournament so that, in Baylor VP of Communications John Barry’s words, “we could move the BAA out of the title sponsorship role.”

With the 2012 “B” Association event approaching, it became apparent that Mr. Beachamp, who generously donates to many Baylor endeavors, intended to direct his donations elsewhere within Baylor for 2012. Baylor VPs John Barry and Tommye Lou Davis began looking for other ways to interfere with the BAA’s standing offer to sponsor the “B” Association event. On March 9, 2012, Tommye Lou Davis wrote to John Barry, “What Walter [Abercrombie] doesn’t understand is his job will be in jeopardy if he connects this with the BAA. We do not have $10,000 extra dollars [sic] in our budget this year but I can certainly ask Dary and Buddy to chip in $5 [sic] a piece. Let me know if you think that is a good idea. In the meantime, please keep Walter from jumping of the cliff re this matter.”

In the end, the “B” Association received funding elsewhere and politely and regretfully declined the BAA’s standing offer to donate $10,000 to this gathering of Baylor alumni.

Using Buddy Jones – With or Without President Starr’s Blessing?

We previously reported on business e-mails showing that Buddy Jones successfully urged President Starr in 2011 to place the BAA tailgate at the “farthest reaches of Siberia” to interfere with the BAA’s ability to engage alumni at football games. New evidence appears to show that Tommye Lou Davis actually instigated much of Buddy Jones’s involvement — all while apparently leading Starr, then-Chief of Staff Karla Leeper, and others to believe that she was trying to calm Buddy Jones down.

  • June 22, 2011:  Tommye Lou Davis e-mails Buddy Jones that “I may need your help…with a couple of folks on the executive council,” which is a group of President Starr’s top executives, and tells him that she’ll let him know after the June 24 executive council meeting “whether or not there is resistance to my suggestion” to move the BAA tent.  Jones responds that President Starr’s Executive Council “better not” give any resistance to Ms. Davis’s preferred spot for the BAA. If so, Jones promises, “I will go ballistic.” Davis responds later that day proposing the text of an e-mail that Buddy Jones could send to President Starr and his Executive Council recommending moving the BAA to a faraway location “across Clay or on the other side of Waco Creek.”
  • June 24, 2011: Jones sends an e-mail at 2:31 p.m. to Starr, McCaw, Leeper and others that is essentially a copy and paste of Tommye Lou Davis’s suggested text.  Leeper then forwarded the Buddy Jones e-mails to Davis and asks for Davis’s thoughts, apparently unaware that Davis had written Buddy Jones’s initial e-mail.  Davis suggests Leeper forward the e-mails to Athletic Director Ian McCaw because “he needs to understand the scope of what we are dealing with regarding this issue.”

Thus, it is now known that Tommye Lou Davis alerted Regent Chair Buddy Jones to the tailgate issue, asked for his “help” convincing Starr’s Executive Council on where to place the tailgate, and even wrote the e-mail for Buddy Jones.

It is also known that Tommye Lou Davis then used Buddy Jones’s e-mail (which she wrote) to influence the Executive Council.

As we previously reported, President Starr decided to place the tailgate where Davis and Jones suggested – across Clay and on the other side of Waco Creek. The evidence so far does not indicate whether President Starr knew in 2011 that Tommye Lou Davis went over his head to board chair Buddy Jones to influence President Starr’s decision over where to locate the BAA tailgate.

A True “Need” to Demolish Hughes-Dillard? Baylor Tries to Block Production of Records from its Architect

In this lawsuit, Baylor seeks to avoid its obligations under a contract that would have allowed Baylor to demolish the BAA’s home (the Hughes-Dillard Alumni Center) if there were a genuine “need” to do so, but that would require Baylor to provide the BAA with a similar replacement at a similar location on campus. We previously reported on Tommye Lou Davis’s e-mails with Buddy Jones expressing her glee at the prospect of tearing down the BAA headquarters and her view that “If it is tied to the stadium, few will complain! J How sweet it will be!”

Baylor claims in this lawsuit that the “need” to demolish Hughes-Dillard is supported by a recommendation from Populous, the architecture firm that Baylor hired to design the new stadium. Baylor did not produce in discovery documents containing any such recommendation from Populous or any study showing that Populous deemed the demolition of Hughes-Dillard to be helpful, much less a necessity. Baylor produced no communications with Populous about the basis for the demolition of Hughes-Dillard.

The BAA’s lawyers began the process of requesting records from Populous, a standard practice when one party relies on the supposed opinions of another. The BAA’s lawyers sought to obtain the documents relating to the decision to destroy Hughes-Dillard, including communications between Baylor and Populous about the supposed need to tear down Hughes-Dillard.  Yet Baylor’s legal team attempted to prevent the BAA from obtaining documents reflecting the communications from Baylor to Populous—documents that would prove whether Baylor requested that Hughes-Dillard be demolished or, as its contract with the BAA required, requested that Populous devise an alternative plan. The judge denied Baylor’s attempt to dramatically limit the requests and issued an order that accommodates the BAA’s request for the core of the relevant information while limiting the scope of the production in several aspects – a common result in a discovery dispute. Populous will now have an opportunity to comply with the judge’s order and produce records showing the basis for their recommendation and communications with Baylor about the asserted need to demolish Hughes-Dillard, or Populous may fight the requests in Missouri.

We now know that in September or October of 2011, Buddy Jones, Dary Stone, Drayton McLane, Reagan Ramsower (Baylor’s CFO), and possibly Ken Starr travelled to Kansas City to interview Populous for the job of designing Baylor’s stadium, which was then only an idea. We have not seen any e-mails, notes or other documents related to what was discussed on that trip.

On November 3 and 4, 2011, a committee of Baylor’s Board of Regents and then the Regent body voted to hire Populous as the architect to design the new stadium. That same day, in a November 4, 2011 e-mail (attached below), Regent Milton Hixson raised the following question: “Does the drawing [of the stadium concept] show the area where the Alumni Association is currently located? If yes, does the drawing still show the Alumni Association building in that location? In no way am I trying to change any decision that was made today. I am simply trying to give a “heads up” in case this issue surfaces soon once the drawing is released.”

Buddy Jones responded 55 minutes later to Hixson’s e-mail: “I just hope and pray those terrorists try to complain that Baylor shouldn’t build an on campus stadium if it takes their building.”

These e-mails appear to show that, on the very day the regents voted to hire Populous to design the stadium, a decision to demolish Hughes-Dillard may have already been made, and a political messaging strategy under way to put the BAA in the position of opposing the stadium construction – a position the BAA has never taken. The e-mails, notes and testimony of those who made the trip to Kansas City to interview Populous are very important. We will keep you posted.

President Starr’s Conscience

We previously reported that, early in his presidency, President Starr wrote repeatedly to his subordinates about his unhappiness at being micro-managed by Buddy Jones in regard to the BAA [August 2011], the fact that President Starr was “unimpressed. (To put it mildly)” with Buddy Jones [August 26, 2011], and President Starr’s view that Buddy Jones should “rein in mendaciously destructive renegades” rather than focus on the BAA. [August 26, 2011]. I Googled “mendacious,” and it apparently means lying, untruthful, dishonest, deceitful, false and other similar words. President Starr even wrote in December 2010, “I will not be able, in conscience, to carry on a policy of in effect waging war within the Baylor family.”

After the depositions of Buddy Jones, Karla Leeper, and Tommye Lou Davis, we are not aware of anyone who witnessed President Starr expressing these sentiments directly to Buddy Jones.

Baylor Files Motion for Summary Judgment; BAA to File Countermotion

The University last month filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, asking the Court to decide before a jury gets the case that Baylor’s own agreements are void.  The school isn’t saying in the motion that the BAA breached any agreement.  They aren’t saying Baylor didn’t enter into the agreements.  They aren’t saying Baylor disagrees about what the agreement says or means.  Baylor is saying in essence, “We know we signed these perpetual agreements, but we think we ought to be able to get out of them because they were void the minute we signed them (or, simply because we want to).”  The BAA is preparing a response and a counter-motion to affirm the enforceability of the parties’ agreements. The motions are expected to be considered in a hearing on September 24.

In conclusion, I’ve been asked a number of times why we’ve been publicly sharing these e-mails on our website. Some have accused us of trying to embarrass the university leaders who orchestrated the attempt to put the BAA out of business. That’s not true. We promised our members that we would tell them the truth about what university leaders have done over the past decade to destroy the BAA – and we want to do that with facts and evidence rather than empty claims and posturing. President Starr said privately that he could not in conscience preside over a policy of waging war with the Baylor family. He has publicly said he wants to find a resolution and peace, but thus far Baylor’s discussions have all involved a unilateral surrender by and dissolution of the BAA. Hopefully future efforts will be more evenhanded.

Some of the things coming to light demonstrate the wisdom of earlier Baylor leaders in providing for an independent alumni association free of editorial control by the Baylor Administration.   If ever there were a need for an independent voice to tell the truth about the actions Baylor’s leaders took in the governance of Baylor, it is now. In the long run, the message we are trying to send is that Baylor needs to do what she promised, that contracts are both legal documents and moral obligations, and that Baylor’s leaders need to be accountable for their words and deeds.  We remain hopeful that the administration decides to send the same message.

Sincerely,

Tom Nesbitt

President, BAA

 

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