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Was Baylor Assistant Coach Scandal Overblown?

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Norman -

I’m sure most everyone knows by now, but things got a bit awkward in Norman last Saturday after OU’s 52-38 win over Tulsa.

Turns out, Baylor’s running backs coach and passing game coordinator was spotted on Tulsa’s sideline during the game, and anyone who’s familiar with football, especially Bob Stoops, knows that’s not allowed.

"That seems to be -- that's a pretty fundamental rule. That's not allowed, so I don't know what he was doing here," Stoops said at his Monday press conference. "It's something that needs to be reported and needs to be dealt with through the Big 12 office and our people. I'm sure they will. I've got a team to coach. They'll handle those matters, I'm sure, and the NCAA will."

The guilty party’s name is Jeff Lebby, and he just so happens to be the son-in-law of Baylor head coach Art Briles. Another interesting factoid about Lebby, is he was an OU signee back in 2002, but after sustaining an injury that ended his career, Lebby stayed with the program as a student assistant until 2007.

Former OU fullback J.D. Runnels used to room with Lebby back in college, and Runnels took to twitter to let him thoughts be known about his friend. Runnels reiterated that Lebby was just in town to show his wife where he went to school and see some old friends, and added that Lebby left the game at halftime. 

This topic was trending earlier in the week, but now that the dust has settled, was this matter really something for OU to be worked up about?

Briles has been in the news lately for all of the wrong reasons, but his response at his press conference on Monday showed that this wasn’t planned out by Baylor.

“I was not aware, sadly so. If I had been aware, that situation would’ve never happened. When I found out, we alerted all the proper officials on both sides and I actually called Coach Stoops after the game on Saturday and told him that I was sorry that we had a guy on their sideline.”

“It’s embarrassing to me, quite honestly. To me, there’s not an advantage first and foremost in today’s world. I mean, we had every film they ever got and they get every film we’ve ever got. So as far as scouting advantage, you’re at a disadvantage standing on the sideline,” Briles said.

Briles makes a good point. From a strategic standpoint, if Lebby was attempting to scout the Sooners he would’ve done it from a different location.

Tulsa head coach Philip Montgomery also appeared to have innocent intentions by giving Lebby a pass.

“Obviously it was a mistake and a poor decision on my part to leave a credential for Jeff and his wife. They were in the Oklahoma City/Norman area for a wedding and came to the game to support me. There was no malicious intent on my part. I’ve known Jeff since he was in the 6th grade. I called Coach Stoops today and apologized for the situation,” Montgomery said.

Sounds a lot like Stoops’ phone has been ringing off the hook with apology phone calls.

Baylor athletic director Ian McCaw announced the school has imposed a half-game suspension of Lebby during the first half of the Bears’ game with the Sooners on November 14. This comes after Briles said Lebby would not be suspended. Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby has agreed with the punishment, and announced a public reprimand of the Bears’ running backs coach and passing game coordinator.

“The opportunity for Coach Lebby to scout a future opponent by being on the sideline of a conference member’s opponent is inconsistent with the principles and expectations of the Big 12 Sportsmanship and Ethical Conduct Policy,” Bowlsby said. “I appreciate the action of Baylor athletics director Ian McCaw in addressing this matter and accept the University’s self-imposed penalty.”

It’s understandable if “Big Game Bob” was blown back by the idea that an opposing coach from a conference foe had a front row seat to see the Sooners play on Saturday. But wouldn’t it have been reasonable for Stoops to weigh in all the factors that went into Lebby’s decision? He did play for him and all.

There would be a lot more to be upset about if it were a coach that was sneaking around and trying to get some type of advantage, but from everything reported, it appears Lebby was irreproachable with his intentions on Saturday.

Should Lebby have known if he were breaking a rule before he decided to attend Saturday’s game? Yes, and that’s inexcusable. But some people need to stop acting like the Sooners are victims of something similar to Spygate.

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