PHOENIX -- The last man off the field for Baylor last played more than six weeks ago. But Seth Russell carried as much wisdom as his right leg carried weight.

That would be the one that wasn't broken on Nov. 12.

Baylor's season was in turmoil long before that day at Oklahoma. The Bears did lose a game -- 45-24 to the Sooners -- and a quarterback.

But the season was already spiraling out of control after the sexual assault scandal broke in May. The perception then -- and perhaps still now -- was that Baylor had lost its way.

In Wednesday's early morning hours following the Cactus Bowl, Russell considered what had become of the program he committed to, started for and was now leaving as a senior spectator.

"What you need to know about Baylor is that we're fighters," Russell said after Baylor's 31-12 win over Boise State. "We've been the underdog ever since we've been here.

"It's not what the media puts it as. We're not a bunch of bad guys. We had a couple of guys who made some bad decisions. You can go around to every single team in the nation. You can pick out two guys [at each school] who made bad decisions."

Perhaps only in the Baylor Bubble does Baylor football these days become a sympathetic figure.

This season was like no other following a scandal changed Baylor and perhaps all of college athletics. The exact details are still being debated in public and in court. In the short term, it cost coach Art Briles, president Kenneth Starr and athletic director Ian McCaw their jobs.

Two former players are in jail. The school is being sued by assault victims. There is uncertainty about whether the NCAA will open a formal investigation stemming from the scandal. This season's team competed in an atmosphere that interim coach Jim Grobe on Wednesday called "caustic" because of negative reports during the season.

"That caught me off guard a little bit," said Grobe, who finished his one and only season 7-6. "I came in thinking Baylor -- right or wrong -- made a decision to let Art go. The president and the AD resigned.

"I thought people would say, 'Good for Baylor' ... The attitude became, 'If Baylor did that, their problems are worse than anybody else's.'"

The Cactus Bowl postgame, then, was largely about venting. It couldn't be helped. A lot of people had a lot to lot of emotional baggage to unload at the end of the season.

Grobe said Baylor's external turmoil couldn't be kept out of the lockerroom. It showed. After a 6-0 start, the Bears lost six in a row before the bowl win.

Grobe also couldn't have possibly known what he was getting into. For a while, there were as many breaking news stories as there were touchdowns.

Assistants tweeted out frustrations on their own. That staff was blamed as a whole in the Pepper Hamilton report as posing "a risk to campus safety" for whatever influence they may have had on the reporting of those sexual assaults.

That staff also had know its days were numbered as soon as that report was released. New coach Matt Rhule isn't expected to keep a single current staff member.

Meanwhile, Briles spoke out on his own during the season attempting to rehab his image. In the end, he sued the school. Meanwhile, Grobe attempted to recruit players who couldn't answer a simple question: Who is the next coach?

In that sense, the season ended as it began. Baylor still has only one commitment for the 2017 recruiting class.

"The way you can remember him is he came into a lose-lose situation," Russell said of Grobe as the quarterback wheeled himself off the field. "He came into a situation where he could have lost everything."

On the surface, Wake Forest's 64-year-old former coach lost six games. Under the surface?

"I would [have done it again]," Grobe said of taking the job. "But I would spend a lot of time trying to think how to keep things smoother."

What follows is a summary of that venting following the end of the most tumultuous season in Baylor history ....

Taking over in the midst of a storm: In 19 years at Ohio and Wake, Grobe had been a solid -- if not spectacular -- option football coach. His Demon Deacons won the ACC in 2006.

"He didn't change," Russell said. "He wasn't lenient. It was a no- tolerance policy, if you get caught doing something you're done. He was sitting at his vacation home in Georgia on a lake somewhere drinking tea [when the call came]. He stuck his neck out there for us."

Brenda Tracy Effect: In July, Tracy, the sexual violence activist, spoke to the Baylor players. In September, she revealed that an unnamed Baylor assistant had told her that Art Briles had been scapegoated in the investigation. The assistant was "very angry and defensive" about what had happened to the program.

Tracy had earlier called for the shutting down of the Baylor program.

Grobe: "I don't know what this phenomenon is but for some reason when bad things happen, people want to attack innocent people. I had people tell me we should cancel the season ... When Brenda came in, she actually said, 'I'd like to have feedback.' You can't have feedback and then get it and you don't agree with it and say they don't get it ...

"She may not have agreed with everything one of my coaches thought, and he may not have agreed with everything Brenda thought. That's OK. That's education."

The turning point: Multiple coaches said Wednesday everything changed the week of the Texas game on Oct. 29. Baylor had gotten out to a 6-0 start. But that week, a Wall Street Journal story detailed the reasons Baylor regents took action against Briles.

The story concluded 19 players were involved with domestic or sexual assaults of 17 women. That total included four alleged gang rapes since 2011.

It's fair to say those inside the program were rocked by the report.

"That period we went through right before the Texas game," Grobe said. "There was so much turmoil during that time, so many things outside the kids that affected our coaches and our players. That was probably the low point for me. I don't know what I would have done different but that filtered into the players."

The Bears proceeded to lose six in a row to end the regular season. That was the program's longest losing streak since 2007.

The assistants speak up: During that streak, Baylor's assistants released a statement via Twitter disputing the Wall Street Journal story.

That was one thing. The other was the staff doing it without Grobe's knowledge.

"Honestly, it wasn't a problem for me," the coach said. "I felt sorry for our guys. It focused the attention back on our coaching staff. That assistants, as much as I wanted to shelter those guys, they wanted their voice heard. The thing that I did know, this was nothing against me."

Kendal Briles gets hired at Florida Atlantic: Baylor's offensive coordinator spoke briefly after the game about how he became Lane Kiffin's new offensive coordinator.

"He texted me out of the blue," Briles said of Kiffin.

Briles said the only association was during a Baylor staff trip to Alabama two years ago. A source close to the process said FAU officials checked into Kendal's background to "make sure that it was clean."

Briles said he will call plays and run the same spread offense that made his dad, himself and Baylor famous. "Absolutely," he said. Kiffin -- a master play caller -- has said he will become more of a "CEO" figure at FAU to refine his head coaching ability.

Briles had become somewhat of a controversial figure this season wearing his dad's initials (Coach Art Briles) on his hands during the season opener. Asked what it was like coaching after his father was fired, Kendal said quietly, "difficult."

The rest of the staff: When Briles was hired, there was something resembling hope. Hope that anyone on the staff could ever work at a high level again.

Remember that blanket indictment from the Pepper Hamilton report. It did not identify a single individual.

CBS Sports learned that at least one other Baylor staffer is expected to be hired elsewhere soon, perhaps as a coordinator.

Art Briles' legacy at Baylor: "It's hard to say," Russell concluded. "It's still in the writing. [Whenever] the so-called truth comes out, that's when you'll be able to tell.

"I didn't see [the wrongdoing]. I wasn't a part of it. They weren't sitting there saying, 'Oh, we're covering this up. Hey, everybody, we're not going to tell anybody about this.'"

The program will move forward with Rhule referring to his acceptance of the job "a calling."