With one statement, Ken Starr made my previous comments seem prophetic about the Baylor rape scandal as he clung to the redemptive nature of his university’s value structure. However, like most characters in stories of biblical portion, there may be more than meets the eye when it comes to Starr and his role in how the events in Waco, TX unraveled.
BU’s Ken Starr has said: “we sorrowfully repent of our individual and institutional inadequacy at times in responding…”
— Joe Schad (@schadjoe) May 26, 2016
[Merenbloom: Baylor and Art Briles Live Off of Redemption]
Pepper Hamilton was hired by Baylor to investigate the rape accusations being levied against its football players and to issue a report which was to include the findings of his investigation. Once Hamilton finished his investigation, he provided the requested report to Baylor and, at that time, the university maintained its silence and would not commit to releasing portions of, let alone the entire report.
Baylor’s commitment to silence was due, in part, to Starr’s request to honor the sanctity of the investigation. He was demanding discretion and then something changed.
On May 24, information was leaked that suggested that Starr would be fired from his position as Baylor president while Art Briles’ job as head football coach would be considered safe.
This had to have come as a shock to Starr considering how close Briles was to the situation. The people who were directly associated with the accusations were his players, so how could Briles possibly get off comparatively easy and Starr be fired by the university?
And then, in what seemed to be a quick turn of events, the firing of Starr was reported to be false. So what happened?
In my opinion, Starr decided that holding the people ultimately responsible for this situation was more important than the sanctity of the report. It was at the time of Starr’s rumored demise that details of the Hamilton report began to surface. And who more than a person trying to save his own hide would have reason to leak even portions of Hamilton’s findings? In my opinion, it was Starr who leaked this information.
The transgressions that Briles and his football program are accused of being guilty of should not be taken lightly. Briles and his football program are all over that report, while Starr’s name was essentially reduced to a whisper. Yet the person who was initially fired over the Baylor rape scandal was Starr? It just did not add up.
[Terrill: The Blame for Baylor]
Updated reports indicate that Starr is not being fired from all of his Baylor responsibilities. He had been fulfilling the duties of university president and chancellor since 2013 and he will now he can focus all of his administrative duties on his chancellor position. Consider it a case of being fired/not fired.
And now, on the heels of Starr’s Baylor career being pulled from the fire, there are reports that Briles has indeed been fired from his position as head football coach. In addition to Starr’s position as a high ranking campus administrator remaining in tact and the firing of Briles, athletic director Ian McCaw has been placed on probation. If the university was going to fire Starr, then giving the athletic director a mere slap on the wrist does not seem to be sufficient.
Oh, what a difference a day or two makes.
It would seem that Starr decided that if he was going to be taken down then he was going to take as many people down with him and I cannot find fault with him for this. This is supported, in my opinion, by the statement Starr made following the announcement that he was to assume the sole position of chancellor.
Being a lawyer and former federal judge, Starr is an intelligent person who knows the ins and outs of the law and how to properly position himself against potentially lawsuits. It is important to keep this in mind when Starr says that he launched an internal investigation as soon as he was made aware of the issues allegedly going on within the football program. This was a statement that will help him distance himself even further from Briles and the rogue football program he was running.
Starr did not handle the Baylor rape scandal as well as he could, but he was in no way the primary person responsible for the situation getting out of control. The responsible parties for that resided in the athletic department.
The Baylor Board of Regents had their hand forced by Starr and were forced to make the safety of their student body more important than a winning football program. Baylor finally took the necessary action to begin correcting the culture within their football program. With the proper leadership, better days are ahead for the Baylor football program.
[McCrary: Baylor has Seen Better Days]
E-mail Seth at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.