Ken Starr

Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

Baylor ordered by judge to release all Pepper Hamilton investigation evidence

4 Comments

As much as Baylor will try to turn the page with its football program this season with a new head coach and a fresh approach to restoring order within the program, the reality of an ongoing legal fallout continues to drag on off the field and in the courts. On Friday, a federal judge ordered Baylor to hand over all evidence used by Pepper Hamilton in its review of the university’s handling of sexual crimes under the watch of former head coach Art Briles and former university president Ken Starr.

U.S. District Court Judge Robert Pitman, overseeing a Title IX lawsuit filed last year by three women who claimed to be victims of sexual abuse by members of the Baylor football program, commanded Baylor to release evidence including any recorded interviews and notes used during the Pepper Hamilton investigation.

What information may be revealed from this evidence that has not been disclosed remains to be seen, but it will be another step toward helping paint a full picture of everything that occurred at Baylor during an ugly sequence of events.

The findings in the Pepper Hamilton investigation led to the dismissal of Briles last year, prior to the start of the 2016 season. Baylor hired former Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe to serve as the coach for one season, and the Bears hired former Temple head coach Matt Rhule this past offseason as the permanent coach.

Ken Starr a PR disaster for Baylor in ESPN interview

AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke
24 Comments

If you thought the leadership at Baylor could not look any worse than they have over the past week, think again. On the day he announced he was resigning from his position as chancellor a week after being demoted as university president, Ken Starr sat down for an interview with Joe Schad of ESPN and served up some even more tone-deaf statements regarding the situation at Baylor than you could imagine.

While admitting Baylor’s response to various sexual assault allegations did fall short of what was expected of them, Starr claimed none of the incidents happened on Baylor’s campus, as if that makes the situation any more tolerable.

“We’re an alcohol-free campus,” Starr said in his interview with ESPN. “It’s not happening on campus, to the best of my knowledge. They are off-campus parties. Those are venues where those bad things have happened.”

OK, fine. But those bad things happened involving representatives of your university and football program, and your coaches reportedly interfered with the investigation process, thus protecting them from more extreme punishment and failing to give your victims, who are students at your university, a fair chance at justice in any form possible. Just because an incident happens off your campus, does not mean you are excused from failing to uphold the investigation process and response accordingly. Your students may not live on your campus, but they are a part of your community and it is your job as a university to assure all students they can feel safe and secure while attending your university. Starr’s ridiculous comments about “those bad things” happening at off-campus parties does nobody any good in this conversation.

Making things worse, Starr went out of his way to sing the praises of now former head coach Art Briles, who was placed on an indefinite suspension by the university wiht the intent to terminate his contract. His replacement, Jim Grobe, has already been hired this week amid a flurry of changes at the university. Praising a man fired for overseeing a program riddled with such negative attention connected to “bad things” is a bad public relations move.

“Coach Briles is a player’s coach, but he was also a very powerful father figure,” Starr said. “[It’s] not one strike and you’re out. That’s not coach Briles and that’s not what Baylor is.”

Can we pause for a brief moment and come to an agreement that all strikes are not considered equal? Stealing ketchup from a Burger King o a can of soda from the university book store is one thing. Sexually abusing another student at your university is something else. Not every crime or incident may be deserving of a one strike and you’re done response, but what was happening at Baylor warranted that kind of action. Even if it happened off your campus.

It is somewhat amazing Starr was allowed to sit down for this kind of interview with ESPN. On the one hand, getting Starr in front of a camera could help shed some light on the situation from a different perspective, and perhaps that was the intended hope for Starr or Baylor. On the other, there should have been a PR representative on hand to interrupt and drag Starr out of the room the moment he started praising Briles and saying some of the things he said on camera.

Reports: Ken Starr resigning, two Baylor football staffers fired

Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images
9 Comments

The fallout from the bombshell at Baylor continues to leave a deep impact a week later. According to Joe Schad of ESPN, former president  Ken Starr says he will resign from his role as chancellor. Meanwhile, Dan Wolken of USA Today reported last night two more staffers from Baylor’s football program have been let go.

Starr was demoted from his role as university president last week by the board of regents following the release of an investigative report on Baylor’s Title IX violations within the football and program and athletics department. Starr was given a chancellor’s role with the intent of being a voice in front of donors. That will no longer be the case, per Schad’s report. Starr will remain a law professor at the university, however, which sounds just as confusing as anything you may read or hear today.

The two football staffers let go by the university are reportedly Colin Shillinglaw and Tom Hill. Shillinglaw was the athletics director for football operations. Hill was a longtime staffer that was apparently there to fill any need necessary. Shillinglaw reportedly worked closely to former head coach Art Briles. Briles was put on an indefinite suspension with the intent to have his contract terminated by the university.

Earlier this week Baylor announced the hiring of Jim Grobe as active head coach. The news of the former Wake Forest head coach joining the Bears during this troubling time preceded the announcement that athletics director Ian McCaw was going to resign.

Baylor regents confirm decision on Art Briles and outline Title IX failings

6 Comments

“There are significant concerns about the tone and culture within Baylor’s football program as it relates to accountability for all forms of student athlete misconduct,” a statement from the Baylor Board of Regents said Thursday afternoon, following the news head coach Art Briles had been dismissed amid controversy. No interim head coach for the Baylor football program has been named at this time.

An independent and external review of Baylor’s institutional response to Title IX and other compliance issues conducted by Pepper Hamilton revealed some key findings to support the decision to remove Briles as head coach of the Big 12 program, and puts many other aspects with the football program and athletic culture moving forward into question.

In addition to confirming the dismissal of Briles as head coach of the football program, Baylor has also removed Ken Starr from the role of president of the university effective at the end of May. Former dean and professor at Baylor David Garland will take on the role of interim president of Baylor until a more permanent replacement can be found. Baylor technically classifies Briles’ status as an indefinite suspension with the intent to terminate contract, which is likely a mere legal procedure. A number of other members of the administration and athletics department have been dismissed as well, but those names will not be named publicly.

According to a released statement from the Baylor Board of Regents, the key findings outlined were;

  • The University’s student conduct processes were wholly inadequate to consistently provide a prompt and equitable response under Title IX; Baylor failed to consistently support complainants through the provision of interim measures; and in some cases, the University failed to take action to identify and eliminate a potential hostile environment, prevent its recurrence or address its effects.

  • Actions by University administrators directly discouraged some complainants from reporting or participating in student conduct processes and in one instance constituted retaliation against a complainant for reporting sexual assault.

  • In addition to broader University failings, Pepper found specific failings within both the football program and Athletics department leadership, including a failure to identify and respond to a pattern of sexual violence by a football player and to a report of dating violence.

  • There are significant concerns about the tone and culture within Baylor’s football program as it relates to accountability for all forms of student athlete misconduct. 

  • Over the course of their review, Pepper investigated the University’s response to reports of a sexual assault involving multiple football players. The football program and Athletics department leadership failed to take appropriate action in response to these reports.

“We were horrified by the extent of these acts of sexual violence on our campus. This investigation revealed the University’s mishandling of reports in what should have been a supportive, responsive and caring environment for students,” said Richard Willis, chair of the Baylor Board of Regents. “The depth to which these acts occurred shocked and outraged us. Our students and their families deserve more, and we have committed our full attention to improving our processes, establishing accountability and ensuring appropriate actions are taken to support former, current and future students.”

“We, as the governing Board of this University, offer our apologies to the many who sought help from the University.  We are deeply sorry for the harm that survivors have endured,” said Ron Murff, chair-elect of the Baylor Board of Regents. “Baylor’s mission to educate men and women for worldwide leadership and service by integrating academic excellence and Christian commitment within a caring community remains our primary imperative. The Board has taken decisive action to ensure the University’s priorities are aligned with our unyielding commitment to that mission.”

You can read the full report of the findings of fact HERE for a more detailed look at what was discovered at Baylor.

Baylor president Ken Starr opposes NLRB ruling in favor of players union

13 Comments

Ken Starr, currently serving as the president of Baylor, is strongly opposed to a ruling made by the regional office of the National Labor Relations Board in favor of allowing college football players at Northwestern a right to form a union. Speaking to a House Education and Workforce Committee hearing in Washington D.C. on Thursday, Starr suggested the union was the wrong direction to go.

Starr did go on record suggesting college athletes should be given a full cost of attendance scholarship, but he may have made a mistake at one point by talking about the athlete handbook, perhaps not realizing the Northwestern ruling was made in part because a different handbook is printed for student athletes.

Starr was the first witness to testify during the hearing. During the hearing he also suggested religiously affiliated schools could be expected to challenge the NLRB’s authority to regulate them.

In the end, the union movement continues to be a political sticking point for many. Perhaps one day we can have a separation of football and state as well?