WACO, Texas (CN) – Former Baylor University president Ken Starr stepped down Wednesday as school chancellor “as a matter of conscience” in the fallout from a blistering review of how his administration handled rape complaints against football players.
Starr, 69, told ESPN’s Outside the Lines of his “great sorrow” in resigning effective immediately. He said he “did not know of what was happening” regarding students’ rape allegations but is willing to accept responsibility.
“I have called from the outset of the Pepper Hamilton [law firm’s external] inquiry for full transparency,” he said. “I hope the Baylor University Board of Regents will move forward for full transparency, but as each day goes by, that need becomes more and more pressing.”
Starr was removed as school president last Thursday after the report’s findings were announced.
He was allowed to remain as chancellor in a non-operational role with the school and as a faculty member at Baylor Law School.
Head football coach Art Briles was suspended with intent to terminate, and athletic director Ian McCaw was put on probation. McCaw resigned several days later.
Starr’s resignation came after the school was criticized for not firing him outright. School regents declined to comment on Starr’s suspension in a conference call last week, saying it was inappropriate to talk about individual cases.
“He always had the position of chancellor,” Regent David Harper said at the time. “We felt it was an appropriate move to take away the responsibility of president.”
The board ordered the external review in August 2015 as cases began to mount accusing school officials of failing to adequately investigate students’ rape claims.
The Pepper Hamilton law firm concluded that administrators “directly discouraged” some complainants from reporting a sexual assault and in one case retaliated against a complainant for reporting.
“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,” the board said. “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.”
Starr admitted that Briles was not the strongest disciplinarian, but that he is an “iconic father figure” to his players. He denied Baylor recruited the wrong kinds of players.
“That’s not coach Briles and that’s not what Baylor is,” he said. “The fact someone has something in his past does not mean he cannot be redeemed or be redeemable.”
Baylor was most recently sued by a former student last month in federal court. Jasmin Hernandez claimed Baylor’s counseling department told her they were “too busy” to see her after she was allegedly raped by football player Tevin Elliott, who is serving 20 years for sexual assaults.
Hernandez says her mother called Briles to tell him what Elliott had done and received a phone call from his secretary saying they would look into it.
“Hernandez’s father also called Briles’ office several times to follow up,” her complaint stated. “Hernandez’s father never received a return phone call from Briles or anyone in his office.”
The Baylor University Board of Regents confirmed that football coaches and staff “met directly with a complainant and/or a parent of a complainant and did not report the misconduct,” resulting in no action being taken, according to its 13-page finding of fact.
Hernandez’s lawsuit came three months after Baylor settled similar claims by a student who said she was sexually assaulted by former football player Sam Ukwuachu. No lawsuit was filed in that case.
Ukwuachu was sentenced last year to 180 days in county jail, 10 years of probation and 400 hours of community service. Briles was heavily criticized for recruiting him as a transfer from Boise State University, where he faced earlier allegations of violence against women.
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