After stepping down as Baylor’s chancellor Wednesday, Ken Starr immediately went into his best D.C. lobbying mode and started the media rounds to pressure the Baylor Board of Regents into releasing the Pepper Hamilton report about its athletic department.
Starr’s decision comes six years to the day he was named Baylor’s president. Three years later, he was named chancellor and president.
It is Starr’s preference to have the entire findings released. The fallout so far has led to the firing of football coach Art Briles, the resignation of athletic director Ian McCaw and Starr’s firing as the school’s president.
Two assistant football coaches were fired Wednesday. Per a report by ESPN, the school has been contacted by the Department of Education about its Title IX procedures.
The Pepper Hamilton report details the investigation of multiple rape cases of Baylor coeds by members of the Baylor football team. So far, a report that is several inches thick has been released in limited portions.
Starr, 69, actually sought me for the following 25-minute interview Wednesday:
Did you resign on your own accord or were you pressured by the board into this?
“You will see my statement as a matter of conscience. I am resigning in order to facilitate full transparency and eventually the full healing of Baylor University, including the victims and their families whose lives have been shattered.
“I can speak to you without any fear of violating any duty of any kind. I am not going to say anything negative about anyone; from Day 1, I have been calling for transparency. What the Regents have done is elected and embraced a policy of non-transparency, and I lament that and regret that; from Day 1 until today, I have called on the board to please be transparent about the Pepper Hamilton report. That is my cry to heal Baylor Nation and do the right thing and put this behind us.
“We need to let the sunshine in. Sunlight is a great disinfectant. The faculty senate constitutes the conscience of any faculty, and the faculty senate at Baylor is still with honorable women and men. I am not going to purport to speak at all for the faculty senate, but I hope and pray that additional voices will be raised to encourage the board of Baylor to embrace full transparency.”
Is this why you are resigning as chancellor?
Have you read the Pepper Hamilton report?
“No. I have had access to only that which is in the public domain and I accept some of the criticisms and reject others, but now is not the time to do that. My cry is for transparency.”
Did Art Briles know that Baylor football players committed sexual assault and kept them on scholarship on the team without penalty?
“I honestly don’t know the answer to that. The reason is I have not had a full or substantial briefing of the facts. I don’t know what coach Briles has said. I have had indications of what he said. I know that his daughter posted [on Facebook] that her father was never given his day in court. I have heard that, but I don’t know that.
“As a judge, I am not privy to those findings of what Pepper Hamilton found or what coach said in response to the facts. I am behind the veil of ignorance in that respect, but I do respect the board coming to their best judgments. These are good men and women who serve on the board and I leave it to coach Briles to respond.
“They were individual acts because I know the football players and the culture of the team is a very good culture of young men who I believe in and trust. I am pretty close to the players. Read [quarterback Seth Russell’s] post or Bryce Petty, Jarrett Stidham or Robert Griffin III about their experiences here.
“I am going to pay tribute to coach Briles in that, whatever may have happened, I can’t imagine he’s not repentant and sorrowful if it was his responsibility. I know he is a great molder of character and this effusive loyalty to Briles is because he cares so deeply for them beyond the game.”
If that is the case, then how can you be both — be a great molder of character and have a series of criminal incidents committed by his players under his watch?
“I think that is a question for the Board of Regents. They sat listening to Pepper Hamilton for hours on this and they had many hours of prayer and deliberation. I am not criticizing the board and I accept that it is the responsibility of the president; you go down with the ship.”
Were Baylor coeds ignored or brushed aside after they came forward with claims of being raped by Baylor football players?
“I do not know that, but I know Pepper Hamilton has reached certain findings and conclusions. I am not contesting those findings because I do not know.”
Should the president of a university know those things?
“I don’t believe it’s possible to know all of those things. I think it’s imperative the president be vigilant to the issue of campus safety. The president is ultimately responsible for the well-being of our students and we do care for our students. They are loved. There are episodes where that caring community fell short.”
What do you say to critics who conclude that this scandal is a karmic payback for your role in the investigation and impeachment of President Bill Clinton during Whitewater and the Monica Lewinsky scandals?
“I say I did both investigations [Whitewater and Lewinsky] to the best of my ability and to do so was a thankless and controversial task. I carried this [as Baylor president] to the best of my ability for the past six years, and I have been honored to build Baylor. Until September of 2015, we were living in a golden era of Baylor, both academically and athletically.”
Why did we not see more of this Ken Starr during this whole ordeal? The Ken Starr who Baylor students call “Uncle Ken,” who runs out with the Baylor Line and shows up at alumni functions — why was this side of you not visible throughout this whole process?
“I am not going to embrace your characterizations. I can only use my own words. But I have been fully obedient to the full direction of the board leadership by refraining from comment; your asking me questions unplanned [in an interview on April 7] represented a breach of the protocol.”
After all of this, why remain at Baylor as a professor in the law school?
“Because I love Baylor and I want to continue to build Baylor.”
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