Kenneth Starr stepping down as Baylor chancellor

ESPN logo
Thursday, June 2, 2016

Kenneth Starr is resigning as chancellor atBaylorin the wake of a huge shakeup at the university, but he will continue to teach in the law school, Starr told ESPN's Joe Schad on Wednesday.

Starr said in an interview with Outside the Lines that he was resigning effective immediately "as a matter of conscience."

After anindependent review of Baylor's response to sexual assault allegations, many of them against athletes, Starr had been removed as school president last week, but he was being transitioned into a full-time chancellor role and was allowed to continue to teach at the law school.His duties as chancellor were to include external fundraising and religious liberty; he was to have no operational duties at the university.

On Wednesday, Starr called for transparency at Baylor. He said that "as each day goes by that need becomes more and more pressing."

"We need to put this horrible experience behind us," Starr said. "We need to be honest."

The Baylor regents issued a statement thanking Starr for his service and apologizing for the scandal.

"We recognize this is a tumultuous time for Baylor, most importantly for our current and former students and victims of sexual assault," the regents said in the statement. "We were horrified by what we learned from the investigation, and again express our public acknowledgment and deepest apologies."

Starr, 69, added that he "didn't know what was happening" regarding allegations of Baylor's mishandling of sexual assault allegations, but he "willingly accepted responsibility."

"The captain goes down with the ship," he said.

The Baylor scandal didn't just cost Starr.Football coach Art Briles was suspended with intent to terminate, and athletic director Ian McCaw resigned. A number of others at the university lost their jobs as well.

Starr said that he was not consulted regarding Briles' dismissal. He accepted that the independent report by the law firm of Pepper Hamilton found legitimate issues with the football program, but he also said Briles "is a person of genuine character."

"Coach Briles is a player's coach, but he was also a very powerful father figure," Starr said.

As for whether Baylor recruited the wrong kind of player, Starr said that "it's not one strike and you're out. That's not Coach Briles, and that's not what Baylor is."

"The fact someone has something in his past doesn't mean he can't be redeemed or be redeemable." he said.

Starr admitted that being a disciplinarian was not Briles' strong suit.

"What he is is an iconic father figure who is a genius," he said.

Starr told OTL that he has been briefed on the Pepper Hamilton report but did not know everything within it and so did not get a chance to rebut any of the findings.

"I haven't had my day in court," he said, while still saying that NCAA bylaws stated he was responsible for violations in the athletic department.

In the end, Starr said that Baylor's response to sexual assault allegations "clearly fell short."

"We owe it to every student that he or she, mostly she, is absolutely protected and that we've done all that we can," he said.

Starr, a former independent counsel who is perhaps best known for investigating former U.S. President Bill Clinton's affair with a White House intern, had served as president of Baylor since June 1, 2010. And in November 2013, the regents also appointed him as chancellor, a position that had been vacant since 2006. During Starr's tenure, he has been credited with several fundraising initiatives, most notably raising $120 million in donations that helped pay for McLane Stadium, Baylor's new $266 million football stadium, which opened on the banks of the Brazos River in Waco in 2014.

Starr was popular among students for his participation in the "Baylor Line," a school tradition in which freshman students wear yellow shirts and rush the field before home football games, and he was often seen at other sporting events.

Under Starr's watch, Baylor enjoyed unprecedented athletic success. The 2011-12 academic year is often referred to as the "Year of the Bear" by Baylor alumni and fans. During the 2011 season, Bears quarterbackRobert Griffin IIIbecame the school's first HeismanTrophy winner. The women's basketball team became the first NCAA squad -- men's or women's -- to finish 40-0, and star Brittney Griner was named national player of the year. Baylor's men's basketball team started 17-0 and reached the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament, and the baseball team won 49 games.

Starr said that in transition from being president and chancellor he would recommend that Baylor cooperate fully with the NCAA.

"Let the sun shine in," he said. "Sunshine is the great disinfectant."

Starr said that he hopes his legacy is of someone who tried very hard, had some failings, but led Baylor to great success in many areas.

"I'm proud to be a Baylor Bear," he said.

Also Wednesday,OTL confirmed that the U.S. Department of Education has received a Title IX complaint about Baylor's handling of sexual assault and violence allegations by students, including athletes. Holly Snyder, a 2001 Baylor graduate who lives near Kansas City, Missouri, said she filed a complaint late Tuesday. She wrote in her complaint that she felt compelled to come forward, "on behalf of all women to make [sure] that Baylor is investigated to the full extent regarding actions it took to create a climate that covered up sexual violence on campus for years."

The U.S. Department of Education indicated last week that it would investigate Baylor if it received a complaint within its jurisdiction, but a spokesman said Wednesday it could take up to a month to confirm whether a complaint meets the criteria to start an investigation.

ESPN's Mark Schlabach, Brett McMurphy, Paula Lavigne and Jake Trotter and The Associated Press contributed to this report

Related Video