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Baylor's Briles out amid sex assault scandal

AP

Baylor University demoted school president Ken Starr and ousted football coach Art Briles on Thursday, issuing a scathing report over the university’s handling of sexual assault complaints against football players.

The board of regents at the largest Baptist university in the United States said in a statement that Starr, a former prosecutor who investigated the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky scandal, will vacate the presidency on May 31 and stay on as school chancellor. It said it suspended Briles “with intent to terminate” and placed athletic director Ian McCaw on probation.

Starr asked a law firm last year to review Baylor’s handling of sexual assault cases following allegations that the school mishandled several cases in which football players were accused of attacking women.

Among the firm’s findings was that football coaches and athletics administrators at the school in the central Texas city of Waco had run their own improper investigations into rape claims and that in some cases they chose not to report such allegations to an administrator outside of athletics.

By running their own “untrained” investigations and meeting directly with a complainant, football staff “improperly discredited” complainants’ claims and “denied them a right to a fair, impartial and informed investigation” the report states.

“The choices made by football staff and athletics leadership, in some instances, posed a risk to campus safety and the integrity of the University.”

The report’s “findings of facts” did not name specific coaches or athletics staff.

The university’s statement said the review revealed “a fundamental failure.”

Baylor has faced increasing criticism in recent months for its handling of reports of rape and other violent incidents involving football players and students. One victim has sued the university, saying it was deliberately indifferent to her allegations against a former player who was eventually convicted of sexually assaulting her.

The football team enjoyed unprecedented success during Briles’ tenure, including two Big 12 championships in the last three years. That success brought a financial windfall, and in 2014 Baylor opened a new, $250-million on-campus football stadium. But Briles’ program has also been criticized for recruiting or accepting transfer players without regard to the harm they might cause fellow students.

Starr initiated the law firm’s review last year, after former football player Sam Ukwuachu was convicted of sexually assaulting a female soccer player.

Ukwuachu, who was convicted last year, transferred to Baylor after he was dismissed from Boise State. His former girlfriend testified during his rape trial in Texas that he had struck and choked her when he attended Boise State.

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