WACO, Texas – Ken Starr resigned as Baylor University’s chancellor on Wednesday, a week after the former prosecutor who led the investigation of the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky scandal was removed as the school’s president over its handling of sexual assault complaints against football players.
Starr, who will continue to teach at the law school, told ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” in an interview broadcast Wednesday that he didn’t know about the allegations of sexual assault involving members of Baylor’s vaunted football program until media reports first surfaced in 2015 during a player’s trial.
“I didn’t know about what was happening, but I have to, and I willingly do accept responsibility. The captain goes down with the ship,” said Starr, who was hired as president of the nation’s largest Baptist university in 2010 after gaining renown as the special prosecutor who investigated Clinton’s affair with Lewinsky, a White House intern.
The school hired Philadelphia law firm Pepper Hamilton to investigate allegations surrounding the football team last year. It released its findings last week, determining that under Starr’s leadership, Baylor did little to respond to accusations of sexual assault involving football players over several years.
School regents came under fire for allowing Starr to stay on in the prominent role of chancellor for external fundraising. Starr resigned the position Wednesday morning, effective immediately, telling ESPN he did it “with sorrow” and “as a matter of conscience.”
“We need to heal Baylor. … We need to put this horrible situation behind us,” Starr said.
Baylor regents issued a statement thanking Starr for his service.
“We recognize this is a tumultuous time for Baylor, most importantly for our current and former students and victims of sexual assault. We were horrified by what we learned from the investigation and again express our public acknowledgment and deepest apologies,” the regents said.
Starr didn’t immediately respond to requests from the AP for comment.
The scandal has resulted in major upheaval at the Waco school, which emerged from years in the athletic doldrums to become one of the top football programs in the Big 12 and nationally.
The same day Baylor released its report, the regents fired head coach Art Briles and sanctioned athletic director Ian McCaw, who resigned on Monday, the same day the school hired Jim Grobe to coach the 2016 season.
Starr called Briles “a very powerful father figure” who “wants the best for these young men.” Starr said he wasn’t consulted before Briles was fired.
The report didn’t identify specific cases, but two football players have been convicted of sexual assault since 2014. In the past year, there have been multiple reports of other alleged assaults and women who said the school did nothing to help.
The report said school administrators discouraged students from reporting or participating in student conduct reviews of sexual assault complaints, and that they even contributed to or accommodated a “hostile” environment against the alleged victims.
In one case, the actions of administrators “constituted retaliation against a complainant for reporting sexual assault,” the report said.
University leaders were also slow to enact federally-required student conduct processes and they failed to identify and eliminate the hostile environment toward victims, the report found.
Starr told ESPN that he didn’t think the school had a problem until the August 2015 conviction of football player Sam Ukwuachu, who sexually assaulted another student. But Tevin Elliott, another football player, had been convicted of sexual assault in 2014 and multiple women have said they notified school officials they had been attacked by Elliott.
In Ukwuachu’s trial, the judge determined that Baylor’s internal disciplinary investigation that cleared Ukwuachu was so bad that defense attorneys were barred from referencing it.
Starr said he considered the Baylor campus to be a safe place for students.
“We’re an alcohol-free campus,” Starr said. “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.”
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