Former Baylor president Ken Starr made himself "former Baylor chancellor Ken Starr" as well on Wednesday, resigning one of his two other posts and explaining it to ESPN's Joe Schad "as a matter of conscience."
Starr, heavily implicated as a primary reason for Baylor's institutional failures in responding to sexual violence and other violence against women in both the findings from a report prepared by law firm Pepper Hamilton released last week and in media reports dating back months, also said he "willingly accepted responsibility" for the school's inadequate response to several allegations of rape in recent years, and that "the captain goes down with the ship."
That would probably have been all well and good, and earned some valid criticism about how Starr resigning now as a "matter of conscience" is cold comfort to victims who could have used a school president compelled to do more in response to reports of rape, some of which Starr was allegedly personally informed about. Had Starr managed to stick to simple contrition, he and Baylor might have been able to chalk this up as a victory, in the limited sense that any public relations ploy could be.
Instead, he kept talking.
Starr said that he wasn't aware of any on-campus rapes, basing that lack of knowledge in part on being behind a "veil of ignorance," and implied that part of the reasoning for that was that Baylor is a "dry" campus on which alcohol is prohibited.
He implied that Baylor's status as a Christian school -- it touts itself as the world's largest Baptist university -- made the failings especially "grievous."
He defended fired head coach Art Briles -- whose coaching staff Pepper Hamilton found met with victims but did not act -- vociferously, calling him both "a players' coach, but a very powerful father figure" and a "genius" and saying Briles "has real gifts," but also admitting Briles is "forgiving" and "the coach of second chances," and noting that he "could have been more of a disciplinarian."
More from Starr: "Coach Briles, in my judgment, could have been a stronger disciplinarian." He called Briles "a genius ... father figure."— Dwayne Bray (@DwayneBrayESPN) June 1, 2016
Per Schad, Starr even went so far as to compare Briles to Abraham Lincoln.
Ken Starr compares Art Briles’ record on discipline to Abe Lincoln’s. "Briles in any judgement could have been a firmer disciplinarian."— Joe Schad (@schadjoe) June 1, 2016
He sounded woefully uninformed about the extent of sexual violence at Baylor, as well, and returned to the "veil of ignorance" explanation more than once.
Ken Starr said all sexual assaults he knew of were off campus. Baylor PD data list 10 reports of sex assault since 2010 in dorms/BU housing— Paula Lavigne (@pinepaula) June 1, 2016
And there was plenty more, about the importance of transparency and of making every student as safe as possible, and about how Starr still looks forward to remaining at his "beloved" law school as a professor. Taken as a whole, what Starr said was less apology and more defense, despite his explicit claim of responsibility.
And he was sharply criticized for it.
It was going to be hard to come off worse than he already was but somehow Ken Starr found a way today.— Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer) June 1, 2016
Ken Starr's resignation proving exactly why he never should've been given a position to publicly represent the university in the first place— Elika Sadeghi (@steakNstiffarms) June 1, 2016
Ken Starr will still teach at Baylor's Law School, which is more egregious than being chancellor. Part of teaching law is teaching ethics.— Julie DiCaro (@JulieDiCaro) June 1, 2016
OTL interviewing a Baylor rape victim in between showing clips of Ken Starr's comments making him look even more tone-deaf & full of shit.— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) June 1, 2016
Classes Ken Starr could teach at Baylor: 1. Plausible deniability. 2. Learned helplessness. 3. Power & Privilege protects it own.— Jane McManus (@janesports) June 1, 2016
SB Nation's Wescott Eberts even had his criticism aired on ESPN.
That's really just the tip of the iceberg, as criticism poured forth on Twitter. ESPN, to its credit, kept the pressure on Starr from the studio, even though it didn't have Starr live on air.
OTL host Jeremy Schaap was quick to point out the nonsensical aspects of Starr's comments. Guests familiar with sexual assault and sports culture -- including "Sarah," a former member of Baylor's equestrian team who said she was raped by former Baylor football player Tevin Elliott (currently serving a 20-year sentence for a separate rape) and that Baylor was largely indifferent to her claims -- helped keep the program's focus on the victims, even if what was aired of Schad's interview showed Starr often focusing anywhere else.
And, well, what hasn't aired somehow sounds worse than what has already been broadcast.
Ken Starr says Art Briles was a "character shaper."— Joe Schad (@schadjoe) June 1, 2016
Ken Starr: "I believe the students love Uncle Ken."— Joe Schad (@schadjoe) June 1, 2016
Starr is the only major Baylor official to speak out since the release of the Pepper Hamilton report, with both Briles and suspended-turned-resigned athletic director Ian McCaw keeping quiet. That now seems relatively wise.
Starr's comments to Schad did little to quell the growing frustration with Baylor's failings and its response, and may well have inflamed his critics more than they already were. While there's only one job left that he could stand to lose at the university, it's best for Baylor to cut ties with him entirely.