Kenneth Starr, president and chancellor of Baylor University in Waco, Texas, was back in the news Tuesday, at the center of two major stories: one about his past with the Clinton family and one about his future in higher education.
Anonymous sources told Scout.com's Horns Digest that the Baylor board of regents decided to fire Starr — famous for his 1990s investigation of then-President Bill Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky — amid allegations that the school mishandled a series of sexual assault cases involving the football team.
Horns Digest reported exclusively that "the three dozen members of the Baylor regents board are blaming Starr — not football coach Art Briles — for failed leadership during the ongoing scandal." The series of events in question came to light earlier this year when various media outlets reported that officials hadn't responded properly to at least six sexual assault allegations against football players over the years, according to the Washington Post.
Baylor released a statement Tuesday afternoon saying the board is reviewing the results of an independent investigation into the accusations. "We will not respond to rumors, speculation or reports based on unnamed sources, but when official news is available, the university will provide it," the school told KXXV-TV.
The unfolding controversy has to do with Baylor's process for handling reports of sexual assault by athletes. Two of them, Tevin Elliott and Sam Ukwuachu, have been convicted of rape in recent years, but other football players allegedly escaped discipline when officials declined to fully look into or prevent assaults. An ESPN investigation cited one case where the local police pulled a file on a player-involved assault complaint from their computer system so it would be harder for the public to access.
One woman, Jasmin Hernandez, filed a lawsuit in March alleging that Baylor violated Title IX of the U.S. Education Amendments of 1972, which forbids schools receiving federal funding from discriminating against students and requires they protect people from sexual harassment. Baylor's recently hired Title IX coordinator, Patty Crawford, told ESPN in February the university had retained a consultant to review past sexual assault cases to see if they were handled correctly.
Rumors started to spread this week that Starr would be held responsible for the scandal instead of Briles, whose record is 50-15 over the past five years, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The backlash began even before reports of Starr's firing, with Star-Telegram columnist Mac Engel writing:
The quickest way to move on from any scandal is to fire the leadership, but dismissing Baylor president Ken Starr or athletic director Ian McCaw is not going to cut it. The only way Baylor can expedite this sordid ordeal is to fire the one guy whose overall impact in Waco is incalculable.
But how does Baylor fire Art Briles? He is responsible for one of the most impressive college football turnarounds in the last 30 years at a school that loves football and has been dying to be a real player in this sport for decades.
In any event, Tuesday's news coincided with a New York Times article on Starr's history with the Clintons. Starr, a former federal judge and U.S. solicitor general, worked as independent counsel during the Whitewater controversy in Arkansas and later issued a report on Clinton's sexual relationship with Lewinsky. Both instances contributed to the president's 1998 impeachment.
However, the Times piece, "Kenneth Starr, Who Tried to Bury Bill Clinton, Now Only Praises Him," alleged that Starr has since had a change of heart. Last week, Starr called Bill Clinton, whose wife Hillary leads the Democratic race for president, empathetic and gifted.