According to Sports Illustrated, The Washington Post and Horns Digest’s Chip Brown, Ken Starr, president of Baylor University, has been fired, although the university has not confirmed the report.
Brown reports multiple sources confirmed to him, the board of regents blames Starr for a lack of leadership during the continuous sexual assault scandal that has plagued the university for the past year. This led to his firing on Tuesday. Brown reports sources tell him Dr. Reagan Ramsower is the lead candidate to fill Starr’s vacancy in an interim role. Dr. Ramsower currently serves as the Senior Vice President for Operations and Chief Financial Officer. Baylor’s board of regents has declined to confirm any reports, but expect to make an official announcement by June 3.
The university released the following statement on Tuesday afternoon following multiple reports of Starr’s firing:
The university released the following statement on Tuesday afternoon following multiple reports of Starr’s firing:
The Baylor Board of Regents continues its work to review the findings of the Pepper Hamilton investigation and we anticipate further communication will come after the Board completes its deliberations. We will not respond to rumors, speculation or reports based on unnamed sources, but when official news is available, the University will provide it. We expect an announcement by June 3.
Two of the players involved in the alleged cover-up by the university have been convicted of rape and sentenced. Allegations have been made against numerous players under Starr, athletic director Ian McCaw and head football coach Art Briles. Sources tell Brown, Starr, instead of Briles, is considered the “fall guy” that stems from the at least six Baylor students who said they were raped and/or sexually/physically assaulted by Baylor football players from 2009 – 2016.
Aside from being the president of Baylor, Starr is best known for spearheading the effort to impeach President Bill Clinton in the 1990s. However, according to Philly.com, recently while in Philadelphia on May 16, Starr praised the former president saying Clinton was “the most gifted politician of the baby boomer generation.”
HOW DID WE GET HERE
On Friday, May 20, the office of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced Baylor University must release some of their sexual assault records, however they are allowed to withhold aspects involving student privacy issues.
According to the Waco Tribune-Herald, on Thursday the newspaper received an opinion from the AG’s office stating certain documents submitted to their office must be released to be in compliance with a new law that makes private colleges in Texas acquiesce with public information guidelines. However, the opinion did not say what information should be withheld.
The Tribune-Herald requested reports from Baylor on February 9 involving sexual assaults and improper sexual conduct over the last 20 years. After a lawyer who represents Baylor asked the paper to “limit the scope of their request.” The Tribune-Herald then requested the information from the past 15 years.
Instead of releasing the documents, according to the Waco-based paper, Baylor counsel instead contacted the AG’s office to make a judgment on the matter.
In 2015, Governor Greg Abbott singed SB 308 into law. This requires campus police at private universities to abide by Texas public information laws which all police departments must acquiesce with the releasing of law enforcement-related activities. The law was introduced by Senator John Whitmire, of Houston.
A Whitmire staff member was critical of Baylor and AG Ken Paxton, a Baylor Law School alum, when they spoke to the Tribune-Herald saying they are “playing silly games with their interpretation of the Public Information Act.”
On Wednesday, May 18, ESPN revealed they obtained multiple police reports that go into detail about previously unknown sexual assaults and acts of domestic violence by Baylor football players.
According to the documents from police, some Baylor officials and coaches knew about the incidents involving their players and most athletes did not miss any playing time for disciplinary reasons.
In 2011, three Baylor football players were charged following an off-campus assault. In the files, obtained by ESPN’s Outside the Lines, Waco police asked a commander to pull the case concerning the Baylor football players from the computer so only people who had a reason to ask about the case could access it. OTL reports the documents were placed in a locked office.
A sexual assault allegation against a former star football player at Baylor, Ahmad Dixon, was in the Waco Police Department’s “open-case status: for four years. This shields the record from public view, according to Texas law. Police said the woman was deemed “deceptive” because she had made other claims of sexual assault prior to this. Dixon was also arrested in 2013 after reportedly hitting a man he thought stole his TV. Dixon told OTL he was involved in multiple fights while at Baylor. Dixon, who is now an NFL free agent, earned All-America honors during his time in Waco.
In April 2014, a woman told police Bears running back Devin Chafin had grabbed her and slammed her into a car in front of witnesses, according to OTL. She gave photos of bruising to police. She also said prior to this, Chafin had grabbed her by her throat and slammed her into a wall before throwing her to the ground and kicking her.
Chafin played in nine of 13 games for the Bears that season. Chafin was arrested for marijuana possession earlier this year and was suspended for spring practice. He was later reinstated.
In April 2012, a woman told police she attempted to break up with her boyfriend, cornerback Tyler Stephenson, reports ESPN. He lured her to his apartment before restraining her, refusing to let her leave and taking her phone. She was finally able to get away and tried to call 911 once she got out of the apartment. The woman said Stephenson then grabbed her by her hair and threw her against a wall. Police say witnesses confirmed the victim’s account of what happened. It is unclear whether Stephenson faced disciplinary actions.
Read more from the OTL report here.
LATEST BAYLOR CONTROVERSIES
On April 13, police arrested a former Baylor star football player on a sexual assault charge just days after they began their investigation. Shawn Oakman was served with a search warrant for his DNA and his cell phone then arrested and booked into the McLennan County Jail.
A female has accused Oakman, who played on the defensive line for the Bears this year and is a 2016 NFL draft hopeful, of sexually assaulting..
According to the police report, Oakman met a woman at a nightclub and he asked her if she wanted to go back to his duplex. The female told police Oakman then forced her into a bedroom, forcibly removed her clothes, forced her onto the bed then sexually assaulted her, reports the Tribune-Herald.
The Central Texas newspaper says police seized two comforters, a fitted sheet and a flat sheet from Oakman’s bedroom. They also report the female went to the hospital following the alleged assault and was examined by a sexual assault nurse.
Oakman was suspended for one game in September 2015 for “violating team rules.”
OAKMAN BEFORE WACO
Before coming to Waco, Oakman was booted from the Penn State football after an incident at an on-campus store. According to a police report obtained by Philly.com from the Penn State Police Department, Oakman went into the store to make a purchase. He presented his ID but the clerk noticed he’d hidden food and a drink and the clerk held his ID. Oakman then pushed the female employee against the wall and tried to get his ID back.
Oakman posted his $25,000 bail on Thursday afternoon and was released from jail.
The most recent allegations came just days after a former Baylor student filed a lawsuit against the school over their handling of her rape by a another former Baylor football player.
On Wednesday, March 30, The Zalkin Law Firm announced the filing of a federal Title IX civil lawsuit on against the Baylor University Board of Regents on behalf of a former student, Jasmin Hernandez, who was sexually assaulted and raped by another student, East Texas native and former football player Tevin Elliott, while attending the university.
The lawsuit claims that Baylor failed to comply with Title IX requirements in response to complaints by students who were victims of campus sexual assault, and in particular the complaint by Hernandez.
The complaint also alleges that Baylor authorities were negligent in that they had notice that Elliott had sexually assaulted at least one other female student prior to his sexual assault of Hernandez. Knowing this, the university failed to take reasonable measures to prevent him from hurting other students. The complaint was filed in the United States District Court Western District of Texas.
The civil complaint outlines the details of sexual assault and rape suffered by Hernandez, while she was a student at Baylor University. Hernandez was a Baylor freshman on academic scholarship at the time she was raped by Elliott during a party at an off-campus location in April 2012. Hernandez was one of five women who reported to police they were either raped or assaulted — in incidents from October 2009 to April 2012 — by Elliott, who was convicted on two counts of sexual assault in January 2014 for the incident involving Hernandez.
The civil complaint details how Hernandez and her mother reported the rape and sexual assault to Baylor’s Counseling Center the very next day seeking help and counseling for Hernandez. None was offered. They then sought assistance from the Psychology Department of Baylor’s Student Health Center where they were advised that there was nothing available for Hernandez.
Hernandez and her mother desperately sought academic accommodation from Baylor’s Academic Services Department due to her traumatized emotional state. Hernandez’s mother was told “if a plane falls on your daughter, there’s nothing we can do to help you.”
Hernandez’s mother then called Coach Briles directly. She received a return call from a secretary that the matter was being looked into.
Hernandez’s father called Briles again after receiving no response. His call was never returned. Hernandez reported the rape to Waco Police.
The lawsuit alleges that Baylor and Head Football Coach, Art Briles, were aware of previous allegations of sexual assault by Elliott of at least one other female Baylor students prior to his assault of Hernandez. In direct violation of federal law known as Title IX, which prohibits gender-based discrimination in the form of sexual harassment or sexual assault, Baylor authorities were deliberately indifferent to prior sexual assaults and Hernandez’s complaints and allowed Elliott to remain on campus exposing the victim to being sexually assaulted and to further harassment after the assault by this known perpetrator.
Title IX requires universities to protect students from any sexual assault by other students or faculty that impacts their ability to obtain equal access to educational opportunities and benefits offered by the school. Universities that receive complaints of sexual violence are required to exercise due diligence in investigating and responding to those complaints to protect the victim and eliminate a gender-based hostile environment.
“This case is yet another example of the indifference of college campuses to the hostile and discriminatory environment they foster against female and some male students due to their tolerance of sexual harassment and sexual assault,” said Alex Zalkin, attorney for Hernandez. “Rather than following the law intended to protect victims like our client, Baylor failed to investigate these allegations, allowed Elliott to remain a threat to other female students, and did nothing to offer any counseling or academic support which ultimately forced her to drop out of Baylor.”
Two causes of action against the defendants are detailed in the civil complaint; violation of Title IX and common law negligence The complaint asks for unspecified monetary compensation for physical and emotional damages, past and future medical expenses for therapy and counseling, loss of educational opportunities, loss of potential earning capacity, and punitive damages.
In December 2015, Baylor settled with another sexual assault victim after another former Baylor football player, Sam Ukwuachu, was convicted of raping her in October 2013. The victim in this case said she was mistreated by the school and was “forced” to transfer to another university, while Ukwuachu remained on full scholarship and was “expected” to play during the 2015 season. After being found guilty, Ukwuachu was sentenced to six months in jail and 10 years probation.
PREVIOUS RED FLAG
Before transferring to Baylor, Ukwuachu was named a freshman All-American when he was at Boise State University in 2012. That season, he had played in all 13 games for the Broncos, starting 12 of them. He sat out as a true freshman in 2011 and was redshirted.
In May 2013, Boise State announced that Ukwuachu was dismissed from the team for violating unspecified rules. No other details were made available.
According to records cited by the Waco paper, when Ukwuachu was at Boise State, he allegedly attacked his girlfriend while drinking and using drugs. The newspaper said records show that Ukwuachu broke a window and cut his arm, which led to a Boise police investigation.
At the trial this week, that former girlfriend in Idaho told the jury that Ukwuachu punched her in the head several times and choked her, the Waco Tribune-Herald reported. Ukwuachu denied the allegations.
The following month after he left Boise State, Ukwuachu told the Waco paper that he was transferring to Baylor. He declined to discuss his dismissal from Boise State.
BAYLOR COACH EXPECTED UKWUACHU TO BE BACK
Ukwuachu would have had two years of eligibility remaining had he played for Baylor. However, he never played a down for the Bears despite remaining on the team’s roster.
In 2014, he was suspended from the team, but reasons weren’t given as to why, according to the Dallas Morning News. However, there were expectations from Baylor that Ukwuachu might take the field for the Bears for the 2015 season.
“Ukwuachu is a guy we’re expecting to be back,” Baylor defensive coordinator Phil Bennett said in June, a year after the indictment, according to the Dallas paper. “We expect him to be eligible in July. That gives us probably five or six guys we can play at end.”
But all of that changed. Ukwuachu eventually was dismissed from the Baylor football team for violating unspecified rules. Ukwuachu graduated from Baylor in May and was taking graduate courses before the trial. He still had a year of eligibility to play football after graduation, according to NCAA rules.
JUDGE FOUND BAYLOR INVESTIGATION INSUFFICIENT
According to Texas Monthly, Assistant District Attorney Hilary LaBorde told 54th District Judge Matt Johnson that Baylor’s investigation consisted of interviewing Ukwuachu, his accuser and one friend of each. The article also said that LaBorde said that the school never saw the rape kit collected by the sexual assault nurse examiner. Texas Monthly reported that the judge sustained a motion from the prosecution that restricted the defense from referring to the Baylor investigation during trial because it was so insufficient.
The Waco Tribune reported that McCraw, the Baylor associate dean, testified that she did not review the nurse’s report or review Boise State disciplinary records before making her determination in the investigation.
Following Ukwuachu’s conviction, Baylor released a statement that “acts of sexual violence contradict every value Baylor University upholds as a caring Christian community.” The school outlined steps taken there, such as staffing a Title IX office with two full-time investigators and supporting sexual assault survivors.
Baylor followed up Friday by stating that, after a meeting that afternoon, President and Chancellor Ken Starr ordered “a comprehensive internal inquiry into the circumstances associated with this case and the conduct of the offices involved.” That review will be led by Jeremy Counseller, a law professor and former prosecutor.
“After analysis of his report, President Starr will determine what additional action may be necessary,” the Waco school said.
Baylor head coach Art Briles claimed he was not aware of Ukwuachu’s past. However, Texas Monthly obtained court documents saying Boise State and Baylor had some communication regarding Ukwuachu. The documents also said Boise State officials expressed reticence about supporting Ukwuachu’s efforts to play again, the magazine said.
According to the Waco paper, after the news of Ukwuachu’s charges finally came to light more than a year later, Briles told reporters, “I like the way we’ve handled it as a university, an athletic department and a football program.”
Chris Petersen, now the head coach at the University of Washington, was Boise State’s head football coach when Ukwuachu was a member of the Broncos. In a statement, he said he in fact had reached out to Briles about Ukwuachu transferring.
“After Sam Ukwuachu was dismissed from the Boise State football program and expressed an interest in transferring to Baylor, I initiated a call with coach Art Briles,” Petersen said in the statement. “In that conversation, I thoroughly apprised Coach Briles of the circumstances surrounding Sam’s disciplinary record and dismissal.”
According to Sports Illustrated, former University of Florida head coach-turned-Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp could have had Ukwuachu, but decided against it after having been told of his violent past by Boise State officials.
COLLEGE OF COVER-UPS?
However, this isn’t the first time Baylor has been thrust into the limelight for athletic department scandals.
Prior to the 1999-2000 NCAA men’s basketball season, Dave Bliss was hired by Baylor to lead the Bears’ basketball squad. Bliss, who was known for his role in paying SMU basketball players, only made matters worse for himself when he made the move to Waco.
On July 26, 2003, the body of Baylor junior forward Patrick Dennehy, who transferred from the University of New Mexico where Bliss formerly coached, was found, decomposed, in a gravel pit near Waco. The death was ruled a homicide four days later.
Dennehy’s teammate Carlton Dotson was arrested for the murder and pleaded guilty to the crime in June 2005. He was sentenced to 35 years in prison. According to Mike Wise of the Washington Post, this was the first known case of a player killing a teammate in the history of U.S. intercollegiate athletics.
Former Baylor President Robert Sloan gathered an investigative committee who found Bliss paid Dennehy and teammate Cory Herring’s tuition, but led the players to believe they had received scholarships, even though they had reached the limit on the funding. While meeting with investigators, Bliss painted Dennehy as a drug dealer. He also told his players and coaches to lie to investigators regarding the slain player’s tuition. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram released audio recordings taken by former assistant coach Abar Rouse of Bliss telling players to say Dennehy paid for college with money from selling drugs. Bliss was also found to have violated drug testing policies.
After finally admitting his wrong-doings, Bliss was forced to resign by the university on August 8, 2003. The 71-year-old scored his first coaching job since the disgusting scandal in May. Bliss is now the head coach at Southwestern Baptist University, an NAIA school in Bethany, Oklahoma.
BAYLOR AT THE BOX OFFICE
According to Mac Engel of the Forth Worth Star-Telegram, an Austin filmmaker is bringing the basketball nightmare to the big screen with a documentary.
“The Baylor football program is supplying enough material for a sequel to the disgusting nightmare the basketball team created more than 10 years ago,” Engel wrote in his column. “We now have Baylor’s Shame: Part II. There is no report of any punishment from Baylor, which is consistent in how it has dealt with these situations.”
A comprehensive timeline was posted on Reddit of the most recent allegations among Baylor student-athletes.
The timeline begins in 2009 when Hernandez (the woman suing Baylor) testified that Elliott sexually assaulted her after she passed out drunk at her apartment in 2009. It ends with the most recent allegation against Oakman in April 2016.