Ken Starr Reflects on Baylor Years and Tumultuous End to Presidency In New Book

STAFF PHOTO — ROD AYDELOTTE
Starr’s new book, “Bear Country: The Baylor Story,” chronicles his six-year run as Baylor president.

In a wide-ranging interview, former Baylor University President Ken Starr said he thinks former head football coach Art Briles is “an honorable man,” while also saying a need remains for full transparency regarding the school’s damaging sexual assault scandal.

Starr also said he expected a more comprehensive report from the law firm that investigated Baylor’s institutional response to sexual violence, and he voiced concerns about federal interpretations of Title IX during President Barack Obama’s tenure.

Starr’s new book, “Bear Country: The Baylor Story,” was released this week. He called it “a love story to and about Baylor.”

Starr was removed as president in May after Philadelphia law firm Pepper Hamilton LLP found “fundamental failure” in the school’s Title IX implementation, regents reported in a 13-page “Findings of Fact” document. Briles also was fired amid the tumult.

“I continue to believe that Art Briles is an honorable man,” he said. “There may have been ways — and he would have to speak to it — of improving accountability, but I do not believe Art Briles conducted himself in a dishonorable way.

“However, we don’t have all the facts. We have these email and text messages (made public through a legal filing by regents earlier this year), and I don’t know how to assess them. I’ve always been of the view that you need to have all the facts and then you assess them. So it would be my hope that we have all the facts because we need to have transparency. We need to have truth out there so we can come to informed judgments.”

Starr referenced the February legal filing by three Baylor regents, which lists evidence of Briles and other staffers allegedly attempting to keep misconduct by football players out of the public eye and the school’s judicial processes.

Starr later resigned as chancellor — “as a matter of conscience,” he said — and he is no longer a Baylor Law School professor.

Starr addressed another storm surrounding women’s basketball coach Kim Mulkey, who recently said those who hear parents refusing to send their daughter to Baylor should “knock them right in the face.” The comments drew intense criticism, and Mulkey has since apologized for her choice of words.

“I love Kim Mulkey … But I don’t like to see that language used,” Starr said. “And certainly the sentiment, which was hyperbolic — it was rhetorical hyperbole — lended itself automatically to criticism. As soon as I heard it, I regretted that the frustration, which has to be enormous for all of our coaches, came bubbling to the surface.”

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SOURCE: Waco Tribune-Herald
Phillip Ericksen