Kenneth Starr, the former president of Baylor University, said Saturday that former football coach Art Briles suffered a “grave and serious injustice” at the hands of ESPN and other media outlets, which he believes routinely filed misleading and inaccurate reports about the football program’s mishandling of sexual assault cases.
“There’s this meta-narrative out there, and you’re echoing it because it’s your job. And then there’s reality,” Starr told Texas Tribune chief executive Evan Smith in an interview at the Texas Tribune Festival. “I have great confidence — to this day — in Coach Briles. If there was a question of integrity, you fire the person for cause. Art Briles was not fired for cause.”
Briles was let go in May after an investigation revealed that the football program failed to respond adequately to sexual assault allegations against players. The investigation concluded that the program either greeted reports with indifference or acted with hostility toward the alleged victims. Starr was reassigned in May from president to the jobs of law professor and chancellor. In June, he stepped down from the chancellor role, and in August he resigned from the law school’s faculty.
Starr, who on Saturday admitted he’s “not privy to all the facts,” maintained that the investigation’s conclusions don’t accurately reflect the goings-on within the administration regarding its handling of sexual assault cases. Instead, he maintained, poor training of a select group of employees made the problem seem worse than it was.
“I’m going to resist the issue, or the characterization, that there was an endemic problem,” he said Saturday. “Baylor is doing extremely well this year, and the faculty is in a very good place.”
Starr underlined that victims and survivors of sexual assault should “be treated with dignity and respect” and said he was “disappointed” in the cases when that kind of treatment did not appear to happen.
Starr, who rose to fame in the 1990s for investigating President Bill Clinton’s sexual affair with Monica Lewinsky, added that he plans to write a book about his experience as president and chancellor of Baylor.
Briles, meanwhile, began his apology tour earlier this month, while continuing to search for another football job. Unlike Starr, Briles was more contrite about the investigation’s findings.
“I made mistakes. I did wrong, but I’m not doing this trying to make myself feel better for apologizing,” Briles told ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi in a sit-down interview that aired Sept. 10. “I understand I made some mistakes. There was some bad things that went on under my watch. I was the captain of this ship. The captain of the ship goes down with it.”