“YOU LOOK at what Baylor [University] was able to do during his tenure, it fits perfectly with where we see our sports program going.” That initial statement from Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. announcing the university’s hiring of Ian McCaw as its new athletic director speaks volumes about the school’s misplaced priorities. Baylor earned national notoriety for its mishandling of sexual assaults by athletes; Mr. McCaw resigned as a result of the scandal. But what matters in the warped world of college sports — why Baylor is held up as a model and Mr. McCaw easily finds a new job — are games played and championships won.
Liberty, the Lynchburg, Va., school that bills itself as the largest Christian university, announced Mr. McCaw’s hiring last month, touting how he helped to turn Baylor into a national sports powerhouse. Catalogued were the successes: five national team championships, 58 Big 12 Conference titles, six consecutive bowl games for the first time in the football team’s history. Not mentioned was Mr. McCaw’s resignation from Baylor after he had been sanctioned and placed on probation as part of an investigation into sexual assaults. A law firm that conducted an independent review identified a “hostile environment” in which leaders of the football team and athletic department looked away from and even discouraged the reporting of sexual assaults, including gang rapes. The football coach was fired, and President Kenneth Starr was demoted and eventually left the school.
In the wake of criticism of the hiring, Mr. Falwell offered a defense on the university’s website in which he called Mr. McCaw a “good man who found himself in a place where bad things were happening and decided to leave.” He claimed Liberty had conducted its own investigation and any mistakes “appear to be technical and unintentional.” The external review by the law firm omits names in its cataloguing of issues, so there is uncertainty about specific actions taken, or not, by Mr. McCaw. He is currently named in a lawsuit by a woman who says she was raped as a result of his indifference to an earlier reported assault. Mr. McCaw, a Liberty spokesman told us, is not commenting.
Whatever the outcome of that specific case — and no doubt Liberty officials are keeping their fingers crossed — Mr. McCaw cannot escape culpability for his 13 years in charge of a department that failed miserably to measure up to its legal and moral responsibilities to combat sexual violence. “I can’t think of an athletic director in the country,” Mr. Falwell wrote, “who is more sensitized to the importance of complying with the intricacies of Title IX than Ian McCaw.” If Mr. McCaw had a losing record on the field, would Liberty officials have thought that “sensitized” him to winning? Or would they have figured that the best indicator of future success is past performance?