As the college football world comes to grips with a particularly ugly sexual assault scandal involving a member of the Baylor football team, Charlie Pierce meditates, as only he can, on the role of Baylor’s president:
It is something of an irony that the president of Baylor University is Kenneth Starr, the man who was the special prosecutor that pursued President Bill Clinton in an investigation that began with the failed Whitewater land deal in Arkansas and ended with the president being impeached for a consensual sexual affair. In that probe, Starr saw fall guys everywhere, from local politicians in the backwaters of the Ozarks to the West Wing of the White House. One of his first accomplishments after becoming president of Baylor in 2010 was to make sure the school remained within the rapidly re-forming Big 12 conference. So it did, and the football team has prospered mightily. Under Ken Starr, the Bears have gone a fat 47-18. They’ve made a lot of money. They produced Robert Griffin III, a genuine star when he left Baylor.
And now, there is a horrible crime for which one of the Baylor football players has been convicted and sentenced. This has brought back to mind another scandal in which one of the Baylor basketball players was convicted of a crime. Back then, a basketball coach tried to make the dead man a scapegoat in his own death. Now, Baylor’s football coach is trying to hang some of the responsibility for this more recent crime on another coach half a continent away. Starr once deplored this kind of thing in a president. Reacting to the verdict, Starr’s office said in a statement:
“After consulting with the Baylor Board of Regents, the Executive Council and our academic leadership, this afternoon I called for a comprehensive internal inquiry into the circumstances associated with this case and the conduct of the various offices involved. The inquiry will be led by Jeremy Counseller, Professor of Law at Baylor Law School, Baylor’s Faculty Athletics Representative to the Big 12 Conference and NCAA and a former Assistant District Attorney. Mr. Counseller will engage others in his review as he deems appropriate and will submit his report directly to me at the conclusion of his inquiry. After an analysis of his report, I will determine what additional action to take.”
Somebody’s taking the fall. It’s the American way.
And we can expect whoever at Baylor doesn’t take the fall to get extra-pious about it all, even as those who take the fall confess their lapses and ask for instant absolution and a good quick path back to respectability. Good thing for them, Baptists (the religious tradition with which Baylor is heavily identified) don’t even require the intermediary services of a priest.