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Briles Fired, Starr Reassigned in Baylor Shakeup

Mike Davis via Texas Tribune

From the Texas Tribune: Baylor University has fired head football coach Art Briles and reassigned President and Chancellor Ken Starr after months of scrutiny over how university administrators handled allegations of sexual assault against football players. 

Starr, who was previously chancellor and president, will now be chancellor and professor. Briles is suspended with intent to terminate. And Athletic Director Ian McCaw has been sanctioned and placed on probation.

The interim president is David Garland, dean of the George W. Truett Theological Seminary at Baylor, the university said in a release. 

An investigative report commissioned by the university was released Thursday. 

Briles hasn't commented publicly yet, but his Twitter account came down immediately after the news went public.

The report was conducted by the law firm Pepper Hamilton, which Baylor hired after football player Sam Ukwuachu was convicted in August of raping another student. Testimony during the trial revealed that Ukwuachu had been investigated by the university but not punished. He continued to practice with the team and coaches proclaimed after he was arrested that they expected him to play again. 

Since then, numerous reports have emerged of Baylor students who were raped and felt like their cases weren't taken seriously. That included victims of Tevin Elliot, a football player who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for rape in 2014. ESPN has reported that five women told police that Elliot either raped them or assaulted them between 2009 and 2012. 

The stories have prompted questions: Who at Baylor knew about the accusations of assault? And why didn't internal investigations lead to the expulsions of those students? Federal regulations require universities to thoroughly investigate allegations of sexual assault on campus and take action to protect students from assaulters. The burden of proof for punishment is low — the university only needs to determine that it's more likely than not an assault occurred. 

Given that Elliott and Ukwuachu were convicted in criminal court, where the burden of proof was much higher, many have wondered whether the university did enough to investigate. 

Baylor's public response has been limited. As pressure has mounted, the university has released a series of statements and letters to "Baylor Nation." Soon after the Ukwuachu conviction in August, Starr released a letter announcing that he had hired a law firm to conduct an in-depth investigation that "will help us pinpoint where we are strong and where we may need to improve."

"Some have concluded that we could have done more," Starr wrote. "Perhaps so. Our independent investigation will soon reveal if opportunities exist for improvements in the way we respond to allegations of sexual violence. But I retain full confidence in our Student Life professionals."

He also argued that universities are in some ways hamstrung in how they can handle investigations. They don't have subpoena power, nor do they have access to forensic evidence, he wrote.

"It is also important to acknowledge why we may not have known more than we did," Starr wrote.

In February, soon after the ESPN report, Baylor announced a series of measures designed to prevent and better respond to sexual assault on campus. Those included increasing funding for counseling staff and sexual assault training for staff and students. 

But the Pepper Hamilton report is expected to be by far the most thorough examination of the situation to be made public.