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Art Briles out at Baylor, Ken Starr demoted

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The sexual assault epidemic at Baylor is finally addressed.

Winning isn't everything.
Winning isn't everything.
Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

Baylor has fired -- technically, "suspended with intent to terminate" -- head coach Art Briles in the wake of an independent report on sexual assault complaints involving several football players. In a statement, Baylor also announced that the board of regents has demoted Ken Starr from his position as president; he will apparently be allowed to remain on board as a law professor and will continue serving as chancellor. Additionally, Baylor will re-investigate all sexual assault claims filed by Baylor students over the last three academic years and aggressively pursue the creation of a dedicated victim-advocacy service.

The announcement may bring to an end the career of one of the most colorful and innovative coaches in college football. Briles spent 20 years coaching high school teams in football-crazed Texas before joining Mike Leach's staff at Texas Tech. Just three years later, Briles landed the head coaching job at the University of Houston, lifting a program which had been moribund since the breakup of the Southwest Conference back into relevance. That effort in turn led to Briles being brought to Waco to try and turn around what was at the time the Big 12's worst program.

A termination for the causes charged by the Baylor board of regents is not something from which Briles will easily recover. Any future potential employer will look long and hard at Briles actions (or lack thereof) in Waco, and it's a near-certainty that any college program at any level which seeks to employ him will face severe backlash from some portion of its faculty, alumni, and student body. Perhaps as a result, some good will come of this; there is probably nothing that could scare a football coach more than the realization that placing winning ahead of basic decency might very well end a career.

For Starr, there's irony in all this. Starr, of course, came to national prominence as the head of an in-depth investigation into Bill Clinton's sexual activities. He's now suffered a demotion for failing to adequately do the same in Waco.

Firing Briles and demoting Starr at least gives Baylor the appearance of doing something about the problem, although the other items mentioned in Baylor's press release are of much more importance. Scaping the goats quells the bulk of public outrage, but actually doing something to rectify the problems is of far greater value.

There is still at least one major issue left to be addressed surrounding this scandal, however. There is one major actor in this play over whom Baylor exercises no direct control, and it remains to be seen what level of accountability the Waco Police Department will acknowledge.