- The Washington Times - Monday, May 30, 2016


Bill Clinton and his friends probably feel themselves entitled to a little chuckle over the plight of Kenneth Starr, the plotter of the impeachment of Mr. Clinton. The wheel that goes around comes around, and all that.

Mr. Starr was sacked last week as president of Baylor University — officially, demoted to chancellor and a professorship in the law school — for his inattention to the sexual plundering of coeds by several players on the school’s ascendant football team, which after years of mediocrity has become the scourge of the Big 12 Conference.

Bubba is only human, as he has amply demonstrated in boudoirs, closets and even office pantries from coast to coast, and who (besides Ken Starr) would deny him a moment of schadenfreude, as the Germans call “taking pleasure in the suffering of others.”

Baylor’s board of regents further sacked Art Briles, the football coach, and the athletic director, and professed to be “shocked” by the tales of sex and violence on the campus of the world’s largest Baptist university. If the regents were well and truly shocked, they were the only folks in Texas who were, where tales of big-time sex and big-time college football no longer have much shocking power. A Baylor basketball player even shot and killed another player on campus several years ago. That was before the arrival of Mr. Starr, who has been a familiar sight at the Baylor bench and in the arena, dressed in a bright-yellow pullover emblazoned with a tribute to “that good old Baylor line.”

The story in its sordid particulars is a football story for the sports pages in Texas, and a story of politics and presidents everywhere else, and most of all in Washington.

“Mr. Starr’s demotion delivered a twist to the biography of a man whose reputation was built on what many considered an overzealous pursuit of allegations of sexual transgressions by Mr. Clinton,” observed The New York Times, which has defended Bubba and his missus as best it can without looking the fool. “Now [Mr. Starr] is being punished for leading an administration that, according to a report by an outside law firm commissioned by the university’s governing board, looked the other way when Baylor football players were accused of sex crimes, and sometimes convicted of them.”

Ken Starr, Baylor and its administration have much to regret, as Mr. Starr himself said in a lawyerly confession of “contrition” for “tragedy” and “sadness,” conceding that the women who were abused were “not treated with the care, concern, and support that they deserved.” He said he was “profoundly sorry.” But the backstory reaches far beyond Waco, Texas. Baylor is only a school that got caught. Big-time college athletics everywhere is corrupt to its core, and everyone knows it.

It’s all about money. One of Mr. Starr’s brightest legacies at Baylor is a new $150-million dollar stadium, built to make the university worthy of the football team. The university was so proud of it when it was completed that it added chancellor to Mr. Starr’s duties as president. Baylor has since become one of the state’s big-three college football schools, along with Texas and Texas A&M.

Schools in nearly every state have had to deal with allegations of sexual assault on campus. The underlying problem, one college administrator says, is that athletes at the big-time schools, and a lot of little-time schools that want to be big-time, have been coddled for their athleticism as far back as grade school, and they arrive on campus poorly prepared for campus life and expect to continue to be coddled. They usually are. Beating up women is no big deal as long as they catch the touchdown pass and make the crucial tackle.

The pressure on coaches to win is all but unbearable. Art Briles was lured to Baylor from the University of Houston with an annual salary of $6 million. The new coach knew he wouldn’t be long in Waco if he didn’t win, and quick about it. And he did. As one of the most sought-after coaches for schools on the make, he isn’t likely to be unemployed for long.

It’s difficult to think that big-time college football will survive unless something or someone steps in to save it. Saturday afternoons in autumn were made for football, but Saturday afternoon on campus has become not much different from Sunday afternoon in the NFL. Sentiment for the old school has evaporated in a cloud of lust for a championship.

The college sport was saved once before, after lethal violence overtook sportsmanship. President Theodore Roosevelt stepped in and encouraged reforms that spared lives. No more flying wedge. Where’s Teddy now that the campus really needs him?

Wesley Pruden is editor-in-chief emeritus of The Times.

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