Liberty University’s recent decision to hire former Baylor athletic director Ian McCaw is being met with ire from students and alumni.
McCaw is coming off a tainted tenure at Baylor. According to a Nov. 11 statement released by the school, McCaw and former Baylor football coach Art Briles failed to report an allegation of a 2012 sexual assault involving five football players to Baylor’s judicial affairs office. On Nov. 2, Baylor’s former Title IX coordinator said McCaw asked her for immunity for football players when she started investigating allegations of sexual assault. (Briles has since sued Baylor officials for libel and slander.)
McCaw is also named in a lawsuit filed by a former Baylor student who was raped by a football player who is now serving 20 years in prison for his crime, and an investigation by a Philadelphia law firm found that 17 women since 2011 reported incidents of sexual and domestic violence allegedly involving 19 football players, Baylor regents told The Wall Street Journal in late October. Four of the cases reportedly involved gang rapes.
Prior to his resignation, McCaw presided over a football program that went to a bowl game every season from 2010 to 2015, the team winning three of the six.
“You look at what Baylor was able to do during [McCaw’s] tenure, it fits perfectly with where we see our sports programs going,” Liberty president Jerry Falwell Jr. said in a Nov. 28 statement.
“I can’t think of an athletic director in the country who is more sensitized to the importance of complying with the intricacies of Title IX than Ian McCaw,” Falwell said in a separate Nov. 29 statement.
Many connected to Liberty don’t share Falwell’s confidence. Almost two weeks after his hiring, alumni, students and athletes contacted by espnW remain concerned by McCaw’s past and their university’s decision to seemingly put athletics before the Christian values it holds so dear.
Liberty’s mission statement emphasizes “a commitment to the Christian life, one of personal integrity, sensitivity to the needs of others, social responsibility and active communication of the Christian faith.”
Liberty alumnus Nick Tarter, the pastor at CityLife Baptist Church in Bethany, Oklahoma, grew up on Big 12 football as an Oklahoma fan and closely followed the Baylor scandal. Seeing McCaw get another chance, let alone at his school, felt like “a punch in the gut,” he said.
“To me it’s not even a question of whether he’s been implicated” in the investigation at Baylor, Tarter said. “He didn’t stand up and stand in the way of those things as they were coming down the pipeline. There is a stain on everyone who was involved.”
Liberty, located in Lynchburg, Virginia, put out a blanket order that all requests for comment on McCaw be sent to spokesman Len Stevens. When asked for a comment from Falwell, Stevens provided espnW with his previously released statements. Liberty’s Title IX coordinator also didn’t return interview requests, and McCaw declined an interview request via the athletics department.
Multiple requests for comment sent to members of the board of trustees were also rebuffed. A secretary at the parish of trustee Dr. Allen McFarland said all members were told to direct comments to Stevens.
No student contacted by espnW wanted to speak on the record about McCaw for fear of retaliation. But interviews and a confidential online survey with more than two dozen Liberty students showed that almost none support Falwell’s decision. Every student said bringing in McCaw hurt the university’s public image.
More than a dozen alumni contacted by espnW said they don’t support McCaw, and three said they won’t be contributing money to the university as long as McCaw is in charge of the athletics department.
One Liberty student said the administration uses the following rationale to sell McCaw: Good Christians believe in repentance, and McCaw deserves a second chance. That stance is then twisted to frame any stand against McCaw and Falwell as an immoral act, the student said.
“It’s manipulative — it’s abusive, honestly — and I’m surprised by the number of students that have fallen into that mindset here as well,” the student said.
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