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Opinion: McCaw Brings Baggage to Liberty U. Position

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Richmond Times Dispatch (Virginia)

 

What did Ian McCaw know, when did he know it and what did he do?

Those are the salient questions today as McCaw takes over as the athletics director at Liberty University.

Until May, McCaw was athletics director at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, a job he held for 13 years. He resigned after being sanctioned and placed on probation by the university in the wake of a rape and sexual assault scandal that initially involved five football players and one female athlete.

The Baylor Board of Regents now says the sexual-assault and domestic-violence cases involve 17 women and 19 football players since 2011.

Monday, McCaw was introduced as the new athletics director at Liberty, which, like Baylor, is a school with a strong Christian affiliation.

Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr. told The (Lynchburg) News & Advance that McCaw was not found "culpable" by Baylor's regents and, "was a good man in a place where bad things were going on and decided to remove himself from that atmosphere."

That sounds nice, noble even.

But while the Baylor Board of Regents did not find McCaw "culpable," they didn't absolve him of responsibility for the mess created by the football program.

The regents' statement following McCaw's resignation was somewhere between lukewarm and perfunctory: "We understand and accept the difficult decision by Ian McCaw to resign as athletics director and are grateful for his service to Baylor University. We also appreciate Ian's commitment and involvement in bringing a person of integrity such as Jim Grobe to the university before making his decision."

Grobe was hired to run Baylor's football program after the dismissal of Art Briles as the head coach.

Falwell said any mistakes McCaw made at Baylor were "technical in nature."

McCaw was in charge of the athletic department. He hired Briles. McCaw had the ultimate responsibility for the behavior of every member of the athletic department.

There also is the matter of who, if anybody, reported the 2013 assault by five football players on one female athlete to Baylor's judicial affairs office, as required by federal Title IX rules.

If "technical in nature" means not being clear on whether a rape allegation was reported through the proper channels, that's an interesting definition of "technical."

A summary of a report issued by investigators from the Philadelphia law firm Pepper Hamilton LLP stated, "Pepper found specific failings within both the football program and athletic department leadership, including a failure to identify and respond to a pattern of sexual violence by a football player, to take action in response to reports of a sexual assault by multiple football players, and to take action in response to a report of dating violence."

The university was criticized for failing to "effectively implement Title IX" procedures.

Even if Falwell did his "due diligence," Liberty has hired an athletics director who arrives with considerable baggage.

The sexual-assault issues were not the first time Baylor encountered problems in its athletic department while McCaw was in charge.

In April of 2012, the men's and women's basketball programs were placed on three years probation, among other sanctions, by the NCAA for hundreds of impermissible phone calls and text messages from coaches and assistant coaches to recruits.

The penalties were self-imposed by Baylor, accepted by the NCAA and did not require either team to miss any NCAA tournament appearances.

Adding to the intrigue at Liberty is the quick hiring of McCaw after Jeff Barber abruptly resigned as Liberty's athletics director Nov. 17 after almost 11 years in the job.

So, none of this passes the smell test.

Liberty has huge ambitions in every area, none more so than its athletics program. The Flames want to play at the highest level of the football hierarchy, the Football Bowl Subdivision.

Finding a conference has been a challenge.

McCaw, with 30 years experience in intercollegiate athletics, was not hired to keep the Flames competitive in the Football Championship Subdivision.

"While we're proud members of the Big South (Conference), we want to build this program to compete at the highest level nationally and the goal of FBS football is very much at the forefront," McCaw said during his press conference Monday.

McCaw's hiring is about the ambitious pursuit of national recognition, prestige and the payday that can follow.

None are seen as bad in the upper echelons of the NCAA.

But surely Falwell, his staff and McCaw are aware of the risk associated with winning at all costs.

At Baylor, the question faced by the regents, faculty and students is whether athletic success has been worth that cost.

At Liberty, that question never should be forgotten.

(804) 649-6444 @World_of_Woody

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Ian McCaw (left) spoke with Mickey Guridy, an associate athletics director at Liberty University, on Monday after being introduced as Liberty 's new athletics director. The News & Advance/// Ian McCaw (left) spoke with Mickey Guridy, an associate athletics director at Liberty University, on Monday after being introduced as Liberty's new athletics director. The News & Advance/// McCaw Tony Gutierrez McCaw Tony Gutierrez 11/30/2016: Ian McCaw (left) spoke with Mickey Guridy, an associate athletics director at Liberty University, on Monday after being introduced as Liberty's new athletics director. The News & Advance/// Ian McCaw (left) spoke with Mickey Guridy, an associate athletics director at Liberty University, on Monday after being introduced as Liberty's new athletics director. The News & Advance/// McCaw Tony Gutierrez McCaw Tony Gutierrez
 
November 30, 2016
 
 
 

 

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