NCAA

Baylor demotes Starr, fires coach Art Briles amid sex assaults scandal

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Baylor demotes Starr, fires coach Art Briles amid sex assaults scandal

AUSTIN, Texas -- Ken Starr, who zealously pursued charges against a sitting U.S. president in a White House sex scandal, was stripped of his job as president of Baylor University on Thursday after a scathing review found that under his leadership, the school did little to respond to accusations of sexual assault involving members of its vaunted football program.

The board of regents at the nation's largest Baptist university said Starr will vacate the presidency on May 31 and stay on as chancellor and law school professor, jobs that will not include any "operational" duties for the school.

Baylor also fired football coach Art Briles and placed athletic director Ian McCaw on probation after an external investigation found the actions of football staff and athletics leadership "in some instances, posed a risk to campus safety and the integrity of the university."

The report didn't identify specific cases, but two football players have been convicted of sexual assault since 2014. In the past year, there have been multiple reports of other alleged assaults and women who said the school did nothing to help.

"We're deeply sorrowful (for) these events," Baylor regents chairman Richard Willis said. "We're honestly just horrified."

Starr gets to keep a title and a job, but his demotion at the school in Waco, Texas, is a stunning fall for the prosecutor whose dogged investigation of President Bill Clinton's relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky eventually led to Clinton's 1998 impeachment.

The review by Philadelphia-based law firm Pepper Hamilton found that under Starr, school administrators discouraged students from reporting or participating in student conduct reviews of sexual assault complaints and even contributed to or accommodated a "hostile" environment against the alleged victims.

In one case, the actions of administrators "constituted retaliation against a complainant for reporting sexual assault," the report said.

University leadership was also slow to enact federally-required student conduct processes, and administrators failed to identify and eliminate the hostile environment toward victims, the report found.

In a statement to the Waco Tribune-Herald, Starr apologized to "those victims who were not treated with the care, concern, and support they deserve."

He insisted he didn't learn about the problems until fall 2015 and launched investigations as soon as he did.

"Despite these dark days, I remain resolved to join hands with the Baylor family to continue to build the University as we carry out its distinct mission in Christian higher education. May God grant us grace, mercy, and peace," Starr said.

Once a losing program, Baylor football enjoyed unprecedented success under Briles, including two Big 12 championships in the last three years. Starr, who arrived at the school in 2010, went along for the ride and often ran onto the field with students during pregame ceremonies.

Football victories brought a financial windfall. In 2014, Baylor opened a new, $250-million on-campus football stadium and Starr became one of the leading voices among the presidents in the Big 12.

The 13-page "findings of fact" released by Baylor didn't name Starr, Briles or McCaw individually, but the investigation covered from 2011-2015. Briles has been Baylor's football coach since 2008 and McCaw became athletic director in 2003.

None of those three immediately responded to requests for comment.

Jasmin Hernandez, a former Baylor student who testified in football player Tevin Elliott's 2014 rape trial, has filed a federal lawsuit against the school. She said Thursday the Pepper Hamilton report appears "honest and forthright" and shows the systemic way students who complained of sexual assault were denied their rights.

While the Associated Press generally doesn't identify sexual assault victims, Hernandez has spoken publicly to draw attention to the case.

Hernandez agreed with Starr's demotion but said "what concerns me more was the propagation of rape culture within Baylor University."

University officials time and again had knowledge of assaults committed by football players and others but took no action, Hernandez said, adding she won't drop her lawsuit.

It was Starr who initiated the Pepper Hamilton review that would lead to his downfall, ordering it last year after former football player Sam Ukwuachu was convicted of sexually assaulting a female soccer player.

Pepper Hamilton lawyer Gina Smith said the firm reviewed more than a million pages of documents, reports and interviews before presenting its findings to Baylor's regents earlier this month.

While critical of top administrators for ignoring problems or being slow to act, the most critical elements were aimed at Briles' football program.

The report found that football coaches and athletics administrators had run their own improper investigations into rape claims, and that in some cases, they chose not to report such allegations to an administrator outside of athletics.

By running their own "untrained" investigations and meeting directly with a complainant, football staff "improperly discredited" complainants' claims and "denied them a right to a fair, impartial and informed investigation."

The football program acted in ways that "reinforced an overall perception that football was above the rules," the report said.

Ex-Cal football player Eric Stevens fighting for ALS cure after diagnosis

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AP

Ex-Cal football player Eric Stevens fighting for ALS cure after diagnosis

Former Cal Bears fullback Eric Stevens now is a Los Angeles City firefighter. He knows what it's like to put others' lives ahead of his own. 

Now, his family hopes those will return the favor.

Stevens was diagnosed with ALS at the age of 29, soon after getting married to the woman of his dreams.

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Let’s help Eric #axeALS!!!! #TeamStevensNation

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"The diagnosis and subsequent education they received about the horrific disease was the worst news one could ever imagine," a Facebook post dedicated to "Team Stevens Nation," described.

ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis -- also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, is a debilitating and incurable disease that causes the death of neurons controlling voluntary muscles. With a life expectancy between two and five years, paralysis comes much quicker. And there is much unknown about it. 

While there are many treatments going through clinical trials that are showing promise, there is still a 50 percent chance those could receive a placebo over the actual treatment.

"There is NO reason why a person with a terminal diagnosis should receive placebo over the actual treatment," the Facebook page explains. "Another downside to these clinical trials is they are a year-long process, and time is the one thing ALS patients don't have. Every single day without treatment is a day lost."

Those can donate to and share the family's GoFundMe page here

Stevens, now 30, totaled 14 carries for 53 yards, and 13 catches for 82 yards and one touchdown in his career at Cal that spanned from 2008-2012. But despite playing sparingly, he was voted team captain.

He was signed by the Rams as an undrafted free agent in 2013, but never played a snap in the NFL.

[RELATED: A's Piscotty accepts prestigious Hutch Award]

"Given his strong determination and success in anything he puts his mind to, Eric has chosen to fight and advocate for getting drugs and treatments available to patients NOW," the Facebook group wrote. "Eric's goal with the help of his family and friends is to raise awareness for ALS and act now toward getting treatments available."

Gavin Newsom signs 'Fair Pay to Play' act with LeBron James on 'The Shop'

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USATSI

Gavin Newsom signs 'Fair Pay to Play' act with LeBron James on 'The Shop'

Monday was a monumental day in college athletics.

California Governor Gavin Newsom went on HBO and Uninterrupted's "The Shop" to formally sign California's "Fair Pay to Play" act alongside Lakers star LeBron James.

The law will allow college athletes in the state of California to profit off the use of their name, image and likeness, and will make it illegal for universities to revoke a student's scholarship for accepting money. The bill will not pay athletes to play, but it will allow them to sign agents and seek out business deals.

"[Signing the bill] is going to initiate dozens of other states to introduce similar legislation," Newsom said on "The Shop" prior to signing the bill. "And it’s going to change college sports for the better by having now the interests, finally, of the athletes, on par with the interests of the institutions. Now we’re rebalancing that power arrangement."

The bill will go into effect Jan. 1, 2023.

Warriors forward Draymond Green has been a vocal proponent of the bill, and he gave Newsom props after the signing.

Newsom's bill has faced blowback from both California schools and the NCAA, as it would make it impossible for those schools to follow the NCAA's amateurism rules. The NCAA has called the bill unconstitutional and will challenge it in court.

The NCAA responded with a statement.

The Pac-12 also issued a statement. 

[RELATED: Draymond supports California bill for NCAA athletes]

The signing of the bill is expected to cause an avalanche of states to pass similar legislation and fundamentally change how amateurism and college athletics are viewed.

Well done, Gov. Newsom.