Liberty University will join the Football Bowl Subdivision, college sports' most competitive level, after receiving a waiver from the National Collegiate Athletic Association on Thursday. Liberty requested the waiver in January, seeking permission to enter the two-year FBS reclassification process without having an invitation to join an FBS conference.
In November, the private Christian university signaled its intention to join the FBS by hiring Ian McCaw, an athletic director who helped turn Baylor University into a football powerhouse. “Ian’s success really speaks for itself,” Jerry Falwell Jr., Liberty's president, said at the time “You look at what Baylor was able to do during his tenure -- it fits perfectly with where we see our sports programs going. This is an exciting time for us.”
Four months earlier, McCaw had resigned from Baylor amid widespread allegations that his athletic department mishandled and covered up reports of sexual assaults and other misconduct committed by football players.
In April 2013, a female volleyball player at Baylor told her coach that she was gang-raped by five football players in 2012. The volleyball coach shared the names of the players with Briles, who, according to the filing, replied, “Those are some bad dudes. Why was she around those guys?” The female athlete’s mother later met with an assistant football coach, providing the same list of names. Nobody ever reported the alleged gang rape to any university officials outside the athletic department or to police. At the time, Baylor did not have a full-time Title IX coordinator.
McCaw, the university’s athletic director at the time, was notified of the 2012 gang rape, but allegedly -- and incorrectly -- told the volleyball coach that if his player did not press charges, then the athletic department could do nothing. In a 2013 text message conversation between McCaw and Briles, McCaw was informed about a player who had been arrested for assaulting and threatening to kill another student. A football staff member attempted to talk the victim out of pressing criminal charges, Briles texted, and local police agreed to keep the incident out of public view. “That would be great if they kept it quiet,” McCaw replied, according to the court filing.
“Mr. McCaw was faced with a complex situation wherein he desired to honor the wishes of the alleged victim, who was unwilling to speak to the police, according to her coach, and a request from her coach for guidance as to where he should go with information he had obtained in 2013 about this incident,” Tom Brandt, McCaw’s lawyer, said in a statement released Friday by Liberty. “Mr. McCaw responsibly directed the head coach to the Office of Judicial Affairs, which handles student conduct matters and was the appropriate venue to take such an allegation.”
When first asked in November why Liberty would hire McCaw after the scandal at Baylor, a Liberty spokesman said McCaw “is a godly man of excellent character.” The university declined to comment on the 2013 text message conversation.
“Today is truly historic for Liberty University," Falwell said in a statement Thursday. "This university aspired to compete at the highest levels of NCAA competition and began working toward that dream and vision from the day of its founding in 1971."
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