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06/01/2016 12:46 pm ET Updated Jun 01, 2016

Ken Starr Resigns As Baylor Chancellor Amid Football Rape Scandal

Starr, the university's president until last week, is stepping down as a "matter of conscience."
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Former Baylor University President Kenneth Starr, who last week was demoted to chancellor amid a sexual assault scandal involving the school's football program, has resigned that post.

Starr's resignation is effective immediately, according to ESPN's "Outside The Lines." Starr said he left his new post as a "matter of conscience," according to the outlet. 

"I have to and I willingly do accept responsibility," Starr exclusively told ESPN in an interview that aired Wednesday. "The captain goes down with the ship." 

He will, however, continue as a law professor at his “beloved Baylor Law School," he said.

Prior to his tenure at Baylor, the world's largest Baptist university, Starr served as an independent counsel investigating President Bill Clinton. His scrutiny of Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky made Starr a household name in the mid-’90s. 

Starr and other members of Baylor leadership were sharply criticized for failing to seriously investigate reports that male athletes were raping female students.

In the interview, Starr acknowledged that per NCAA bylaws, as president, he is ultimately responsible for the football program's failures. But he told ESPN he was unaware of the massive, systemic failures within the program regarding allegations players had sexually assaulted women. 

Starr repeatedly said he was “behind a veil of ignorance” with regard to the sexual assault problems. He also highlighted Baylor’s status as a dry campus and insisted that most of the attacks occurred off campus.

The university's failure to investigate sexual assault allegations was made public last week in a report by the law firm Pepper Hamilton, which was tasked with conducting an independent investigation into Baylor's practices. 

Moments after the report was released, Baylor removed Starr as president and made him chancellor. Football coach Art Briles was also removed and is expected to be fired.

Baylor's then-president Ken Starr waits to run onto the field before an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 12, 2015,
LM Otero/AP
Baylor's then-president Ken Starr waits to run onto the field before an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 12, 2015, in Waco, Texas.

Among the most damning findings were that Baylor's football coaches put the safety of women on campus at risk, worked to discredit the women who accused players of sexual assault and reinforced to the players "an overall perception that football was above the rules."

When asked on ESPN if sexual violence was an issue at Baylor, Starr said it "really hasn’t been, to my knowledge, until August 2015,” when former football player Sam Ukwuachu was convicted of rape.

In 2012, Ukwuachu was accused of raping a female soccer player and was found guilty last year of one count of sexual assault.  

In March, a former Baylor student filed a negligence lawsuit in federal court accusing the school of ignoring her rape and acting "indifferently." The lawsuit claims both Briles and the athletic director, Ian McCaw, were informed of the accusations and made no efforts to investigate. McCaw has since resigned.

Baylor released a statement Wednesday afternoon thanking Starr for his service and expressing regret for the university's role in the sexual assault scandal:

As we move forward, we will continue to take the actions that progress the university and its leadership toward an environment of resolute accountability and responsibility as we relentlessly pursue the mission of Baylor University.

We recognize this is a tumultuous time for Baylor, most importantly for our current and former students and victims of sexual assault. We were horrified by what we learned from the investigation and again express our public acknowledgment and deepest apologies. The decisions made, and the actions we have taken, will ensure there is no room for deflection of responsibility or diminishing the experiences of the victims. We will continue to protect any details that may compromise the privacy of these individuals.

This article has been updated with a statement from Baylor University. Language has been amended to reflect that Starr's investigation initially focused on the Clintons' Whitewater real estate venture and later pivoted to the president's involvement with Monica Lewinsky.

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