November 29, 2016; Washington Post
Liberty University hired Ian McCaw to be its new athletic director this past Monday. For the past 13 years, McCaw presided as athletic director over the Baylor University Bears and Lady Bears rise into an athletic colossus. McCaw resigned last May amid what remains ongoing litigation relating to a sexual assault scandal at Baylor.
Baylor hired the law firm Pepper Hamilton to conduct an independent investigation into the allegations from 17 women who reported sexual or domestic assaults involving 19 football players, including four alleged gang rapes, since 2011. The Baylor Board or Regents found the law firms’ report “horrifying.”
Liberty University is a private, nonprofit, Christian university based in Lynchburg, Virginia, founded in 1971 by Rev. Jerry Falwell, Sr. The school has 15,000 residential students (53 percent of whom are female) and more the 100,000 online students. According to a 2014 post on its website, “Liberty is the nation’s fifth largest university, the largest private, nonprofit university in the country, the largest university in Virginia, and the largest Christian university in the world.” The school’s athletic teams compete in Division I of the NCAA. The Liberty Flames and the Lady Flames embarked on an expansion of its athletic program in recent years.
Liberty’s president, Jerry Falwell, Jr., had this to say about hiring McCaw: “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.”
This is what Andy Parker at the N.Y. Daily News had to say about Falwell and his new hire: “McCaw is the perfect fit for a hypocrite like Jerry Falwell.” Parker reminds his readers, “If it can be believed…Jerry Falwell Jr., was asked to be Secretary of Education in the new regime. This, after preaching the virtues of arming his students and faculty and directing pointed language at Muslims.”
In this 1:20 minute video, Falwell’s “pointed language at Muslims,” said with a chuckle to a stadium of some 10,000 students and faculty, was more precisely to “end those Muslims before they walk in.”
Adam Kilmore opens his sports column for the Washington Post this way:
In the next couple weeks, Ian McCaw’s lawyers are scheduled to respond to a lawsuit by a woman named Jasmin Hernandez. In the suit, Hernandez alleges McCaw, as the athletic director at Baylor, knew a football player named Tevin Elliott had been accused several times of committing sexual assault. She alleges McCaw failed to protect Hernandez before Elliot raped her and showed willful indifference afterward.
Here is a 2014 list of higher education institutions with open Title IX sexual violence investigations by the U.S. Department of Education. Kilmore reports this list has since grown to more than 200 open investigations today. “The hiring of McCaw sent a chilling message to athletic department employees and female students, not only at Baylor, but across the country. American colleges have a sexual assault problem.” Echoing the word used by the Baylor Board of Regents, Kilmore concludes, “Anyone who knows even the barest details of the Baylor scandal cannot help but be horrified.”
Google this story, and a long list of mostly sports writers condemn Liberty hiring McCaw. But it also appears that there are no evangelical Christian media outlets, let alone Christian leaders, even discussing Falwell’s choice for Liberty’s athletic director. Whose reality is this that finds Liberty’s hiring of McCaw horrifying?
The media are a vital component of “the fourth branch of government.” We have witnessed in this past election that the power of the media can be misused to the extent that the very functioning of democracy is threatened. The case can also be made that silence by the media can be interpreted as condoning threats against vulnerable people such as when public leaders incite xenophobic hatred and violence.
It troubles some of our readers when NPQ takes a stand against those who offend or violate our mission and values. This past election and the actions taken since by the incoming administration are no exception. Now, we have Jerry Falwell, Jr. who apparently declined an offer to serve as Trump’s education secretary, hiring Ian McCaw as Liberty’s new athletic director. Should NPQ be silent? Where does the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities stand on this issue? What about Christianity Today? Whose reality values the safety of women over sports? Whose reality rejects violence and is concerned about issues of justice and accountability at least in the name of civil society?—James Schaffer