Liberty issues tone-deaf statement after hiring new athletic director

Liberty University has hired Ian McCaw as its athletic director.

McCaw, of course, resigned from the same job earlier this year at Baylor after the school placed him on probation for his part in the athletic department's failure to adequately respond to multiple reports of sexual assault by football players.

More recently - as in about two weeks ago - he was in the news because Baylor revealed that he and former football coach Art Briles had been informed about an allegation from a student-athlete that she'd been gang raped by football players. Baylor says McCaw and Briles failed to report any of that to judicial affairs.

So McCaw has what might too-generously be described as a questionable record when it comes to giving sexual assault anything nearing the serious treatment it deserves.

This doesn't seem to bother the folks at Liberty.

Baylor did win five national championships while he was there! Nevermind that one of them was won largely because of Brittney Griner, who would later reveal that her coach kept shoving her back in the closet and causing her pain throughout her career. It still brought glory to the school! As did that much-sought-after equestrian title. And the one in "Acrobatics & Tumbling."

Clearly this is a man whose success makes it easy to ignore an, ahem, laissez faire approach to protecting women from sexual violence.

Of course all that really matters when it comes to McCaw - and all that mattered at Baylor, clearly - is that he knows how to run a successful, money-making football program. That's the true measure of an athletic director, and whether he achieved that goal by sheltering the program from concepts like justice and basic human decency does not appear to matter.

McCaw has big ambitions for Liberty. From a release: "My vision for Liberty is to position it as a pre-eminent Christian athletic program in America and garner the same type of appeal among the Christian community as Notre Dame achieves among the Catholic community and BYU garners from the Mormons."

Baylor, of course, is a Baptist school with a considerable following among Christians. And the school has been left trying to reckon with its sins during McCaw's tenure, and untangle its priorities in the wake of his departure.

For Liberty to not so much as acknowledge how things ended for McCaw at Baylor is unconscionable, but not surprising. Would it really dim boosters' excitement to include a quote from McCaw about learning difficult lessons? Or of him promising to do better this time around? Apparently Liberty believes it would. Sports above all.

I'm a long way removed from my Sunday school days, but remain somewhat certain that most Christians consider properly dealing with - and thereby helping to prevent - sexual assault a more important goal than, say, claiming the Big South title in golf.

Not that McCaw is content to remain in the Big South. He's already stated his priority is to move Liberty to a larger conference where it can compete at the FBS level in football.

Because exalting football at a school supposedly grounded in religious principles hasn't ever gone awry before.


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