A Few Good Men

Update: Baylor demoted Starr from University President to Chancellor. It’s not clear to me what kind of role chancellor is at a university that has a president.

In the wake of Baylor University’s decision to fire University President Ken Starr and head football coach Art Briles, this quote from Colonel Nathan Jessup (Jack Nicholson) in A Few Good Men is popping into my head:

“We use words like “honor”, “code”, “loyalty”. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline.”

(Spoiler Alert)

Jessup, of course, used these words while rationalizing his decision to provide cover for a hazing incident that turned into a manslaughter on his watch. Why? Because the dead man mattered less than protecting Jessup’s own quite convoluted code, as well as his career ambitions.

Like every big time coach, Art Briles spent countless hours preaching character, accountability and educating “young men.” That apparently meant little to nothing when it came time to hold them, his staff or himself accountable when it became clear that his charges were responsible for multiple assaults against women.

We need a fundamental re-think of what we mean by words like character and accountability in sports.

Update: This is from the report the Baylor Board of Regents released about the various transgressions that led to the termination of Starr and Briles:

“In certain instances, including reports of a sexual assault by multiple football players, athletics and football personnel affirmatively chose not to report sexual violence and dating violence to an appropriate administrator outside of athletics. In those instances, football coaches or staff met directly with a complainant and/or a parent of a complainant and did not report the misconduct. As a result, no action was taken to support complainants, fairly and impartially evaluate the conduct under Title IX, address identified cultural concerns within the football program, or protect campus safety once aware of a potential pattern of sexual violence by multiple football players.”

If true, this is truly sickening.



  1. What struck me the most last fall when this story broke was how arrogant Briles acted. He basically took the attitude of how dare you question or challenge my program or me. Hopefully, this story will be a step in the right direction towards holding these how powerful programs and coaches accountable for their misdeeds and coverups.

    1. JT,

      You’ve hit on the key point. This is what happens when someone has too much power, and is therefore above the law or university rules or whatever the relevant standard is. And as long as the money is this big – everywhere, not specific to Baylor – it’s going to be very hard to prevent these kinds of things from happening again.

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