Students and alumni of Liberty University are upset with the school's decision to hire former Baylor University athletic director, Ian McCaw, who became entrenched in national controversy earlier this year when he and the administration were accused of overlooking sexual assault allegations against football players.
McCaw resigned from Baylor in May after an independent report from a Pennsylvania law firm found that Baylor's athletic department and school administration failed to adequately handle and report cases of sexual assault and domestic violence alleged against Baylor football players.
According to The Wall Street Journal, a total of 17 women reported sexual or domestic assults involving 19 Baylor football players and four allegations of gang rape.
McCaw's resignation came after the sexual assault controversy not only led to Baylor's head football coach Art Briles' dismissal but also forced the Baptist school's former President Ken Starr to be demoted to chancellor.
McCaw is named in a lawsuit filed by Jasmin Hernandez, who claims that McCaw knew that linebacker Tevin Elliot was accused numerous times of having committed sexual assault but failed to do anything to protect her before Elliot raped her in 2012.
According to The Washington Post, the lawsuit also claims that McCaw showed willful indifference toward Hernandez after the rape. In 2014, Elliott was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in jail.
Considering the allegation against McCaw and the pending lawsuit, it comes as a surprise to many that another Baptist university was willing to take a chance on McCaw. On Monday, Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, announced that it hired McCaw as its new athletic director.
Following the announcement, Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. assured the Lynchburg News & Advance that he had done his "due diligence" by researching McCaw's record at Baylor and said the Baylor University Board of Regents did not believe McCaw was culpable.
"I think he was a good man in a place where bad things were going on and decided to remove himself from that atmosphere," Falwell said.
After the announcement Falwell answered questions from various reporters and explained how Liberty went about vetting McCaw. Falwell said officials from Liberty were in communication and got the opinions of officials from Baylor and its regents.
"We concluded after our investigation that Ian McCaw did not attempt to hide the sexual assault that was reported but, instead, had one of his coaches report it to judicial affairs at Baylor in 2013, in accordance with Baylor's policies and procedures at the time," Falwell said.
"The victim did not want the incident reported to police so judicial affairs was the only place the incident could have been reported at that time. There will be time, no doubt, for Ian and his attorneys to address questions about what happened at Baylor, but we don't intend to litigate those facts in the press."
Although Falwell believes McCaw is "a good man" who was merely at the wrong school at the wrong time, others in the Liberty community don't feel the same way.
In fact, a petition has been launched on Change.org by a former Liberty student who is calling on the school to remove McCaw as its athletic director. As of Thursday afternoon, 115 people have signed the petition.
"Liberty University was founded with a vision to be a shining light on a hill; a beacon of Christ's love and biblical ethics," the petition states. "This standard applies to all Liberty employees and is of particular importance for those in leadership positions. Ian McCaw, by his actions as the Baylor University athletic director from 2003-2016, does not meet this standard."
A number of Liberty students and alumni voiced their disapproval of the McCaw hiring on Facebook.
"Liberty, I'm a student. I love you so much. But I love standing with victims of sexual abuse even more. So disappointed that you hired a man who has covered up previous assaults in athletics," student Laura Genn wrote. "Jesus cares more about binding wounds and mourning with those who mourn than he does about winning football games. Very poor choice.
"And before the 'but we should forgive him!' comments start: We can forgive him while still realizing that he is unfit for a leadership position and will not keep women at LU safe," she continued. "'Let he who is without sin cast the first stone' was said to protect a woman from men who wanted to hurt her and cover their own sins; don't use it to defend men who want to hurt women."
Alumnus Jeffrey Weertman wrote on Facebook that he is "disappointed by the decision."
"As an alumnus that lives in Texas and has seen all that has gone on at Baylor with their athletics department, I cannot see how he fits into the 'vision' of Liberty," Weertman said. "At least not the Liberty University I graduated from."
One alumnus went so far as to say that he thinks McCaw's hiring is a sign that it's time for a new university president.
"A new president is in order," V.t. Owens II wrote, also voicing disapproval over Falwell's endorsement of Donald Trump. "As a student/alumni I'm appalled at how the board hasn't reprimanded the president. The son of the founder shouldn't even be appointed to such a post. No one will bring into question his public controversial stances because of whose child he is. Had it been John Doe there would have been a vote to remove him."
Not everyone in the Liberty community is disappointed by McCaw's hiring.
Commenter Mike Hieb wrote, "We all deserve second chances" but stressed that the school should "keep a close eye on him."
Former Liberty student-athlete Josh MacDonald expressed optimism about McCaw's signing.
"As a past student athlete competing on the cross country and track team I believe he can do good," he wrote. "I don't know what will happen but if he helps LU athletics become a Christ centered university training Champions for Christ than he has my endorsement! Time will tell."