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What Lies Ahead For Art Briles?

Will he ever coach at the college level again?

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Art Briles at McLane Stadium on October 24, 2015 in Waco, Texas.
Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

The greatest coach in the history of Baylor football tried to launch a redemption tour this summer. To say it hasn’t gone very well is being polite. 

Art Briles might be the best college coach this side of Nick Saban, but he’s lost his grip on reality. Acting on the advice of Hall of Famer Bill Parcells and others, Briles spent the past few weeks visiting NFL training camps under the guise of seeing some of his former players. This may have been good advice had Briles simply visited with NFL coaches and not talked to reporters. I walked over to say hello to him after a Cowboys practice in Oxnard, California. We were quickly surrounded by a large group of reporters, and Briles made his most extensive comments since being fired by Baylor for his role in the school’s sexual assault scandal. 

“I’m dumbfounded and trying to process everything as it goes, but it is what it is,” Briles said. “Reality is reality and so what I’ve got to do is redefine myself and start a new chapter. And that’s what I’m doing.” 

In the spirit of transparency, here’s some quick background notes on yours truly: I’m a fourth-generation Baylor alum (we skipped my grandparents) whose father played defensive tackle for the Bears in the late sixties. I have been friends with Briles since soon after he stepped on campus. He and I have spoken since his firing, but like most folks I don’t know exactly why he was fired while his assistants kept their jobs. What I do know is he desperately wants to coach again. He’s told me he’ll go anywhere in the nation. But even folks close to him have their doubts. 

“Art’s future would be better in professional football for a number of reasons,” said legendary Dallas Cowboys director of personnel Gil Brandt, who has served as a headhunter for schools in the past. “It’s very hard for someone to hire Art Briles. I think the world of the man, and everything I know about him is good. But if you have to go to your president, it’s going to be tough.” 

What Briles did at Baylor is one of the most remarkable turnarounds in the history of college football. I had a front-row seat to the post-Grant Teaff era. I was there on behalf of the Dallas Morning News the night Kevin Steele took a team to Albuquerque, New Mexico, and lost to the Lobos, 23-0. Asked where his team would go from there, Steele simply said, “Home.” Baylor was only in the Big 12 because of the political clout of Governor Ann Richards and Lieutenant Governor Bob Bullock. I retained season tickets only because my father kept paying for them. 

If not for Briles, there’s no way Drayton McLane Jr. puts up the money for a gorgeous stadium on the banks of the Brazos River. Those two remain close despite everything that’s happened. McLane declined comment for this column, but sources have told me he’s still advising Briles as he attempts his comeback. 

Given the reaction to Briles’ recent comments at the Cowboys’ and Texans’ training camps, he’s been advised to stop talking to the media. Briles has hired the powerful agent Jimmy Sexton in an effort to land a job for the 2017 season. Sexton has represented Parcells, but now he’s known as one of the biggest power brokers in college football. Sexton reps Alabama’s Nick Saban, Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher and Auburn’s Gus Malzahn. Briles and Malzahn have a close relationship, which explains how one of his former Baylor recruits, Kameron Martin, is now a running back at Auburn. Sexton declined comment, but someone he knows very well, Jerry Jones, was willing to speak on Briles’ behalf. 

“I think he has such a distinguished coaching career that . . . I will vouch for him as a person,” Jones said during Briles’ visit to training camp. “He’s top quality as a person. I’d want my grandson if he had the chance, to play for him.”

I believe Briles is still in denial about what’s happened to him. When McLane and Rangers principal co-owner Bob Simpson are your biggest backers, there’s a feeling of invincibility that takes hold. This was evident in late May when Briles sent a now infamous tweet touting his program’s graduation rates.

Even now, Briles doesn’t seem to have a grasp of the enormity of the scandal. If he’s going to talk to reporters, he needs to show contrition for what happened on his watch. Those close to him insist his biggest fault was delegating too much to others on his staff and not keeping a close enough watch on the program. 

“I’ve coached for 38 years, lived the right way sixty years of my life, never done anything illegal, immoral or unethical,” he told reporters in Houston. “You know, if you lose your dog, all of a sudden you’re looking around hard for him. You’ll stay up late at night looking for him. I’ve lost my dog, my dog’s football, and I’m ready to go find him again.” 

I don’t think Briles truly meant he’s lived a perfect life, but the comments didn’t play well. I’ve been around him enough to know he was trying to charm a group of reporters with that analogy, but this isn’t the time. When I recently asked him for comment about the scandal at Baylor, Briles said, via text, “I’m very sorry for the victims. I always am thinking about their pain. It’s a sad fact that any female should face those types of fears.”

What will happen sometime in the next few weeks is a sit-down TV interview in which Briles will have an opportunity to answer more specific questions about the scandal. It’s hard to know exactly what led to his firing because his name isn’t mentioned in the “findings of fact” from the Pepper Hamilton report. I would expect Briles to be much more apologetic about his role in the scandal. It’s obvious he and his advisors believe this interview might provide him an opportunity to show he’s ready for another opportunity.

Former college assistant coach Jed Hughes leads a team at Korn Ferry International that recommends coaches and GMs to college and pro teams. He recently recommended Hue Jackson to the Cleveland Browns and Charlie Strong to Texas. Hughes brought up former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel as an example of someone who wasn’t hired again at the college level.

“He was a lot more successful than Art was,” said Hughes. “And he had a lot stronger reputation. He has a better chance in the NFL, but I would have a hard time presenting him as a credible candidate at either level. The only thing that can calm this down is time.”

I’ve been told by sources Briles refused to meet with University of Texas officials three years ago unless they told him he was their first pick. That could’ve led to bad blood between Hughes and Briles, although neither man confirmed that for this column. 

I tend to agree with Brandt that it will be difficult for a college president to sign off on hiring Briles when it’s likely he’ll remain under investigation. That president would want to find out more specifics from the Pepper Hamilton report, but he or she will have to stand in line. The fact there’s nothing in print can either serve as a veil of protection for Briles or perhaps make it more difficult for him to be hired. His best bet might be to become a quarterbacks or wide receivers coach in the NFL next season, and then try to land a college job in 2018. But it only takes one school president who is willing to deal with all the blowback to give Briles a shot. It’s worth noting Herman is represented by Trace Armstrong, who is part of Sexton’s CAA group. It’s not hard to imagine a scenario where Baylor hires Hermann while Briles returns to his alma mater. Some of that might depend on whether Texas A&M and UT retain their coaches after this season.  

With the Cougars on the cusp of gaining entrance to the Big 12, this might be a best-case scenario for Briles. I can assure you it wouldn’t be a best-case scenario for conference commissioner Bob Bowlsby.

Briles will likely try to convince prospective employers that he was scapegoated by Baylor’s board of regents. He’ll point to the fact the school kept nearly every one of his assistants. But any school that hires Briles will know he’s not out of the woods when it comes to Title IX lawsuits or a potential NCAA investigation.

Briles may be working on a unrealistic timetable for landing a college job. But if he’s looking for his “second chance” in the NFL, Jerry Jones is a great guy to know. He’s offered a halfway house for players for many years. Surely he can find a spot for Briles.

And regarding Jerry’s grandson comment, John Stephen Jones is currently the star quarterback for Highland Park. Briles would be wise to start angling for the Arkansas job immediately.  

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  • Jed

    “Briles would be wise to start angling for the Arkansas job immediately. ”

    well so much for casting doubt on his repentance.

    how is it TM manages to appear ambivalent on a coach that recruited and shielded rapists (plural)?

    • Ben Johnson

      If by shielded you mean suspending immediately upon arrest and never allowing him to play again, then yes, Baylor shielded that 2 star athlete.

      • Mobutu
        • Ben Johnson

          Hey thanks for sharing that! It only bolsters what I said.

          “Elliott, who was suspended by Baylor head football coach Art Briles after his arrest”

          Like I said, as soon as he was arrested, he was suspended immediately. He never returned to the team.

      • Jed

        you must be a baptist. i can feel the christian oozing out of your pores, like pus.

        • Ben Johnson

          Your comment is typical of someone that gets owned by facts. Just throw out some personal attacks and hope it sticks. It didn’t.

          • Jed

            so you are’t baptist? is “baptist” a personal attack?

          • Ben Johnson

            Going to play that game now?

            ” i can feel the christian oozing out of your pores, like pus.”

            Getting back to the point, how did they shield a former 2 star athlete if he is in prison? Please explain. I would love to hear the fiction you come up with

        • David Kearny

          You got owned Jed. Bow and move on.

          • Jed

            yes, i gather i should follow christian dogma to forgive.

            briles seems to have mastered it.

            ’cause we’re not just talking about one player, are we?

          • David Kearny

            I don’t think Christianity has anything to do with it. I’m not a practicing Christian but I am telling you that you got owned.

          • Jed

            apparently not a practicing news reader, either.

            this is a serial problem. one suspension does not answer it. no one is getting “owned,” although i can tell you who is getting “victimized.” and it ain’t the coach or his boosters.

          • Ben Johnson

            Elliott was a scumbag who assaulted several women. As soon as one of them had the courage to report to the police, he was arrested. As soon as he was arrested, he was suspended from the team and never played again. Now he is in prison.

            Sam Ukwhatever was suspended immediately after he was arrested. Once the legal process played out, he was sentenced to 180 days in jail because there wasn’t much evidence. I think he already served time and was released. From what I can find, he never played a down for that school.

            So you have two guys who assaulted students, both suspended immediately upon arrest, both went through the legal process, one got 20 years, one got 6 months.

            Please explain how that is shielding rapists.

          • David Kearny

            Yes, your argument did get ‘owned’ and for obvious reasons. Now you are inferring that I am not a news reader. Earlier you said someone ‘must be a baptist’.

            Your position is weak, you have no argument. You got owned.

  • trachodeth

    First, which Arkansas job? The Razorbacks certainly don’t have an opening.

    Second, Arkansas would never touch Briles, even with a Texas-sized pole. We let Petrino go, remember?

    Penn State might be a good fit, though. All they seem to care about is winning; victims be damned.

    • nicklep

      Arkansas is Jerry Jones’ alma mater. It was a joke

      • trachodeth

        Yes, all Arkansas fans know that.

        However, suggesting that Briles should try to land a position that isn’t even open and isn’t expected to be open in the near future still doesn’t work, even if it was meant to be a joke.

    • phil8

      Art Briles can get in line behind Mark Mangino…

    • David Kearny

      Arkansas has been bad since what, 1996? Maybe they should try to go back to the old SWC.

  • Fantasy Maker

    The sad thing is some school will justify hiring this guy because somehow sports in this case is more important than the safety of the students on the campus by recruiting some very questionable players. In other words since a winning football team brings in millions of dollars in donations, TV exposure and money- they will roll the dice and take the chance.

    • Ben Johnson

      Briles isn’t a threat to the safety of students. You are aware that he did not commit a crime, but the two that did went to jail, right? I know that is hard to follow, so if you have questions feel free to ask.

      • Fantasy Maker

        Part of being a head coach is knowing what is going on INSIDE your program and your players/recruits- NOT just on the field.

        • Ben Johnson

          What someone does on their time is their responsibility. If I go rob a liquor store, my coach is not responsible for that. He certainly would not suggest, imply or support such a poor decision, either.

          • Fantasy Maker

            They KNOWINGLY and WILLINGLY allowed sexual predators onto their team because they could ball. Educate yourself instead of defending this slime of an institution.

            http://www.espn.com/college-football/story/_/id/15745248/line-events-rise-dismissal-baylor-bears-coach-art-briles

          • Ben Johnson

            I’m not defending the institution of football (or baylor), I am merely taking the side of the argument that is unpopular.

            You allege the school knowingly and willingly allowed sexual predators onto the team.
            Please detail who those athletes were as well as the crimes they committed, the dates, their arrest dates and the legal outcomes of those crimes committed BEFORE their enrollment at Baylor.

          • Fantasy Maker

            Try clicking on the link that I attached in my previous post

          • Ben Johnson

            The link you provided doesn’t show any of that.

            You allege the school allowed known sexual predators on the team. That means they should have a conviction, a trial, an arrest before enrolling at the school.

            Please link to something factual that supports this component of your argument.

          • Fantasy Maker

            When some player(s) gets kicked off another team and you actively recruit this player(s)- you would inquire as to why.

            Either they didn’t do it because they didn’t care OR they did know and still didn’t care because they needed a 4 star linebacker, running back or defensive lineman. Briles pleading ignorant is not going to fly.

            http://crimeblog.dallasnews.com/2016/04/how-a-sexual-assault-scandal-engulfed-baylors-football-program.html/

          • Ben Johnson

            Which player are you referring to?

          • Fantasy Maker

            Stop being such a willful idiot. Look it up- it is all there. Oakman from Penn St- Ukwuachu from Boise St. for starters.

          • Ben Johnson

            It is NOT in there. Please quote information that shows Baylor willingly and knowingly brought in sexual predators to the school.

            I’ve asked you for this repeatedly, yet you still cannot provide it.

            Instead, you resort to name calling.

            Time to admit you are either mistaken, lying or do not have the facts.

          • Fantasy Maker

            I am done with this you clown. Innocent people do not go on an apology tour saying they made mistakes in order to salvage their career.

            http://www.chron.com/sports/college/article/Art-Briles-tells-ESPN-he-made-mistakes-at-Baylor-9210225.php

          • Ben Johnson

            So I am a clown and an idiot because you cannot do something simple such as provide a fact or a quote to support your allegation that Baylor knowingly and willingly brought in sexual predators. I think we both you why – you made it up. So instead of admitting that, you focus on everything else and toss out names because your simple mind was frustrated.

            Loser of argument: Fantasy Maker

          • David Kearny

            Fantasy just took it up the poop-chute with no lube!

          • Ben Johnson
          • David Kearny

            There isn’t much to that, but maybe more will come out in a few months.

          • David Kearny

            Eh. That link doesn’t really say much except that Baylor was dumb for either not taking care of complaints properly or dumb for going overboard. The theme here is dumb.

          • Ben Johnson

            Not related to our current conversation, but my broader opinion is that schools should not be enlisted in investigating alleged crimes against its own athletes. It is a big conflict of interest and I do not think schools can be impartial. The NCAA feels that schools should not be leading investigations, but assisting law enforcement when asked. I would agree with their position.

          • Fantasy Maker

            Schools have been covering up for student athletes for decades, this is nothing new. Most students think the campus police actually know what they are doing if crime is committed on the campus grounds, however most are nothing more than glorified mall cops or security guards. Students should be calling the local police departments and NOT the campus police.

            When some player is kicked off of a team , it is not for shooting spit balls at some other student, It is usually something criminal and any ethical school or coach knows this.

          • David Kearny

            It seems that football athletes get special treatment everywhere. It’s a sham needs to stop. Unfortunately, I doubt it does.

  • Ben Johnson

    Seems like facts and judicial process don’t matter in this ongoing media drama.

    The facts:
    Elliott victim went to police, Elliott was arrested, then immediately suspended from the team, never playing again.

    Sam U victim went to police, Sam U was arrested, then immediately suspended from the team, never stepping onto the field, ever.

    After the legal processes played out, Elliott was convicted and has been in prison since 2012 and Sam U was convicted of a lesser charge, getting 180 days in jail because of lack of evidence.

    Those are the correct legal processes. Feel free to retort with allegations and conspiracy theories. They are fun to read.

    • DoubledayCafe

      The problem here is that the federal government has used Title IX to force colleges to be in the law enforcement and prosecution business. They must have a bureaucracy to deal with matters that are crimes. If a student, or athlete/student, commits a sexual crime in campus, it should be turned over to law enforcement for investigation and the judicial system for prosecution. There should be no college officials involved. Briles can be criticized and even fired for recruiting players of low character, but he is not responsible for the crime. The player is. If a player is being investigated for an alledged crime, then he should be automatically suspended during that investigation. Get the coaches out of the crime business and get the federal government out of colleges. If a college does not clean up their act, they shouid lose attendance. Take a look at Mizzou for how that works.

      • David Kearny

        I think that if a player gets arrested and is under investigation, he should be suspended. I think most schools do this though. Well maybe not Florida, or Florida State, or Miss St or Tennessee or UT.

  • Todd

    A key sentence from the pepper Hamilton report. Briles and two staffers fired because of this sentence. “The choices made by football staff and athletics leadership, in some instances, posed a risk to campus safety and the integrity of the University.”

    • Dan Moynihan

      So it appears PH had an agenda from go based in the KWTX story. There are actual laws on the books in Texas. Laws. If a law is broken, then the victim of that crime can go to their local law enforcement agency. Is that true or not? At UT two players had sex with a female student and or recorded it on their phones. The victim was shown in court to be drunk. By definition under T 9 consent cannot be assumed if the person is drunk. Yet those two walked. Laws mean little to hot shot defense lawyers.

      • David Kearny

        No football player is going to get convicted in Austin. Not of anything big anyways. At worse they get booted off the team

      • Todd

        What does UT have to do with Baylor? Why would there be an agenda to get rid of the most successful coach in Baylor history??

    • David Kearny

      If you read that, the first reaction is “wtf!”
      If you actually think about it, you realize that “choices” and “a risk” can be anything – not necessarily related to assault or rape.

      To be fair, those “choices” may have been without intent of harm or malice.

  • phil8

    Give us all a break. Briles built a culture of “anything goes” for his football players. He brought in known sexual predators from Idaho and elsewhere. Cry me a river. Briles made his millions and his own bed. Now he gets to sleep in it. The Baylor Baptists were happy with winning and allowing their football bullies to roam the dorms…until word go out to the general public. When important men started saying, “I’m not sending my daughter to Baylor!” Briles was on his way out.

    • Ben Johnson

      love your revised history

    • David Kearny

      Dang Baylor, you guys are getting slammed by idiots with zero facts.

      Its still fun to read though. I can’t help it sorry. 🙂

  • swordman

    ” but like most folks I don’t know exactly why he was fired while his assistants kept their jobs “. Most folks do know except the ones that are doing a “briles” so they can act ignorant

  • Ben Johnson

    Schools should not be asked to investigate alleged crimes involving its own athletes. It is a huge conflict of interest and the schools cannot be impartial. I do think they should assist law enforcement if asked, but they should not be leading an investigation. History has shown us that schools fail in this task time and again.

  • Ben Johnson
  • David Kearny

    As fun as it was to see Baylor get pummeled, this has gone way to far and now I just feel bad for their fans. The original TM article posted things as fact which are actually false. Of course TM never corrected any of it, they just ran with it and other outlets picked it up.

    Plus, this came out recently.
    “Pepper Hamilton went through 8 and a half years of text messages and emails and not one hint of a mishandling of a sexual assault case by Briles was found”

    Go Frogs!

  • Dan Moynihan
    • David Kearny

      Texas Monthly is in Austin, so they aren’t going to step on UT’s toes.

  • Richard Wright

    LSU could use a good Offensive Coordinator now.

  • Michael Gibson

    I think Art Briles was a miracle worker on the field. He brought a Baylor teams out of the depths of football hell. His coaching skills have to be up their with Nick Saban. But, after reading this USA Today dissection of the Pepper Hamilton report, it appears that he is the one ultimately responsible. Briles really should sit down and do an interview to explain what happened. This article clearly spells out what was going on. Briles needs to explain if he and his coaches were in fact guilty of hiding out their players from accusations of serious crimes. (Now if they were later indicted and convicted, that doesn’t mean the coaches didn’t try and help the player avoid getting into trouble) You know, when I went to College, I would never have gone to the College to report a serious crime. That should only be for the police to handle. Now, if someone had stolen my backpack out of a classroom or something like that then I would want to report it to them. Who on earth thinks that campus police are going to solve a rape? I would think that if you did report such a thing to them, they would immediately have to call the police and help them with the investigation if needed.

    http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/ncaaf/2016/05/26/pepper-hamilton-report-baylor-sexual-assault-art-briles-fired/84985048/

    • Ben Johnson

      The article you linked to is an opinion piece that is long on guesswork and allegations and short on facts.

      I would say that Baylor, like most schools, lacked properly trained staff and like +100 other schools, are under investigation by the DOE for poor Title 9 compliance and poor handling of sexual assault complaints. It is quite telling that so many schools are having the same issue. To me it means that schools should not be in the crime investigation business. That is not their expertise.