There’s no way Art Briles can run damage control after latest revelations
Art Briles will never be a college head coach again.
No amount of weepy-eyed Tom Rinaldi sitdowns, sympathetic local TV stories or other image rehabilitation efforts by the disgraced ex-Baylor coach will ever be able to explain away what the Wall Street Journal reported Friday. Baylor regents told the paper that Briles’ firing in May came after 17 women reported sexual or domestic assaults against 19 Baylor players — including four alleged gang rapes — since 2011.
Those are unconscionable and infuriating numbers.
The Journal made clear that Baylor’s sexual assault crisis extended beyond football, as “players were involved in 10.4 percent of Title IX-reported incidents” from 2011-15. And it’s that university-wide problem that Briles’ apologists have been using to try to explain away his culpability in any of this.
“They are pulling their own house down to justify the mistakes they made,” Briles’ lawyer, Ernest Cannon, told the paper. “He’s the football coach. That’s not his job [to enforce Title IX]. That’s their job.”
Last spring’s Pepper Hamilton report suggested otherwise, declaring “the choices made by football staff … in some instances, posed a risk to campus safety and the integrity of the University.”
But even if we take Cannon at his word — even if we were to believe neither Briles nor the coaches he oversaw ever tried to cover up allegations of sexual assault against football players — that hardly absolves Briles.
Those were his 19 players. He recruited them. He brought them on campus. And they proceeded to allegedly victimize 17 women.
Knowing that, no university president in his or her right mind would allow Briles to run a football program on his or her campus.
Mind you, this was probably the case even before Friday’s news. It was already highly unlikely a school would go near such a toxic candidate this coming offseason in part out of fear over what might come out next. (And look what did.)
Yet that didn’t stop various fans and media from speculating which school would hire him next. After all, his offenses score a whole lot of points.
Certainly, college athletics has given ample reason to be skeptical of anyone’s intentions. But this is not something an athletic director can easily spin at an introductory press conference, even years later.
The good news for Briles, though, is he may already be finding himself a landing spot. Earlier this month, Cleveland Browns coach Hue Jackson brought in Briles to briefly be a guest coach on offense. Don’t be surprised if he’s on an NFL sideline full-time next year.
There are no Title IX offices to deal with in the NFL, and, as Roger Goodell and the New York Giants recently reminded us, tolerance of violence against women is not necessarily a deal-breaker.
But it is in college, now more than ever.