Former Baylor football coach Art Briles toured a number of NFL training camps back in August and one of his stops included the Dallas Cowboy’s training camp. During this stop, he made some comments about his involvement with the Baylor scandal that suggested that he was tone deaf to the situation that ultimately resulted in his having been fired.
The reason for this media tour, and let’s be honest, these training camp visits were just that, was to help him position himself for another coaching job. Needless to say, Briles did not help his cause with comments such as this – “I’ve never done anything illegal, immoral, unethical.”
Either Briles or his public relations advisor realized that comments like this would not help his cause and the tone and rhetoric heard in his ESPN interview on September 10 was drastically different than what he conveyed in his previous attitude. Briles seemed to be apologetic and remorseful when speaking with Tom Rinaldi, but only the former coach knows how sincere his new found attitude really was when taping his interview with ESPN.
Personally, I don’t believe that Briles is truly apologetic towards what happened at Baylor. His comments to Rinaldi were so drastically different from his NFL training camp comments, that it’s just too difficult for me to take him at his word. However, I do believe that he is remorseful. He’s remorseful because it cost him his job at Baylor. The situation that Briles ignored while at Baylor should never be minimized and I have serious doubts about his proclamation that he has never done anything illegal, immoral, or unethical. But contrary to popular opinion, Briles is far from unhireable.
Please, do not misunderstand what I mean when I say he is far from unhireable. I am not condoning what went on at Baylor and I am not minimizing what those women went through at the hand of the Baylor football players. But like it or not, Briles didn’t do anything illegal. I am confident saying that today, because until a court says otherwise, Briles hasn’t done anything illegal and therefore shouldn’t be treated as if he had broken the law. In my opinion, he has acted immorally and unethically but acting in these manners doesn’t make a person unhireable.
We all go to work each day and sit side-by-side with people who have been at least as immoral and unethical as Briles yet they have jobs. Yes, there is a fine line between this and actually breaking the law, but the line is there none the less.
With all of that said, the question then becomes this – What school could hire Briles to be their head football coach?
Briles has received the brunt of the criticism and public perception is that he was solely to blame in how the Baylor scandal was handled. That is not only unfair to Briles, it also lets Ian McCaw and Ken Starr off of the hook far too easily. There is enough blame and public scrutiny for all three.
The type of school who could hire Briles is one that has a strong Title IX coordinator, an even stronger athletics director and a President and Chancellor who truly expects transparent accountability. Because once again, it wasn’t just Briles who failed the women at Baylor, it was the entire structure of leadership that was in place.
Now when I say a strong structure of leadership would need to be in place, I mean a legitimate structure of leadership. The type of leaders who could hire Briles would need to be able to stand up to public scrutiny when times appeared to be at their worst. This is to say that actual proof would be needed prior to making a disciplinary decision. Once the facts were in, leaders such as these would be comfortable taking swift action.
Leaders like this would not make decisions based on public perception as was the case when Gus Malzahn and Auburn prematurely kicked Jovon Robinson off of the football team before the facts were known. Innocent until proven guilty is a thing and it needs to be adhered to in every situation. This would be a monumental task for any school hiring Briles based on his track record at Baylor but it wouldn’t be impossible.
Ian McCaw resigned shortly after Jim Grobe was hired to take Briles’ place on the Baylor sideline. As I said, McCaw played a part in how poorly the scandal was handled, but I don’t see a public shouting match over whether or not he is unhireable. Ken Starr completely mismanaged the situation and dug his hole deeper each time he opened his mouth, but he’ll get a high-level job somewhere else. But it’s Briles who takes the majority of the public’s outrage and is considered unhireable based on public opinion.
Briles takes the majority of the public’s outrage because he’s the football coach. The outrage from the public will get more attention going after the coach than it would by going after the athletics director or President/Chancellor. Going after the coach will keep attention on the scandal because people care about who the coach is. These same people probably couldn’t tell you who the athletics director or President/Chancellor were at the majority of schools. This isn’t to say that Briles is a scapegoat. He most certainly is not. The way that he handled the scandal was deplorable but no more so than the way that McCaw or Starr handled it.
At the end of the 2016 season, a handful of coaches will be fired. And of those fired coaches, a decent number will have been at either Power 5 or Group Of 5 programs. Someone will hire Briles to fill their coaching vacancy and if the leadership structure is strong enough at his new school, Briles could very well succeed in the face of public scrutiny.
E-mail Seth at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom
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