Scrambling to find a coach to lead its football program through a tumultuous time, Baylor hired a man known for turnarounds and integrity.
Former Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe will replace Art Briles, Baylor announced Monday. Grobe was named acting coach, with no mention of how long of a contract he will receive.
A little more than an hour after Grobe’s hiring was made official, Baylor announced that athletic director Ian McCaw had resigned, severing another tie with the sexual-assault scandal that has tarnished the school’s reputation.
Briles was ousted and McCaw placed on probation by Baylor last week after the release of a report commissioned by the Waco school that accused university leadership of not responding to or inappropriately handling allegations of sexual assault, some by members of the football team.
Grobe, 64, has been out of coaching for two seasons. He spent 13 years with Wake Forest, leading the team to some of its best seasons. Grobe was 77-82, including an Atlantic Coast Conference title and Orange Bowl appearance in 2006. The Demon Deacons had two winning seasons in the 12 years before Grobe took over and had gone to five bowl games in program history. Under Grobe, Wake Forest played in five more bowl games.
As a coach, winning is important. At the same time, I want to assure the Baylor family that every decision we will make in this football program will be made with Baylor University, her students and our student-athletes in mind.
Jim Grobe, in his statement upon his hiring
He resigned after the 2013 season, his fifth straight at Wake Forest that ended with a losing record.
“It is an honor for me to have the opportunity to join the Baylor football program during this important time,” Grobe said in a statement released by the school.
“I am looking forward to getting to know and working with the coaches and players in the coming days, and I have great respect for Baylor as an institution and its long-standing heritage.
“As a coach, winning is important. At the same time, I want to assure the Baylor family that every decision we will make in this football program will be made with Baylor University, her students and our student-athletes in mind.”
Grobe is still an active member of the American Football Coaches Association, which is headquartered in Waco. He served an eight-year term (2006-13) as chair of the organization’s ethics committee. During that time, the AFCA was led by former longtime Baylor coach Grant Teaff.
This is a difficult time of the year to hire a football coach, especially at a university wracked by scandal reaching the president’s office.
There was speculation and unconfirmed reports following the move to dismiss Briles that Baylor would promote defensive coordinator Phil Bennett to interim coach.
Instead, the university — beset with uncertainty after also demoting president Kenneth Starr — decided to go outside the program for at least a temporary solution.
“Jim Grobe is the right leader at this time to move Baylor University and the football program forward,” McCaw said in a statement before announcing he was stepping down.
“Coach Grobe enjoys an impeccable reputation within the intercollegiate athletics community and is a man of great integrity and faith.”
McCaw was hired in 2003 after a scandal within the men’s basketball program at Baylor led to the resignation of then-athletic director Tom Stanton. In 2003, Baylor basketball coach Dave Bliss stepped down after it was revealed he encouraged players to lie about a Bears player who had been killed by a teammate. Bliss was trying to cover up NCAA violations involving Patrick Dennehy after he was murdered by Carlton Dotson.
McCaw hired Briles and helped raise funds to build a $250 million on-campus football stadium.
“After much reflection and prayer, I have decided that a change in athletics department leadership is in Baylor University’s best interest in order to promote the unity, healing and restoration that must occur in order to move forward,” McCaw said in a statement.
It is still unclear how much of the current staff will remain at Baylor for the upcoming season. Briles’s son, Kendal, is Baylor’s offensive coordinator and Briles’ son-in-law, Jeff Lebby, is running backs coach.
While the report by the Pepper Hamilton law firm did not give details and specific names of other coaches involved in wrongdoing, the fact finding stated staff members spoke directly to potential victims of sexual and violent crimes, discouraged them from reporting allegations and withheld information about allegations against football players from the university.
Art Briles was suspended with the intent to terminate. He was two years into a 10-year contract that paid more than $4 million annually. In eight seasons at Baylor, Briles had turned the Bears into a Big 12 powerhouse after they languished at the bottom of the conference since 1996.
Before taking over at Wake in 2001, Grobe coached Ohio University for six years. In 1995 he took over an Ohio program that had not won more than four games in a single season the previous 12 years.
As challenging as it was to turn around perennial losing teams at Wake Forest and Ohio U., taking over at Baylor right now might be the most difficult job Grobe has even taken.