Baylor does about-face, supports Briles in letter

The school that fired him and then went out of its way to set fire to his reputation now believes Art Briles was not in the wrong. So much so they put it in writing.

A letter from Baylor to Briles helped to convince the Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League to hire Briles as their offensive coordinator on Monday.

The letter, obtained by the Star-Telegram, clearly states Baylor’s support of its former coach, and all but clears him from any wrongdoing.

The letter is dated May 23, 2017, months after Briles reached a settlement with the school, and dropped his libel lawsuit against Baylor. The letter is signed by Baylor’s general counsel, Christopher W. Holmes, and addressed directly to “Coach Briles.”

It reads: “As you speak with others regarding these issues, you can be assured you may make certain statements without fear of contradiction from Baylor based on the information currently known to us.

“In particular, at this time we are unaware of any situation where you personally had contact with anyone who directly reported to you being the victim of sexual assault or that you directly discouraged the victim of an alleged sexual assault from reporting to law enforcement or University officials. Nor are we aware of any situation where you played a student athlete who had been found responsible for sexual assault.

“We wish you the very best in your future endeavors.”

A detailed message about the letter was left for a Baylor University spokesman but was not returned.

This is after the school blamed him, after it carefully released text messages and other pieces of information that would indicate he did know. After the school all but ended his career.

Baylor, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t be the good guy and the bad guy to the coach who did so much to elevate your name and then so much to damage it as well.

While he is ultimately responsible for his own actions, or in-actions, the school did too much damage to think a letter can help give the man a second chance.

Which is what he deserves. Because we all deserve a second chance.

But Baylor is kidding itself if it believes after triggering several rocket launchers at Briles’ reputation that it can now vouch for him as an employee.

Approximately 12 hours after the Tiger-Cats announced Briles as their new offensive coordinator under new head coach June Jones, the team and the CFL said Briles was out.

Part of the reason the team hired Briles was the letter from Baylor, which essentially exonerates him.

The CFL could have posted this letter all over Canada and it was not going to matter. Not after what Baylor did to prove the degree of his culpability.

The public reaction both north and south of the border to Briles’ hiring was so loud, strident and heated the league felt it had no choice but to remove him. When a corporate sponsor of the CFL condemned the move, the league made the call.

Briles had been trying for months to land a job, whether it was at Houston, Purdue University or on an NFL staff. He came close to landing jobs here and there, and he was strongly considered for the obvious reasons — the man wins football games.

They all passed for fear of public reaction. For fear of this reaction.

The CFL was the perfect spot for Briles to come back. He had been gone for a year, and then he had accepted a lower-level job.

The Tiger-Cats are a professional team comprised of adults. He’s not in charge of the two areas that got him in trouble in Waco — player acquisition or discipline.

He goes a team that is 0-8. He does a handful of interviews where he can answer difficult questions about specifics, and in the process expresses genuine contrition and remorse. Maybe he does work with groups that aid rape victims.

Something that tells the public, “I get it.”

At a minimum, he works with a lawyer and a PR coach to learn how to navigate this.

The Tiger-Cats start to win, and perhaps a smaller school gives him a chance. Or an NFL team considers him.

He’s 61, and wants to work. His identity, and being, are football.

On this one, however, a second chance may not be given.

In this age of social media and 24/7 public awareness, no team wants to deal with the headaches of an Art Briles’ press release or press conference. There is a reason why Colin Kapernick can’t find a job.

No answer Briles gives will suffice to an increasingly angry public.

The next level down would be the Arena League, which has but five teams.

Detractors of Briles, of whom there are many, protest that another shot is not merited. That leaders of young men in academic environment is the last place for him to reside.

Briles made countless mistakes and errors in judgment. Mistakes and judgments that impacted lives.

But I believe in a second chance. For all of us.

I also believe that considering all the damage Baylor deliberately did to trash Briles’ reputation, one letter is not going to fix it.

Mac Engel: @macengelprof

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