The words leaped from the page like an 80-yard touchdown bomb.
Art Briles is out as Baylor head football coach. His self-serving silences, as it turned out, were trumped by the indifference he showed to his players’ victims.
He thought he could make his own rules, same as he always had. At a Baylor salary of $3.135 million per year, Briles thought he didn’t have to answer to anyone — not a sheriff, not a university president, not a crying coed.
But in the end, Briles’ complicity was so damning, it couldn’t even escape the disgust of the lawyers that Baylor itself had hired.
“We were horrified by the extent of these acts of sexual violence on our campus,” Richard Willis, chairman of the Baylor board of regents, said after reading the report from the Pepper Hamilton law firm.
“The depth to which these acts occurred shocked and outraged us.”
Among the evidence mentioned in the Pepper Hamilton report was a reported sexual assault that involved “multiple football players.”
“The football program and athletics department leadership failed to take appropriate action in response to these reports,” the review read.
In some cases, the report said, “football staff” conducted their own “internal inquiries” and discredited the complainants without properly reporting the charges as required by federal law.
Briles and Baylor were headed to court and may still be. Briles’ obstinance has exposed the university to untold liability and loss of funds.
Briles had to be fired. And yet, the news Thursday morning buckled the knees of not only the victims and their families, but also anyone who follows college football. Football coaches who win as much as Briles did just don’t get fired.
“I have to say I am very surprised. I didn’t expect them to take action against Art Briles,” Jasmin Hernandez, who was raped by former Baylor linebacker Tevin Elliott and has filed a lawsuit against the university and Briles, told ESPN on Thursday.
Even in its abbreviated form that was released Thursday, however, the Pepper Hamilton report implicated Briles and underscored his indifference toward the victims. He was the one, after all, who brought the future sexual assault perpetrators onto the Waco campus, in some cases even allowing them to remain on the team — and rape again — after complaints were lodged against them.
Briles, however, likely figured he was untouchable. The winning and the publicity it brought to Baylor made it so.
After all, he had always made his own rules.
In the end, Baylor regents must have rightly felt that the soul of the university itself was being compromised. The public perception of Baylor certainly was.
Art Briles wasn’t worth that.
Don’t feel sorry for him. Think of the Baylor victims, for whom Thursday’s stunning news will have to pass for justice.