Mac Engel

The best coach in football is not getting the second chance he craves

Art Briles confident he’ll coach again despite Baylor scandal

The former Baylor football coach attended the Dallas Cowboys’ training camp practice, watching from owner Jerry Jones’ tower, and met with reporters for about six minutes afterward. (Star-Telegram/Max Faulkner)
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The former Baylor football coach attended the Dallas Cowboys’ training camp practice, watching from owner Jerry Jones’ tower, and met with reporters for about six minutes afterward. (Star-Telegram/Max Faulkner)

The latest round of firings and hirings in college football are nearly complete, and the best available coach remains gainfully unemployed.

Art Briles can be found in Horseshoe Bay, one hour west of Austin. He won’t work for food, but close.

Briles waits hoping for the phone to ring with the chance he covets, to return to the identity and the routine that is missing from his life.

The question is does Art Briles deserve another chance after leading Baylor into the rabbit hole of hell, or is he the second coming of Dave Bliss?

Incarnate Word University in San Antonio with an enrollment of just under 10,000, making it the largest Catholic school in Texas, is pondering the question right now with its football coaching vacancy.

Per a source close to Briles, he wants the job. He wants a job.

Art Briles has his flaws, but he ain’t Dave Bliss, the disgraced ex-Baylor basketball coach who is one of the biggest, narcissist frauds to ever grace a sideline.

Bliss got his second chance, and again revealed himself during a documentary shoot and resigned from his position as head coach at Southwestern Christian University.

This is not an open lobby for Briles, but merely an acknowledgment that, fundamentally, we all deserve a second chance. However much you might despise Briles, at some point he should be allowed to re-enter his world. With skepticism, and stipulations.

Every other major or minor figure associated with the Baylor scandal moved on but Briles.

Incarnate Word, or a school on a lower level, is the place to start. Word leaked last week that Incarnate Word, which recently fired head coach Larry Kennan, was considering Briles.

Influential booster Red McCombs, whose millions of dollars are evident at Texas and Incarnate Word, went on record to campaign for Briles. According to a report in the San Antonio Express News, however, Briles is not considered a candidate for the job.

Any time a booster as powerful as McCombs says a guy should be candidate, he’s a candidate.

“The man that I know wouldn’t even come close to being the kind of guy those people up in Baylor (painted him out to be),” McCombs told the San Antonio Express News. “I don’t think (BU) handled the job right, but that’s their business, not mine. But what happens to little Incarnate Word is my business. I want them to do well, but I am afraid they are fighting an uphill battle, and this could be their big breakthrough.”

McCombs speaks of Incarnate Word’s ambition to move up the Division I/FCS athletic ladder. Transitions like that are expensive, and the football team usually is awful.

Football at UIW has been around since 2007, and the program moved up Division II to FCS in ’13. The Cardinals were 20-46 in the past six seasons.

McCombs’ forte is business, and he’s smart enough to know the only way the school will generate the return on the investment that is football is to win; that’s why he wants Briles.

Can a private, religious-based school take on a man like Briles, and the initial PR nightmare and migraine?

As time passes, the answer is apparently no. As often as Briles tried to go back into coaching last year, every time his name surfaced at a program the chance died.

The Dallas Cowboys were close to hiring Briles as an offensive consultant, but backed out late in the process. The University of Houston issued a statement saying he was not a candidate. Purdue said no. They all said no.

Briles told friends he never expected to be out of a job this long.

Briles was hired Aug. 28 to be the offensive coordinator of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the CFL in the middle of their winless season; that move lasted 24 hours before the outcry prompted the team, and the league, to reverse the hiring.

To hire Briles, administrators are going to have to put their neck out, and be willing to absorb national criticism. Here is the one thing about that criticism, however: It is loud, full of indignation and it always fades. Every time. Fifteen minutes of fame, or infamy, has been reduced to 15 seconds.

And Briles must eventually do a long, sit-down interview and explain himself and address difficult questions. If he believes he was railroaded by his superiors, he needs to show specific examples of how both he and the school failed.

The only interview he has given on this subject was with ESPN, and it didn’t go well.

Briles wanted to talk to the co-authors of the book, “Violated: Exposing Rape at Baylor University Amid College Football’s Sexual Assault Crisis,” but Baylor said that would be a violation of his buyout.

In the rush to blame Art Briles and the university, a Baylor alum says it's being forgotten that it was the athletes who violated the law and our trust.

If he wants to explain himself in an interview, Briles could potentially be in breach of his buyout and risk a lawsuit.

And there is always the chance that nothing he says will help give him the chance he craves. Football might just be saying its moved on.

Whatever the specifics, he was the face of a program that had serious disciplinary issues at a university that was ill-equipped to deal with sexual assault charges. He routinely rolled the dice on players for their talent, and relied on someone else to take care of the discipline.

Not complicated: He who receives the glory, and the vast majority of the cash, shall too receive the blame.

While the particulars of his oversight could be spread to various other people, he had all of the power to accept, and boot, whomever he wanted for any reason. He chose his path, and while everyone at Baylor shares varying degrees of culpability, this is where he sits.

A winning coach remains gainfully unemployed in Horseshoe Bay, waiting for a phone to ring and the second chance he craves.

Fundamentally, we all deserve a second chance, but this one might not come even if it makes sense.

Mac Engel: @macengelprof

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