Mac Engel

The reason Art Briles didn’t speak at a coaches’ convention

The never-ending saga between Baylor University and former football coach Art Briles continues, this time extending across the street from its campus to the American Football Coaches Association.

The AFCA recently had Briles listed as one of its guest speakers at its annual convention in Charlotte, N.C., where he was scheduled to give a talk on Tuesday.

News of Briles’ scheduled appearance prompted an outpouring of criticism from multiple media platforms.

One day before Briles’ scheduled appearance, AFCA director Todd Berry issued a statement that the ex-Baylor coach would not be appearing at the event.

“Due to concerns, we have decided to cancel his session,” Berry said in a statement. “I’m saddened that our coaches have lost an opportunity.”

According to multiple sources, this cancellation didn’t just happen because of social media nor was it Berry’s idea.

Multiple sources confirmed that Baylor University athletic director Mack Rhoades and Baylor football coach Matt Rhule leaned on Berry and asked that Briles not be part of the event.

“That is not true. They did not ask me to do that. That is inaccurate,” Berry said in a phone interview on Thursday. “[The AFCA] handles a lot of different issues from motivation to strategy, and we want to make sure our coaches are exposed to a lot of social issues that are out there. That is our role. Coach Briles was ready to talk with our coaches and help them understand what they needed to do. I knew we would catch some flak over this, but I thought our coaches would learn something and that he had a very powerful message.

“[Briles] and I talked about this and we both agreed that it was not the right time for his message to get out there. I am saddened by it because I think there are some things he could offer our coaches that they could benefit from hearing. It is what it is. Baylor did not ask me to cancel his event. We did have some discussions and I ultimately decided this was best.”

Through a Baylor spokesman, both Rhoades and Rhule vehemently deny they asked Berry to cancel Briles’ appearance.

All of this makes sense, even if it doesn’t add up.

Such a request of the AFCA by Rhoades and Rhule would be consistent with a university that has doggedly tried to move on from a rape scandal that swamped the school for more than a year.

The school continues to try to have it both ways with Briles, and this development is consistent with Baylor’s inability to be consistent toward its former head coach.

It’s logical that the AFCA would honor a request from Baylor. The AFCA is based in Waco, and its headquarters are essentially on Baylor’s campus.

The former executive director of the AFCA is Grant Teaff, who served in that role from 1994 to 2016. Teaff coached the Bears’ football team from 1972-92. He maintained a close relationship between the AFCA and Baylor long after he left the sidelines and was friends with Briles.

Briles agreed to cancel an appearance where he was scheduled to talk to other football coaches about “Standing Strong/Game Management.”

Talking about game management is not the part that concerned Baylor. The “standing strong” portion is what prompted Baylor officials, according to sources, to ask the AFCA to stop Briles from appearing.

Sources said Briles was not going to use that platform to bare his soul about his exit from Baylor. Briles did indicate, however, that he would address some of the issues had they been brought up in the question-and-answer segment.

Baylor stopping Briles is highly plausible.

Every lawsuit involving this issue has been settled out of court. When Briles was approached about doing an interview for a book about the scandal written by ESPN reporters Mark Schlabach and Paula Lavigne, he said yes but did not do the interview because he was told it would violate the terms of his buyout with the school.

Sources indicated that prominent Baylor boosters Drayton McLane and Bob Simpson were not pleased with Baylor’s decision to continue to try and muzzle Briles. Both McLane and Simpson have been vocal supporters of Briles, while maintaining their loyalty to their university.

A university that, at times, has gone out of its way to fry and then exonerate Briles for his role in the scandal.

Briles was the head coach at Baylor from 2008 to 2015. He was fired in May of 2015.

Since then, however, the school has gone out of its way to minimize, and even exonerate, Briles. In May of 2017, the school issued a letter from its general counsel on his behalf that specifically stated, “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.”

Since then, a CFL team hired Briles as their offensive coordinator, and fired him on the same day. The public response to his addition to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats prompted the CFL to make the call.

Last month, prominent Texas booster Red McCombs recently went on record to openly lobby for Briles to be hired as the head coach at Incarnate Word. The private school in San Antonio said Briles was not a candidate.

And now Briles’ attempt to speak at a coaches’ convention has been shut down, too.

The AFCA insists Baylor had nothing to do with the cancellation, even though such a move is not only plausible but consistent with its past.

Mac Engel: @macengelprof

Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram