Mac Engel

Art Briles’ court motion adds more clouds to Baylor situation

Former Baylor coach Art Briles has a job on the field, in Italy, and now he’s in court, in Waco.

On Thursday in a Waco court, Briles issued what was essentially a 35-page document of denials and explanations to many of the accusations that have been aimed at him since 2015.

This filing was in response to the lawsuit filed by Delores Lozano, a former Baylor student who is suing Briles and Baylor for failing to sufficiently take proper Title IX action when she reported a member of the football team, David Chafin, allegedly assaulted her in 2014.

Briles’ response, filed by his lawyer, Earnest Cannon from Stephenville, deepens a narrative that the university went to great lengths to paint the football staff as the root of the sexual assault problems at Baylor University over a span of many years.

The filing contains unflattering anecdotes of a university micro-managed by members of the board of regents; it alleges that members of the Baylor board literally re-wrote the now infamous “Finding of Facts” report written by the law firm of Pepper Hamilton that was hired to conduct an investigation of the school’s sexual assault claims.

In a nutshell, Briles’ filing basically says Baylor is lying, and that board members Cary Gray and Ron Murff were the main culprits in his demise.

The filing will also put current athletic director Mack Rhoades in an awkward position.

On Oct. 28, 2016, Rhoades summoned the entire Baylor coaching staff out of practice to his office to warn them an article from The Wall Street Journal was going to be published; the article was unflattering towards Briles, included segments of text messages, and painted the program as renegade and rogue.

Sources said the article was facilitated by a member of the Baylor board to The Wall Street Journal via a PR firm the university had hired out of San Francisco, G.F. Bunting. That would make sense in that The Wall Street Journal had not covered Baylor virtually at all, until this story dropped.

Former Baylor defensive coordinator Phil Bennett, in an interview in the Star-Telegram, said the meeting with Rhoades was contentious, and that the staff believed the article was deliberately fed to The Journal. Assistant coach Kendal Briles, who is Art Briles’ son, was apparently livid.

In the meeting, one of the assistant coaches, who was unnamed in the filing, reportedly called a member of the board a “little punk mother (bleeper).”

Per the filing, Bennett asked Rhoades if he felt (the report) was right. Rhoades answered no. Rhoades then went into great detail to defend the staff, while explaining his side of the situation.

”I will do everything I can to try to help this group,” Rhoades is quoted as saying in the filing. “And if that means I gotta call every freaking 126 ADs [sic] and tell them these are good people and they deserve to be hired, then you know what, I’ll do that. I will absolutely do that. You are good people in this room. I have great respect for you because of the way you handled the toughest, damnedest situation that anybody could have gone through.”

Also included in the filing is Briles’ side of one particular case that may have been the reason the school fired him.

In the spring of ‘13, a member of the Baylor volleyball team told her then coach, Jim Barnes, she had been involved in a gang-rape by members of the football team. Briles’ particular behavior in this case has been a source of great speculation, and criticism among certain members of the Baylor board.

Barnes, who now works at Tulane, has repeatedly said of Briles in this matter that he made his student athletes’ best interests the priority, and said she should prosecute her alleged offenders. The victim, who moved out of state and has remained anonymous, chose not to pursue any legal charges against her attackers.

Barnes defense of Briles is included in this most recent motion; he also wrote a public letter defending the coach.

Baylor University responded with a statement to the many claims made by Briles in the filing saying, “The continued efforts of Art Briles and his supporters over the past two years to rewrite history cannot go unchallenged. Just as when he was coach, he again attempts to skirt responsibility for actions of the football program that he led, the players he recruited and coached, the coaches he managed and the loose discipline he championed.

“Briles’ selective memory overlooks the June 24, 2016, announcement of the termination of his employment relationship with Baylor, which states: “Both parties acknowledge that there were serious shortcomings in the response to reports of sexual violence by some student-athletes, including deficiencies in University processes and the delegation of disciplinary responsibilities within the football program.”

Baylor also cited Briles’ interview with ESPN in 2016.

Baylor’s statement concluded with, “Much of Briles’ response relies on hearsay and narratives that Baylor has previously debunked as ‘factually baseless and borderline ludicrous.’ The underlying facts of what happened at Baylor are quite simple: Two high-profile cases of sexual assault involving football players led the Baylor Board of Regents to launch an independent investigation of not only the football program but of the entire campus in terms of how reports of sexual violence were handled during a three-year period. The results of this independent investigation by two of the nation’s top Title IX experts were disturbing, with findings of gang rapes and sexual and domestic assaults by football players in addition to other discoveries throughout the University.”

One of the main criticisms of said discoveries is that they remain shrouded in secrecy, potentially heavily edited and scripted, and molded to fit a narrative.

And then there is the case of 10 Jane Does against Baylor; the case will most assuredly shed more light on this situation as proceedings now include members of the Board of Regents’ depositions.

This ceaseless fight continues, and we are more than a year away from its conclusion.

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