Texas Tech has inquired about the possibility of bringing in Art Briles once before after he had already been fired by Baylor, according to sources. If ever there was the time to do it again, now is it.
The Red Raiders fired Kliff Kingsbury on Sunday to create a vacancy in what has been one of the Big 12’s more difficult jobs. Winning at Texas Tech is possible, but it takes a special breed.
A special breed like Washington State’s Mike Leach who, according to Don Williams of the Lubbock Avalanche Journal, is potentially interested in returning to the place where he did what few others could.
Leach back on the plains is a reach.
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So is Briles, but he would win at Texas Tech, and every Texas Tech administrator, and fan, knows it.
Per sources, a Texas Tech regent reached out to a Baylor regent two years ago to inquire about Briles potentially joining Kingsbury’s staff as an assistant. The Baylor regent vouched for Briles.
Could Texas Tech AD Kirby Hocutt convince his bosses to do this move? Privately he has told associates there was no way they could do it then. Tech, like most schools, wanted no part of the PR navigation that will be required to hire Briles.
But that was two years ago.
If I am Hocutt, and Texas Tech, I do this and simply prepare to ride out the initial onslaught of PR that will overwhelm the school, and then recede.
Art Briles at Texas Tech can work.
At this point, Hocutt’s job depends on hiring a winning football coach. Bringing in Chris Beard to coach the men’s basketball team was a hit, but Hocutt needs football.
Briles, 62, coaching another Big 12 team, especially in Texas, is something the Baylor Board of Regents feared to the point it initially put such a clause in his buyout. Briles fought that clause, and Baylor relented in a buyout that approached a total of nearly $18 million.
Briles recently became the head coach of an American football team in Florence, Italy, where he currently lives. The season does not begin until the spring of 2019, and the contract allows Art to easily leave.
He has made it no secret to friends that his ultimate desire is to coach college football again. He is scheduled to return to the U.S. this week.
Briles graduated from Texas Tech, and coached there for three years under Leach. If anyone understands, and likes, West Texas life, it’s Briles.
Briles never thought he would be out of coaching for such a prolonged period of time; after several other teams privately floated the idea of hiring Briles, the only job he could land was as an offensive coordinator for a CFL team in Aug. of ‘17. That lasted one day; under considerable pressure, the CFL forced the Hamilton Tiger Cats to remove Briles.
Since Baylor fired Briles in May of ‘16 it has become apparent, through interviews, letters and court testimony, that the school’s leadership acted hastily, and out of fear, in handling his dismissal. It has also become clear there was considerable disagreement among Baylor’s leadership about the level of Briles’ culpability, and whether the school needed to fire him.
Baylor was well within its right to fire Briles, but what mystified and angered so many was how the school went out of its way to paint both he and his staff for failures that were a university-wide problem of dealing with sexual assault claims.
Then it turned around and wrote him a letter of recommendation. And it vouched for the coaches when they tried to land other jobs.
Briles made mistakes in his tenure at Baylor. Baylor made mistakes with Briles.
Considering how much new information has come out since Briles was fired, and that virtually every other member of his staff has moved on and landed jobs elsewhere after extensive vetting, Tech could sell this.
Houston vetted Kendall Briles to great lengths before head coach Major Applewhite was allowed to hire him as the University of Houston offensive coordinator.
What Tech may not be able to sell is the potential allegation levied by the NCAA against Briles.
In September, Baylor received a notice of allegations from the NCAA. Among the list of allegations from the NCAA to Baylor was a charge against Briles of, “Head Coach Responsibility: Failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance.”
Baylor has 90 days to respond to this letter; if the NCAA slaps a show-cause on Briles, you can bet he would sue.
The simple specter of an NCAA allegation may be enough for Tech, or any school, to not even consider Briles as a candidate.
All of it may be too much for Tech and Hocutt.
Hocutt needs a winner, though, and Briles would win at Tech, and they all know it.
The question is: Do they want to deal with it?