Mac Engel

Sources: The OC position was Art Briles’ if he wanted it, but Southern Miss backed out

Liberty football coach Turner Gill retired immediately, which creates an opening for Flames’ AD Ian McCaw, whose former coach at Baylor, Art Briles, is available.
Liberty football coach Turner Gill retired immediately, which creates an opening for Flames’ AD Ian McCaw, whose former coach at Baylor, Art Briles, is available. AP

Southern Mississippi’s football team has told former Baylor football coach Art Briles he will not be offered the position of offensive coordinator, sources said on Wednesday morning.

Sources said the reason USM officials told Briles he would not be offered the position was because of concerns over the NCAA’s investigation of both he and the Baylor football program.

According to sources, Southern Miss head coach Jay Hopson wanted Briles and interim athletic director Jeff Mitchell approved it. But he was overruled by university president Rodney D. Bennett, who may have been influenced by the board.

Don’t buy it. School officials put their toe in the water, read the social media outrage, and bailed.

This latest flirtation by a school with Briles is as far as the coach has gone in the interview process. Previous places have made a few calls, and then dropped the subject.

The former Baylor coach, who was fired in May of 2016 amid a sexual assault scandal, has been out of college coaching since then. He was hired by a team in Florence, Italy last year.

Briles, 63, was in Hattiesburg, Miss. over the last two days. He met with head coach Jay Hopson, as well as the the university president and athletic director on Tuesday.

Hopson wanted to hire Briles, but was over ruled by the school’s administration. In a bold move, Hopson released a statement where he openly disagreed with the decision.

His statement reads: “Although I respect the decision of Dr. Rodney Bennett, I disagree with it. I am so grateful for the grace and forgiveness God gives me which allows me to inherit his kingdom, which I do not deserve.

“I have interviewed Art Briles for an assistant position at Southern Miss and I believe he is a man who deserves a second chance. He is a man that seemed sincere and humble in his interview and personally he committed no crime. He may not have acted in the proper protocol, but that would be my JOB at Southern Miss!

“He was interviewing for an assistant position, even though I believe he will be a head coach at a major program in the near future. However, I believe he is a man who does love the Lord and deserves a second chance. He has been banned from employment in college football for three years and has been punished. I understand both sides have opinions, this is just mine.”

Since news leaked that Briles was in Hattiesburg, Miss. to interview for the job, the reaction from various voices in the media has been swift, strident and predictable.

There is one narrative theme in this saga, and that to a great many Art Briles is simply “Coach Rape.” Headlines and allegations are accepted as fact, and that’s that.

Southern Miss’ officials made a business decision, and justifiably ran from negative headlines.

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Mac Engel is an award-winning columnist who has extensive experience covering Fort Worth-Dallas area sports for 20 years. He has covered high schools, colleges, all four major sports teams as well as Olympic games and the world of entertainment, too. He combines dry wit with first-person reporting to complement a head of hair that is almost unfair.
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