Mac Engel

Art Briles wins in his return to coaching

Big Mac Chat with Fox Sports’ Kate Abdo

Fox Sports' Kate Abdo joined Fort Worth Star-Telegram sports columnist Mac Engel for the latest edition of The Big Mac Chat; she will be hosting the Fox telecast of the Errol Spence Jr. fight against Mikey Garcia on Saturday night at AT&T Stadium.
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Fox Sports' Kate Abdo joined Fort Worth Star-Telegram sports columnist Mac Engel for the latest edition of The Big Mac Chat; she will be hosting the Fox telecast of the Errol Spence Jr. fight against Mikey Garcia on Saturday night at AT&T Stadium.

Perhaps it is not a coincidence that Art Briles could only find a job coaching American football in the city where the author of “The Divine Comedy” was born.

As Dante Alighieri, known for “Dante’s Inferno,” was born in Florence, so is the odd rebirth of Briles’ coaching career.

On Saturday in Florence, Italy, in front of what sounded like a few hundred fans, Briles’ Firenze Guelfi defeated the Parma Panthers, 27-17. Firenze trailed 17-0 before coming back to win the Italy Division I game; Firenze Guelfi out-scored Parma 21-0 in the second half.

It was the first time Briles won a game since leading Baylor to a win over North Carolina in the Athletic Bowl in December of 2015.

The Firenze Guelfi game was streamed live on Facebook, complete with play-by-play and color analysis, in Italian. I could understand the following, “I am afraid Coach Briles is not too trusting of his kicker,” which was said in English, as was, “FUMBLE!”

During a long Parma touchdown run, the announcer said, “Oh, mama mia!” He did not say, “My, my, how can I resist you?” (apologies, but that’s a layup).

Former Baylor Bear Lynx Hawthrone, who played for Briles at BU from ‘13 to ‘16, contributed, as did former Baylor walk-on Silas Nacita.

Hawthorne scored on a 6-yard touchdown run, and Nacita scored a touchdown as well. According to the announcers, Nacita was the MVP of the game. Every other player looked to be the equivalent of a Division III player.

Coaching this team, or something akin to this level, could be it for Briles, who looks to be out of options to land a college job.

He was fired in May of 2016 from Baylor after he became the face of the myriad of sexual assault allegations against members of his team, and Title IX failures at the school. He accepted a buyout of what was essentially $18 million, in part because he believed he would land another job in a matter of months.

Although he has had conversations with some schools, all of them dropped the subject after sensing the media and public backlash would be so loud and strident that he was not worth the risk.

He was hired by a CFL team for one day in Aug. of ‘17, but the league forced his removal after sponsors threatened to pull out.

In Feb., Southern Miss was set to name him the offensive coordinator, but terminated the offer after the criticism grew too loud.

Briles, 63, accepted the job in Florence last year, and he can leave essentially at any point to accept a different job with no penalty.

There also remains the matter of an NCAA investigation into both Briles and Baylor; the investigation is expected to have a resolution by early summer, or late spring. An NCAA penalty on Briles will make him landing a college job even more difficult.

Even without an NCAA penalty, his college career is likely over. He comes with baggage that no school, or specifically administrators, want to explain.

For the time being, and maybe for the rest of his career, coaching ball in the place where Dante created his Inferno may be the professional high point for Art Briles.

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