He was Baylor’s second choice behind Mike Singletary, but on the day he was introduced as the head football coach at Baylor University Art Briles said: “This is the place I need to be, and I am here for a reason and I really believe that. I think faith has definitely intervened, and thank God for faith, because this is the right place at the right time.”
That was November 28, 2007 when Baylor handed Briles a seven-year, $12.6 million contract.
On that day he said, “We are going to get bowl eligible, we are going to win the [Big 12] South, we’re going to win the Big 12 championship, and then we’ll take it from there. Lip service is easy, but we do have a plan, and we have a mission and we have a way to follow through with it.”
He did all of it and more. At Baylor.
On Friday, June 17, 2016, per Baylor alum Jason King of Bleacher report, Baylor reached a settlement with Briles for an undisclosed amount one day after he sued the school for wrongful termination. The other emergency lawsuit he filed for conflict of interest in representation was dropped as well.
Briles screwed up and his firing was just. Also just is that he deserves grace, and the chance to coach again.
Art Briles is not the anti-Christ nor was he directly responsible or complicit in the rapes committed by members of his football team. As the team’s coach, however, he is accountable.
The national pundits painted Briles as a negligent, overly-enabled renegade football coach who saw nothing but talent, x’s and o’s and wins and losses, and cared of nothing else. The defenders of Briles insist this is a good, Christian man devoted to his players, his wife, his children and grandchildren.
There can be truth in all of it. The real truth always exists in the mist that does not move radio needles, generate internet clicks or provide the TV heads yellable talking points.
And the truth is Briles is a pioneering football mind who operated like most every other successful coach — in the murky, muddy gray areas, at the edge, constantly pushing, rationalizing and justifying chances and risks.
From Nick Saban to Gary Patterson to Jim Harbaugh, every one of them does it. They have to or they won’t win, which is the priority in (college) football for (student) athletes. Those risks may disgust you, but it doesn’t stop consumption of the product which enables these guys to continue operating with a selectively working moral compass.
Whether it be negligence or ignorance, Baylor had cause to dismiss its coach.
In the original lawsuit against Baylor, Briles’ lawyer stated his client was used as a scapegoat to “disguise and distract from its own institutional failure to comply” with federal civil rights protections.
That’s true. Equally true was that Briles’ leadership put the team, the department and the school in a compromising position.
Would the Baylor board of regents fire the most popular coach in the history of the university unless it felt like it was absolutely necessary? These people liked Art. The last thing they wanted to do was fire him.
What began in 2007 should have ended sometime in 2023, at McLane Stadium, with Briles being carried off on his players’ shoulders in the vicinity of his own statue. Instead the era ends with exchanges between lawyers.
This does not mean Briles’ career is over. He’s only 60. A prolonged period of silence followed by genuine contrition are highly recommended to satiate the masses who are more comfortable being angry than content.
He will need to go away for a while before making the media rounds to give “his side.” During those interviews he best repeatedly say that he made mistakes, that he is accountable, and that if given another opportunity there are many things he would do differently.
He has just enough room to point the finger at others to to justify another employer giving him a chance.
Then in the fall his phone will ring, and he will be given another chance.
He wins, which is the most important currency in football. There will be others who will vouch for him. And sports has a short memory, which makes a Briles return to the game inevitable.
Considering the success he had at Stephenville, the University of Houston and Baylor University, his resume is too hard to ignore as a viable option for a college team that wants to be relevant.
When Briles is hired to coach again the announcement will be crucified, mocked and ridiculed. Then we will move on.
And maybe the next time for Art Briles will be the “right place at the right time.”
Listen to Mac Engel every Tuesday and Thursday on Shan & RJ from 5:30-10 a.m. on 105.3 The Fan.