Baylor Football Coach Admits It's A Daunting Task
Baylor and its leadership have warranted plenty of criticism over the past year, but to lob any shots at the new guy is misguided and should land well wide of the mark.
Be mad at Art Briles. Be upset with former athletic director Ian McCaw. Be sick of former President Ken Starr. Be irate at Baylor’s board of regents. Take exception to the mostly unknown people in place at Baylor who did not do enough.
Just don’t bother taking aim at acting head football coach Jim Grobe or new athletic director Mack Rhoades.
Grobe has been on the job for less than two months and already has had to answer a slew of questions about an era and nefarious activities of which he had zero involvement. The same for Rhoades.
Last week at Big 12 media days in Dallas, Baylor once again trotted out Grobe to be the school spokesman about a rape scandal that took down the president, the AD and the most popular head coach in the history of the school.
McCaw has not said a word, and neither has Briles.
It absolutely was a challenge and there was no road map to this. When I got in and first met with the team, I think they were somewhat skeptical of a lot of things. They were certainly heartbroken that they lost Art.
Acting Baylor football coach Jim Grobe
Interim President David Garland has made a few appearances and Rhoades was introduced Monday, but mostly the face of the cleanup crew has been left to a formerly retired man who has been on the job since May 30.
That is preposterously unfair to Grobe, yet consistent with how Baylor has handled the public relations front to this story. It’s the “Here — you do it” style of scalding, hot-potato management.
Grobe stepped in it Tuesday when he said there is not “a culture of bad behavior at Baylor University.”
The good news is there is no evidence Grobe lifted this statement, or any other, from a Michelle Obama or Melania Trump speech.
Grobe also said, “The problems we have dealt with at Baylor are probably problems at every university in the country.”
That’s not what people want to hear. The social media patrol and we self-righteous reporters dealt swift justice and characterized Grobe as a clueless buffoon who is out of touch with the realities of the situation, and that statements such as these are nothing more than the typical Baylor Line.
There clearly was a culture of bad behavior at Baylor, otherwise Art Briles would still be employed.
In 20 seasons as a college football coach at Ohio and Wake Forest, Jim Grobe is 110-115-1 with five bowl appearances.
Since Grobe arrived, however, it’s a good bet that Baylor has nothing but a culture of model behavior. In our reactionary society, we rotate 180 degrees after the penalty has been given. Now is the time when the players and coaches will be watched with red-light cameras as they sleep.
And Grobe’s words about “every university in the country” are not out of line. They are sadly accurate.
One in five women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college, and more than 90 percent of sexual assault victims on college campuses do not report the assault, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.
That’s not just a Baylor problem. That’s an America problem.
How Baylor chose to either deny or not handle many of these sexual assaults are specific to Baylor and have nothing to do with Jim Grobe.
A lot of people with Baylor don’t deserve a break (cough-cough — board of regents — cough-cough), but Grobe does.
The one part that is a harder to defend is Grobe’s decision to retain all of the assistant coaches. According to Grobe, he had the power to retain or dismiss anybody on staff. Two longtime staffers in football operations were let go.
Baylor opens the season on Friday, Sept. 2, in Waco against Northwestern State.
For a school trying to distance itself from this scandal, retaining all of Art Briles’ assistant coaches is to maintain faces and links directly associated with the whole sordid ordeal.
One source familiar with the situation said Grobe keeping all of Briles’ assistant coaches — including Briles’ son and his son-in-law — is entirely about timing. That the only reason all them were not fired immediately was because fall practice was to begin approximately 60 days after Briles was fired.
That same source said the entire staff expects to be let go when the season is over, and no one thinks Grobe will be the permanent replacement for 2017 and beyond.
Keeping those assistants is not a great look for the university, but timing and logistics are decent explanations as to why they were retained.
As to Grobe’s eventual replacement, Houston’s Tom Herman remains a hot name; Rhoades hired him to come to Houston. North Carolina’s Larry Fedora is also a name that has been bandied about as a replacement.
Nothing on this will be decided until the final few weeks of the season.
For Baylor, the T-shirt theme of the Bears’ season should be “Survive.”
Survive the fact the team is down to 70 scholarship players, with only 12 remaining from the 2016 recruiting class.
Survive the remaining lawsuits and reach an agreement with the victims.
Survive the negative publicity that will continue to exist as part of the fallout.
All of it figures to be difficult with plenty of broken glass to navigate. The man put in charge did not break any glass, but he now must clean it up without the aid of a Hazmat suit.
Give him a break.
Listen to Mac Engel every Tuesday and Thursday on Shan & RJ from 5:30-10 a.m. on 105.3 The Fan.