The Big Mac Blog

‘Exonerated’ Art Briles not joining CFL team after all

Former Baylor football coach Art Briles was hired as coach for the Guelfi Firenze American Football team in Florence, Italy, on Thursday, Aug. 2, 2018. He was the Baylor coach from 2008 to 2015, when he was fired by the school.
Former Baylor football coach Art Briles was hired as coach for the Guelfi Firenze American Football team in Florence, Italy, on Thursday, Aug. 2, 2018. He was the Baylor coach from 2008 to 2015, when he was fired by the school. AP

UPDATE: Only hours after announcing the hiring of former Baylor football coach Art Briles as offensive coordinator, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and the Canadian Football League released a statement that he is no longer with the team.

If this is not the end of Briles’ career, it’s going to be close. The outpouring of negative sentiment toward this announcement clearly influenced the team’s decision to remove Briles from the staff that earlier in the day they were defending.

Hamilton Tiger-Cats CEO Scott Mitchell had to defend the decision earlier Monday to hire former Baylor football coach Art Briles as an assistant coach, and in doing so he stumbled into something bigger.

In an interview with The Hamilton Spectator, Mitchell said: “At the end of the day, it comes down to whether a person deserves a second chance. In no way, shape or form can you diminish the clearly institutional, horrific issues that went on at Baylor. But Art was exonerated by his own university, he certainly had nothing to do with no criminal discussions or proceedings.”

Wait ... what?

“Art was exonerated by his own university.”

He was? When?

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Briles reached a contract settlement with Baylor, and eventually dropped his libel lawsuit against the school. Because Baylor is a private school, the specifics are confidential.

Nowhere have I seen that Baylor publicly exonerated its former head football coach for his involvement with a rape scandal that did so much damage to the school, and so many lives. What I saw was a school that carefully blamed him as often as possible.

I reached out to the Tiger-Cats for an explanation, and will update this should it come.

This may be semantics, or this “exoneration” is a private agreement to help a former friend. Either way, Scott Mitchell did not say that by accident. In the process of reviewing this decision he must have spoken to someone at Baylor who expressed this exoneration. Or he should have.

I’m all for second chances. Whatever the specifics, in order for Briles to return to coaching it had to be this way. Briles “went away” for about one year, and he was coming back to a terrible job. He would have been the offensive assistant under June Jones, the former SMU head coach who was named the Tiger-Cats HC on Monday.

The Tiger-Cats are 0-8 with 10 games remaining in the season.

If Briles was indeed exonerated by his former employer, he needs to explain that, and his version of events at Baylor University that led to his dismissal.

In the new book, “Violated” about the scandal, co-authors Mark Schlabach and Paula Lavigne reached out to Briles for an interview. He said he was willing, but that he had to check with his lawyer first. According to his lawyer, Baylor would not allow Briles to talk, per the contract settlement he signed.

If he was exonerated, he should say that. If he was exonerated, Baylor has some explaining to do, too.

All this does is create more confusion in a story where nearly everyone involved is pointing a finger at someone else.

Save for three interviews, including one sit-down with ESPN, Briles has been mostly quiet. There will be a large segment of the population that will be disgusted by his mere presence. No explanation will suffice for them.

Then there will be those who can listen to what he has to say, and make up their own minds on his level of responsibility for the mess in Waco. There will be those who believe in second chances, and that he should have a shot at correcting some of the mistakes he made at Baylor.

He may simply be too toxic for a school or NFL team to hire. I always thought Texas Tech would be a good spot for him, but the reaction to this proposal was none too kind.

With this scandal on his résumé, the chance to coach his own FBS team again simply may not come regardless of what he says. Under better circumstances, a 61-year-old man can be a hard sell to an administration.

This hard sell will be made easier, however, if the school that fired him actually did indeed exonerate him of wrongdoing.

Once again, there is something explaining left to do.

Mac Engel: @macengelprof

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