Art Briles Thinks Investigation Is "Good"
There are now but two solutions for Baylor and its Board of Regents.
1. Hunker down with head football coach Art Briles and be prepared to ride this hurricane of negative publicity and hope that nothing else happens.
2. Fire him.
The board is expected to keep Briles but two sources indicated firing him is being considered as the final solution to a scandal that continues to be a nightmare for the entire school for what is now approaching a full calendar year.
On Wednesday afternoon, ESPN’s Outside the Lines released yet another damning report detailing more criminal behavior on the part of the Baylor football team under Briles.
Some of the “highlights” include assault by Baylor football players against Baylor students, and a new sexual assault charge against a former Baylor football player that was not pursued but the case is not closed. The report also includes a potential coverup by the Waco Police Department, not to mention an embarrassing lack of discipline on the part of the university.
Consistent with the way it has completely bungled this story from the start last August, Baylor is not commenting other than to issue another vanilla press release.
The irony is Baylor once hired a public relations firm to present its case to be chosen for the college football playoff but not for this PR disaster. If ever there was a time Baylor needed public relations help it is right now.
The investigation of the Baylor athletic department conducted by Philadelphia law firm of Pepper Hamilton is complete and the Baylor board of regents was briefed last week by the two lawyers during its quarterly meetings. It has not read the actual report yet, so nothing has been made public nor has any action been taken.
This latest round bad news could change any potential action, or possibly even the final report. In the latest ESPN OTL report, one of the victims involved in one of the alleged assaults said they were never contacted for an interview by the investigators from Pepper Hamilton; that is not the look Baylor wants on this.
The quickest way to move on from any scandal is to fire the leadership, but dismissing Baylor president Ken Starr or athletic director Ian McCaw is not going to cut it. The only way Baylor can expedite this sordid ordeal is to fire the one guy whose overall impact in Waco is incalculable.
But how does Baylor fire Art Briles? He is responsible for one of the most impressive college football turnarounds in the last 30 years at a school that loves football and has been dying to be a real player in this sport for decades.
Much as all of Baylor benefited from the rise of its football team under Briles, so has the entire school been soaked in an endless mud bath under the weight of this scandal under the same man.
That’s how it worked for Oklahoma under Barry Switzer, USC under Pete Carroll or SMU in the pay-days of the ‘80s. Given the nature of Baylor’s scandal - which is criminal - this is closer to Penn State under Joe Paterno than just the standard paying players money.
If Baylor retains Briles, he will eventually have to answer for his leadership over the past few years. He has so far dodged such questions; the next time he is expected to see the media is late July at Big 12 media days in Dallas.
The only one among Briles, McCaw or Starr who has answered any question is Starr when I politely blind sided him at a prayer breakfast convention Q&A in Fort Worth in early April.
If Baylor wants to stick with Briles, it best prepare for an onslaught of bad PR from keeping him on the sidelines despite whatever the final report says.
Specifics aside, Baylor is now just like any another big-time college football team over run by a collection of young boneheads who are empowered to do as they please and enabled by a coach whose real priority is to win 10 games.
Baylor started winning on a national level because Art Briles is a brilliant head coach. Baylor also started winning because he willingly recruited, and kept on his team, a collection of bad guys who repeatedly crossed the line with virtually no consequences.
Now Baylor is faced with paying the steepest price for all of it.
The easiest, and quickest, way out is to do the thing it does not want to do.