Editor’s Note: This is an opinion piece written by members of The Lion Wire Staff. It has absolutely no affiliation with the school administration or the athletic department at Texas A&M-Commerce and is 100 percent the opinion of this site and our writers. Questions and comments should be directed to us in the comment section or our Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/thelionwire. Thank you.
-Brian Pate, Managing Editor, The Lion Wire
As most of you know, former Baylor University football Coach Art Briles was hired two weeks ago in the Northeast Texas town of Mount Vernon, a class 3A school located roughly 110 miles from Dallas. It is also a town that is 50 miles east of Commerce and could be competing against Commerce High School when the next realignment of UIL districts occurs. Briles’ hiring has opened up many an opinion regarding whether or not he should be coaching this year, or if he should ever coach again. At the request of the Lion Wire’s readers, here is my humble opinion and appraisal of the situation. I actually wrote about this 2 plus years ago when Briles was fired, and you can read my article about this here-
I am not going to make any pretenses about it. I do not like Art Briles. I have never liked him. I think he is a brash and arrogant guy who launders his true intentions under the guise of a good religious country boy who just happens to love the game of football and The Lord. He has said he feels his calling is to take troubled kids and “save them.” That, in addition to winning football games, and a lot of them. Speaking as a Christian, to me he makes a mockery of what a Christian coach should be, and what he should stand for. Some his ethically ambiguous deeds include underhandedly poaching two recruits who had already committed to other major schools. (Robert Griffin III from Houston and Jarrett Stidham from Texas Tech) Briles is like a real life Bud Kilmer (Jon Voight’s character in the 1999 film Varsity Blues). I firmly believe his creed is “win, win, at all costs.” I firmly believe what former Texas Tech and current Arizona Cardinals Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury said about him 3 years ago: “Behind that country boy charm and smile is a guy who will cut another man’s throat to win a Football game.”
Recently, I ran a poll on the Lion Wire Facebook page to see if Briles should coach again. To my surprise, out of almost 90 votes, 56 percent said he should get another chance, while only 44 percent said no. While I do not agree with the majority, I do understand where they are coming from. This is America, land of second chances; why not give the guy a second chance? I have my reasons, but before I do, there is another party to blame here.
I used to respect and admire Baylor University, but that went down the tubes when Briles showed up. However, it was not until I realized their culture in the athletic department was rotten before he ever got there. That school wanted so badly to be relevant they sold their soul for a Basketball program run by a Woman who called for assaulting people who criticized Baylor (Kim Mulkey), having their star Women’s player assault a Texas Tech player who should gone to jail but didn’t (Brittney Griner), a Men’s Basketball coach who facilitated a culture of drugs, illegal money, and fraud, (Dave Bliss) and also the tragic murder of one of their own players by another player. (Carlton Dotson)
I guess you could say Briles and Baylor were a match made in hell, because that is where all of this trash comes from. Worse yet, many Baylor fans, students, and alums supported Briles by insisting he was a good and honorable man (translation: he wins and we don’t want to stink again) and tried to hire him back in a back door fashion twice. That should sicken anyone who cares about the treatment of Women and the integrity (or what’s left of it) of intercollegiate sports.
However, there are a few facts to sort out before totally nailing Briles to the wall.
First, he never had a hand in nor assaulted anyone nor did he openly facilitate it. I don’t think highly of Briles, but there is no evidence of any kind to suggest that he did anything remotely resembling that. So, you can call Briles many things, but abuser of women you cannot. He has been married for many years and has two daughters who I am sure he loves deeply. Some of his players during that time certainly abused women, but he does not and never has. I want that to be made perfectly clear because I have had some feedback that describes Briles in a totally unfounded way.
The fact is when someone is a head coach of a football program, they are responsible for the actions of those players, right or wrong. Where Briles went wrong was his insatiable desire to win by recruiting players who had major character flaws and some that were just bad people. Just google “Baylor Football Scandal timeline” and you will get a very sobering dose of just how bad things were in Waco. The main accusation against Briles was that he had been told by actual victims and that he either ignored them, or told them to shut up and go away and/or keep quiet about it. Some of that may sound plausible, but Briles to this day denies that is what happened. His excuse is that Baylor’s system was rotten and he was just a fall guy, along with former Baylor President Ken Starr and former AD Ian McCraw. Perhaps, but when you are getting credit for a Football program resurrecting from complete obscurity into national title contention, you are also going to get credit for that same program misbehaving badly.
Here is my main issue with Briles. He has shown basically zero empathy for the suffering of those women at Baylor. If he was completely innocent, why not go out and make a statement saying “I had absolutely nothing to do with this and it goes against everything I believe in and stand for and I refuse to have my name dragged through the mud, and I will fight it with every fiber of my being, and my name will be cleared.” That is essentially what Mike Leach did when another self-righteous Texan and his entitled spawn accused him of physical mistreatment leading to his dismissal from Texas Tech. Leach fought it, landed another job, and now is highly successful at Washington State.
Or, if he did have something to do with it and made mistakes, why not apologize publicly, do whatever he can to make it right and tell the world he understands why he may never coach again? Briles has essentially just shrugged his shoulders and said “Well, I guess some of it is my fault since I was the head coach.” That is hardly the response that a victim of one of his players would want to hear. Even Briles’ most ardent supporters agree discipline was not high on his list or priorities, just look at the way his players acted on and off the field.
If Briles is arrogant and tone-deaf enough to look at this at just something that went awry in his coaching career, I don’t know what else to say. I will say this though, even IF Briles had come forward and said “Listen, I messed up. I did not control my players, and because of that, innocent women suffered. I feel awful and I apologize.” I would not be against him being given another chance, but I think my contributing editor Billy Minor nailed it when he said, “Ultimately Briles was for responsible. I do feel the media may have painted him in a more negative light than what it actually may have been………..but if I was to give him another chance it would be non guaranteed with a zero tolerance for any misbehavior.”
In other words, I don’t believe in nor support the pitchfork mafia coming to destroy a contrite person’s life and career for a mistake they make. After all, WE ALL MAKE them. We are all humans. However, the word “contrite” is missing from Briles attitude. I see no contrition, no sympathy, just an attitude of “I’m sorry things are this way.” That is why I am against a second chance for Briles.
In the end, I will let another one of our contributors, Russell McLean speak his mind; “Art Briles would sell his house-with anyone in it-to win a football game. His ego not only cost him his job, but damaged Baylor to the point where they’re still trying to recover.”
That just about sums it up, does it not? Ego is the key word here, and is far as many of us are concerned, lack of contrition and Briles refusing to accept his role in his undoing is what makes this whole thing just a no-go. Briles needs to learn that and not play the role of persecuted Texas football saint, or Mount Vernon football might be in the news in the future, and not for a good reason.