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Opinion: Briles Hasn't Earned Second Coaching Chance

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Just as Baylor is moving on from its ugly past with the hiring of Temple's Matt Rhule, there will come a time when someone is tempted to give Art Briles a fresh start.

It won't be this year. Houston's very public -- and very emphatic -- rejection of Briles last weekend ensures that. But be assured that whether it's next year, the year after or five years from now, some school will be desperate enough to decide the Hazmat suit Briles wears will look just swell in its colors.

And that would be a colossal mistake.

There are some failings that are simply too destructive to be forgiven and forgotten, and Briles' should head the list. The lives of more than a dozen women were irreparably damaged because of his actions and inactions, and while he has to live with that, no one else should.

Sexual violence on campus is a serious issue that colleges and universities are struggling to address. Education and empowerment are part of the answer, as are appropriate and consistent discipline for abusers. All of it requires buy-in from everyone in positions of leadership and power.

Of course, Briles wants to coach again. But his suggestion that "a good cry session, a good talk session and then, hopefully, a hug session" could make everything all right with Baylor victims shows he still does not understand his role in fostering the school's culture of sexual violence.

His staff ignored or actively discouraged sexual assault complaints, according to the Pepper Hamilton report, even going so far as to meet with the women making the allegations. Since 2011, 19 players have been accused of sexual assault by 17 different women, including two who were brought to Baylor by Briles despite being dismissed from their previous schools for off-the-field incidents.

And, most damning of all, the university said Briles himself knew that a female athlete had accused five of his players of gang rape and did nothing. Said nothing. Reported nothing.

This from a man who insisted in August that he'd "never done anything illegal, immoral, unethical." Then, two months later, suggested the hug session in an interview with ESPN that was meant to launch his comeback by showing how much he'd learned and how sorry he was.

Sure, Briles might bring some up-and-coming or struggling school nine or 10 wins. But at what price? The school's good name? Its goodwill with deep-pocketed alumni -- you know, the ones who send their sons and daughters to the school?

It's simply not worth it, as Houston so wisely decided.

If there was any place for Briles to find a safe haven, Houston would have seemed to be it. A wide receiver on the 1977 Cotton Bowl team, he returned 25 years later as a coach and engineered a dramatic turnaround before leaving for Baylor. He still has friends in high places at Houston -- board chairman Tilman Fertitta supported Briles as a candidate -- as well as high schools in Texas.

But that wasn't enough to overcome Briles' yuck factor.

"Earlier this week Art Briles expressed interest to me regarding the Houston head coach position," Houston athletics director Hunter Yurachek said in a statement. "After discussion with University of Houston leadership, we developed a list of candidates to be interviewed that did not include Art."

Other disgraced coaches have managed to get second chances -- though I wonder if Bob Knight would have such an easy time today, with attitudes about physical abuse more evolved than they were when he landed at Texas Tech -- but it's a risky prospect.

When someone is toxic, as Briles is, everyone and everything around them is poisoned.

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December 7, 2016
 
 
 

 

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