Former Baylor coach Art Briles takes CFL assistant job
HAMILTON, Ontario (AP) — Former Baylor coach Art Briles is back on the sideline a long way from Texas.
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League on Monday announced that they have hired Briles as their assistant head coach on offense . Hamilton is off to an 0-8 start and recently changed head coaches, promoting longtime NFL and college coach June Jones after he was serving as an assistant for the team.
The 61-year-old Briles was fired in May 2016 by Baylor after an investigation by a law firm found that over several years the school mishandled numerous sexual assault allegations, including some against football players. The Pepper Hamilton review also led to the departures of Baylor University President Kenneth Starr and athletic director Ian McCaw.
“He’s excited to be back in the coaching game, I believe he belongs in college football but his skills translate to any level,” Briles’ attorney, Mark Lanier, told The Associated Press. “He’s excited to be looking at Xs and Os. He’s with a great staff. He’s just really thrilled about it. I think they’ll him so incredible that they’ll want to keep him.”
Baylor has already settled at least two Title IX lawsuits against the school, and earlier this month reached a deal with former student Jasmin Hernandez , the first of several women to file federal Title IX lawsuits against the world’s largest Baptist university. The school previously settled with three women who hadn’t sued.
The Big 12 Conference is withholding revenue from the school until an independent audit shows the university is implementing dozens of reforms recommended by Pepper Hamilton.
Briles has acknowledged making mistakes and apologized for some “bad things that went on under my watch.” He has also pushed back against some accusations made against him and his program in lawsuits and made clear that he wanted to return to coaching.
“He’s no longer in any lawsuits, his ties to Baylor are purely ties of friendship to a lot of the people there,” Lanier said. “He’s excited to turn that page and get to work.”
The hire sparked criticism on social media, including a Twitter post by Theo Fleury, the former NHL star who was sexually abused by his junior coach.
“If you knew and didn’t say anything then you are just as much a part of rape as the people who committed rape. Shame on #CFL,” Fleury tweeted.
Others urged CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie to step in and void Briles’ hiring. Scott Mitchell, the Ticats’ CEO, told 3DownNation , a football blog, that team owner Bob Young and the CFL were well aware of Hamilton’s intention to hire Briles and the organization has no intention of rescinding the move.
“This is about giving someone a second chance and we’re committed to doing that,” Mitchell told the blog, according to The Canadian Press. “For every reaction that you’re getting from social media and media, there’s a tremendous amount of support behind the scenes for a tough decision. I think a lot of people in this world, including myself, have made bad decisions and have regrets and I certainly feel strongly that in this case, Art Briles deserves a second opportunity.”
Barry’s Jewelers, one of the team’s sponsors, denounced the hiring of Briles.
“We strongly condemn and urge the team’s management and ownership to immediately sever any ties they may have,” the company said in a statement, according to CP. “Mr. Briles may or may not have a valid coaching track record, but to choose the chance of winning football over the importance of values goes beyond our core values and is absolutely not acceptable.”
The hiring was announced the same day as the team was scheduled to host a women’s football clinic.
Briles is a Texas native who has never worked outside the state as a coach. He was a longtime successful high school coach in the state before moving into the college ranks as an assistant with Texas Tech in 2002. He quickly rose to become one of the most-highly regarded and well-compensated coaches in the country.
Briles was 34-28 in five seasons at Houston before taking over at Baylor. He went 65-37 in eight seasons at Baylor, including 50-15 over the final five years, taking the long downtrodden program to two Big 12 championships.
The Tiger-Cats’ former head coach, Kent Austin, made the move last week to promote Jones. Austin is also the team’s vice president of football operations.
Jones and Briles have never worked together, but Jones’ time as the head coach at SMU overlapped with Briles’ head coaching career at both Houston and Baylor. They are considered two of the leading offensive innovators in football at any level.
Hamilton also owns the negotiating rights for former Baylor star and Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III, who played for Briles and went on to become the second overall NFL draft pick by the Washington Redskins in 2012.