Former coach Art Briles drops libel lawsuit against Baylor officials

Art Briles. (TFV Media via AP) 

Former Baylor football coach Art Briles dropped a lawsuit Wednesday he had filed against four officials at the school. Briles had accused them of falsely claiming that he knew of sex crimes that players had been reported to have committed and failed to give that information to the proper agencies.

The suit had been seeking unspecified damages in excess of over $1 million, but Briles’s lawyer, Ernest Cannon, said (via KWTX) that his client’s real motivation was to restore “his good name.” Regents Chairman Ronald Murff and board members J. Cary Gray and David Harper, as well as Baylor Vice President Reagan Ramsower, were accused of “libel, slander, tortious interference with prospective business relationships and intentional infliction of emotional distress.”

The suit was filed in December, shortly after Briles’s alma mater, Houston, had issued a statement saying that it was not considering him for its head coaching vacancy. Briles’s abandonment of legal action comes a few days after Baylor was hit with a lawsuit alleging that at least 31 football players a committed at least 52 “acts of rape” over four years during his tenure.

An October Wall Street Journal story had contained an allegation that 17 women reported incidents of sexual or domestic assault involving 19 football players – including four alleged gang rapes – since 2011. The story also claimed that Briles “knew about an alleged incident and didn’t alert police, the school’s judicial-affairs staff or the Title IX office in charge of coordinating the school’s response to sexual violence.”

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In his suit, Briles accused the three regents of planting that story through a public relations firm to discredit him, following his dismissal in May and a subsequent settling of a wrongful-termination lawsuit he had filed against the school. The defendants then “overloaded” Briles “in an endless supply of money, lawyers, resources, and no restraints on anything they’ll do to achieve their goals,” Cannon said.

“Art wants some peace in his life for him and his family, and to put as much distance between him and his family and Baylor as he can,” the lawyer told KWTX, “and I wholeheartedly agree with him.”

Briles was fired in May after an outside law firm hired by Baylor found “specific failings within both the football program and athletics department leadership, including a failure to identify and respond to a pattern of sexual violence by a football player, to take action in response to reports of a sexual assault by multiple football players, and to take action in response to a report of dating violence.”

The scandal surrounding the football program also led to the resignations of Baylor’s president (who had been reassigned to chancellor), Kenneth Starr, and athletic director, Ian McCaw. Briles, who was hired by Baylor in 2007, had been credited with bringing a dormant program to national prominence before a torrent of negative news erupted.