Baylor made the decision Thursday to indefinitely suspend head coach Art Briles with the intent to terminate his contract. In simpler terms, he’s fired but likely has a few legal hurdles for Baylor to clear before that is legally finalized. With the coaching decision coming in late May, it looks very likely Baylor is about to embark on a path previously traveled by Ohio State. That ended up working out pretty well for the Buckeyes, so perhaps there is a glimmer of hope for the Bears in the long run as the program looks to crawl out from underneath the dark cloud that floats above it today.
The severity of the consequences facing Ohio State in late May 2011 and the Baylor program today has no comparison, there should be some similarities to what happens next for Baylor. Jim Tressel “resigned” from his post as head coach of the Buckeyes on May 30, 2011. At the time, Tressel was facing a two-game suspension for lying during an investigation regarding Ohio State players and impermissible benefits. As a result, Ohio State was faced with a late search for a new head coach with little time to spare for the 2011 college football season. Rather than get involved in an awkwardly timed coaching search, Ohio State named Luke Fickell the interim head coach for the 2011 season, while the national search could continue to lure in the biggest fish possible. That would end up being Urban Meyer, and things have worked out well in the years to follow.
A similar situation also played out at Arkansas when Bobby Petrino, although on another set of circumstances not comparable to the Baylor scandal. Petrino was fired by Arkansas earlier in the spring as well, with his removal as head coach coming on April 10, 2012 after lying about the details of his motorcycle accident and relationship with an Arkansas staff member. Arkansas managed to hire a new head coach for the 2012 season, naming John L. Smith the full-time head coach. However, Smith was let go after a 4-8 season that fall and ultimately replaced by Brett Bielema.
Given the timing of the coaching change in Waco, it would be expected the Bears will name a current member of the coaching staff their interim coach for the 2016 season, even though the findings of an external review of the university and athletics department made some strong accusations of various members of the coaching staff. But Baylor has little choice for what already is taking on the look of a potentially lost season for the Bears. Regardless, football will be played and somebody has to lead the team on the sidelines. Who that interim coach will be remains unknown, but given the information in the report it is also expected Baylor will wipe the slate clean with its next permanent head coach.
Odds are there will be no coach of the caliber of Meyer to come swoop in and restore pride in the program in short time. Baylor has a number of issues to address as a university, athletics department and a football program. The Baylor job may still be seen by coaching candidates as a better job as it once traditionally was, but any coach coming in for the Baylor job will be entering a pretty dark period of time, and that does not even account for any response the NCAA may eventually have on the situation.