Still a pariah at the collegiate level — and the professional level in North America, for that matter — Art Briles has returned to his coaching roots in dipping his scandal-stained toes back into the profession’s pool.
Mount Vernon High School in Texas announced Friday evening that its Board of Trustees has approved a two-year contract for Briles to serve as the program’s head football coach. Briles spent nearly three decades as a head coach in the state of Texas before, after a three-year stint as an assistant at Texas Tech, landing head jobs at Houston (2003-07) and, most infamously, Baylor (2008-15).
“High school football is a Texas institution. As a coach, it’s my first love,” Briles said in a statement provided by his new employer. “You’ll make no bigger impact in this world than when you shape the lives of young people — one practice, one game, and one life at a time.
“I am excited to be coaching at Mount Vernon this fall.”
In its release, the school system noted “that Briles never incurred a single recruiting infraction during his time at the collegiate level, and previous supervisors and other references also provided strong recommendations.” It was further stated that the hiring was made because, “[a]fter a thorough due diligence process and several earnest conversations, we believe our students will benefit greatly from his skills and experience.”
Given Briles’ past, the school’s wordsmithing in announcing the decision is understandable considering the amount of heat and outside public pressure the system is set to endure.
Briles was fired by Baylor in May of 2016 amidst a sexual assault scandal involving his Bears football program. In August of 2017, the disgraced coach was hired by a CFL team; a couple of hours later, after the hiring was denounced by fans and sponsors, the organization announced that Briles would no longer be joining the team.
In late January of 2017, damning details in one of the handfuls of lawsuits facing Baylor University emerged, with that suit alleging that 31 Bears football players had committed 52 acts of rape over a period of four years beginning in 2011.
Not long after, a legal filing connected to the libel lawsuit filed by a former BU football staffer produced emails and text messages that painted a picture of the former Bears head coach and/or his assistants as unrestrained rogue elements concerned with nothing more than the image of the football program off the field and its performance on it. The details in a damning document dump included allegations that Briles attempted to circumvent BU’s “judicial affairs folks” when it came to one player’s arrest… and on Briles asking, in response to one of his players brandishing a gun on a female, “she reporting [it] to authorities?”… and asking “she a stripper?” when told one of his players expected a little something extra from a female masseuse… and stating in a text “we need to know who [the] supervisor is and get him to alert us first” in response to a player who was arrested on a drug charge because the apartment superintendent called the police.
In reference to a woman who alleged she was gang-raped by several Bears football players, Briles allegedly responded, “those are some bad dudes. Why was she around those guys?”
“Hindsight is a blessing and a curse. I’ve always been about trying to be fair and honest with everyone I came into contact with,” Briles said in July of last year on his unceremonious and controversial ouster from the Bears. “The thing that hurts me as much as anything [was] the culture at Baylor at the time; I don’t think victims, I know they didn’t feel comfortable going to report assaults that took place. I don’t think they were represented and taken care of with the level that needed to be handled with. That’s something that through all of this and as time goes will become more clear.
“Not only me but many of us felt betrayed because we were not privy to the information that was available in a way we wanted to respond. … With the way things are going, with some of the transparency starting to take place, I am confident the truth will come out. It’s not just important for me.”
In August of last year, Briles was named as the head coach of the Guelfi Firenze American Football team in Florence, Italy. That was his first coaching job at any level since his ouster in Waco.
Brenda Tracy, a gang-rape survivor and victim’s advocate, is the most high-profile of many already publicly questioning the high school’s hiring of Briles.