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Ex-Baylor DC Phil Bennett calls legal firm interview a fraud, says Art Briles deserves to coach again

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Former Baylor head coach Phil Bennett says an interview he did for a law firm reviewing Baylor’s response to sexual assault scandal was a fraud because he was unable to go through the interview without an attorney by his side. In an interview with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Bennett took issue with the review conducted by the Pepper Hamilton law firm.

“It was somewhere in January or February after our bowl game,” Bennett said of the interview he had with representatives from the law firm. “I told (staffers) it was a fraud set up from the get-go. I wanted to bring a lawyer in and to record it. I wanted protection. They would not talk to us if we did. They didn’t have a recording of it, either. That’s what bothered me. I was in there for 4 1/2 hours. They wrote notes. I wrote notes. They looked at mine. I looked at theirs. (The two investigators) were so out of touch with the structure of college football, it was comical.”

Bennett went on to explain when he realized there was no progress he was going to make in the interview.

“I said, ‘We are bringing these kids in and we take great pride in keeping them within the lines of university procedures. That’s our jobs. We are not getting the normal student.’ I wanted to be as real as I could with them. We are trying to teach these kids how to be in college and how to react in situations. She says, ‘Judicial Affairs should have known.’ As soon as she said that, I knew this was over.”

Despite the scale of the scandal at Baylor and the fallout that ensued, Bennett remains confident Baylor was really no different from any other college football program in the country.

“We had the same issues that everybody had,” Bennett claimed at one point in the video interview. “We tried to stay on top of things. Now, were we just a hammer? Probably not.”

Previous reports have detailed how members of the Baylor coaching staff worked around the typical Title IX procedures, which is what really brought the entire situation at Baylor to a boil.

Bennett also came to the defense of former Baylor head coach Art Briles, suggesting Briles was targetted because Baylor could not successfully fire Ken Starr as university president.

“Yes. I remember when this all started, my wife told me, ‘This is the sort of thing that gets you fired.’ I don’t know if this was true, but I was told by a member of the board that Art was never the objective. They were looking to fire Ken Starr. But Starr lawyered up. And the next on the pole was Briles.”

During the course of the interview, Bennett suggested Baylor was no different from other college football programs around the country

“Every night I say a prayer for him, that he will [coach again],” Bennett said of Briles. “I think without question he deserves to.”

Briles, of course, has struggled to land a coaching job since being fired by Baylor. A job in the CFL never took off after public outcry about his hiring, and he remains a bit of a pariah around college football as the dust still settles from the impact of the scandal in Waco.

Former Baylor head coach Art Briles hired by CFL team

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Art Briles has been set on returning to coaching as soon as he could. With no doors open in the college game or the NFL, Briles is now heading north to take on a role as an offensive coordinator with the CFL’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

The Tiger-Cats, coached by another former college coach you may be familiar with in June Jones, highlighted all of the personal highs of Briles’ coaching career at Baylor and Houston, and expectedly avoided any mention of why Briles is no longer coaching at Baylor in the press release to announce the new hire. That is because the school removed him as head coach amid a significant sexual abuse scandal running within the program with players being accused of sexual crimes and members of the football staff allegedly taking action to cover up details of the abuse. Baylor continues to recover from the stain of the scandal today.

Briles will serve as Jones’ offensive coordinator, which is the role Briles was most likely to take in order to get back in the coaching game. The hire has already been receiving negative feedback on Twitter.

Baylor temporarily replaced Briles as head coach with former Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe for the 2016 season, and later went on to hire Temple head coach Matt Rhule to be the new full-time head coach starting in the 2017 season.

As far as football is concerned, though, maybe former Baylor Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III has a new place to consider for a football comeback.

Baylor ordered by judge to release all Pepper Hamilton investigation evidence

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As much as Baylor will try to turn the page with its football program this season with a new head coach and a fresh approach to restoring order within the program, the reality of an ongoing legal fallout continues to drag on off the field and in the courts. On Friday, a federal judge ordered Baylor to hand over all evidence used by Pepper Hamilton in its review of the university’s handling of sexual crimes under the watch of former head coach Art Briles and former university president Ken Starr.

U.S. District Court Judge Robert Pitman, overseeing a Title IX lawsuit filed last year by three women who claimed to be victims of sexual abuse by members of the Baylor football program, commanded Baylor to release evidence including any recorded interviews and notes used during the Pepper Hamilton investigation.

What information may be revealed from this evidence that has not been disclosed remains to be seen, but it will be another step toward helping paint a full picture of everything that occurred at Baylor during an ugly sequence of events.

The findings in the Pepper Hamilton investigation led to the dismissal of Briles last year, prior to the start of the 2016 season. Baylor hired former Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe to serve as the coach for one season, and the Bears hired former Temple head coach Matt Rhule this past offseason as the permanent coach.

Art Briles dropped from lawsuit against Baylor

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Former Baylor head coach Art Briles has been removed from a federal lawsuit filed against the university, just as his lawyers requested back in July. That doesn’t mean he is out in the clear just yet, however.

Briles and former Baylor athletic director Ian McCaw were named as defendants in a federal lawsuit filed against Baylor University by a woman claiming the school ignored her claims of being sexually abused by a former Baylor football player (Tevin Elliott). Attorneys representing Briles and McCaw requested each be removed from the lawsuit as a defendant by claiming the allegations against them were based on hearsay and federal and state laws prohibit them from being sued as individuals in the case against the university. An attorney representing the plaintiff agreed to drop Briles and McCaw from this federal lawsuit but made it clear new lawsuits would be filed later specifically against Briles and McCaw.

”Coach Art Briles is very happy he has been dismissed as a defendant in this case. Plaintiffs may very well allege future claims against him and we will take those on if and when they are filed,” Briles’ attorney, Kenneth Tekell, said.

The lawsuit was filed in March, claiming Baylor was aware of other transgressions associated with Elliott. Because of this, the woman claims Baylor failed to protect her safety from a sexual predator. Elliott was convicted of raping the woman and sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Briles has been busy in recent weeks attempting to reform his shattered image, admitting to making mistakes (after previously admitting to nothing) and outlining how he will handle things differently should he be fortunate to coach again in the future. He was most recently seen attending a Baylor football game this past weekend at Rice, where former Baylor football player Shawn Oakman inexplicably visited the team inside the locker room (to which current head coach Jim Grobe admitting to having no idea who Oakman was).

Art Briles: I made mistakes… The captain goes down with the ship

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Former Baylor head coach Art Briles is coming out of the shadows for the first time since being fired by Baylor earlier this year, essentially beginning his redemption tour as he hopes to return to coaching as soon as possible. In an interview with Tom Rinaldi of ESPN, Briles said he had made mistakes during his tenure at Baylor, which was marred by accusations the Baylor football program violated Title IX procedures to keep players eligible to play football.

“I made mistakes. I did wrong, but I’m not doing this trying to make myself feel better for apologizing,” Briles told ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi. “I understand I made some mistakes. There was some bad things that went on under my watch. I was the captain of this ship. The captain of the ship goes down with it.”

Baylor hired the Pepper Hamilton law firm to conduct a thorough and independent investigation of the Baylor football program and athletics department following up on concerns about the way alleged Title IX violations had been handled. The report came back with scathing reviews, suggesting Baylor assistant coaches met with alleged victims in person, thus violating the Title IX response procedure sin place at the university. The culture of the Baylor football program was accused of placing an emphasis on winning above all else, which was a tough blow to the Briels legacy in Waco. Despite turning Baylor into a Big 12 contender, Briles was shown the door by the university. Ken Starr was also reassigned within the university from his role as president.

“So, I understand that I made some mistakes, and for that I’m sorry. But I’m not trying to plead for people’s sympathy. I’m just stating that, ‘Hey, I made some mistakes. I was wrong. I’m sorry. I’m gonna learn. I’m gonna do better.”

As quotes from Briles’ interview with ESPN began to hit the newswire, word of an investigation into the legitimacy of the Pepper Hamilton report from KWTX in Waco has suggested the report fell short of doing the job it was intended to do and took a few reaches on its findings. The report from KWTX concludes the Pepper Hamilton report came to the conclusion the Baylor board had already reached in response to the allegations against the program. Some sources connected to the report suggest there was no reason to fire Briles in the first place.

There was no smoking gun,” one source told KWTX.

ESPN will air the full Briles interview during Saturday’s airing of College GameDay.