John Hoover

Don’t you dare try to defend Art Briles. Don’t you dare

Don’t you dare try to defend Art Briles. Don’t you dare
Art Briles4

According to the Pepper Hamilton findings of fact released on Thursday, Art Briles and Baylor coaches “improperly discredited complainants and denied them the right to a fair, impartial and informed investigation” after several women accused Baylor football players of rape and/or sexual assault. Briles was fired on Thursday.


Whether you’re a disgruntled Baylor football player or a washed up personality like Craig James or Art Briles’ own daughter, don’t you dare survey today’s carnage in Waco and try to absolve Briles from wrongdoing.

Don’t you dare try to paint him as a victim.

Don’t you dare.

Briles was a man of high moral fiber and strong character — until he wasn’t.

Briles cared — until he didn’t.

Until he was faced with a choice.

He could have dismissed the mounting number of rapists and serial assaulters from the Baylor football team, and he could have refused to welcome such heinous young monsters from other schools as transfers. He could have chosen to stand up for the real victims in this quagmire — the man is the father of two young women, for Pete’s sake — and society would stand and applaud him for it.

Instead, he chose to defend his players, standing by the indefensible, aligning himself with rapists and enabling a cult of terrorist thugs. He chose to look the other way, to wantonly ignore the cries for help coming from young women across his campus.

By choosing that path, Art Briles put these and other Baylor women at risk of future assaults.

Why?

So his football team could win a few more games — maybe? So he could get another raise, perhaps pushing his annual salary past $5 million? So his legacy as a Genuine Bad Ass Texas Football Coach would be secure?

The man deserves more than to be just fired, and that additional punishment may come soon in the form of law suits, civil suits and certainly something along the lines of a show-cause penalty from the NCAA, which reportedly already has been in touch with the school, presumably about what looks like a strong case of lack of institutional control.

To the victims and their families, maybe he deserves so much more than any of that.

Before noon Thursday, Briles was out, fired after ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” had uncovered victim after victim of rape, sexual assault, physical assault and battery, and after Philadelphia firm Pepper Hamilton issued a 13-page finding of fact and a 10-page recommendation that was released by the university, accusing Baylor coaches of meeting with alleged victims, of not reporting assaults to authorities or their superiors, of “actively (diverting) cases from the student conduct or criminal processes,” and of “inappropriate involvement in disciplinary and criminal matters or engaged in improper conduct that reinforced an overall perception that football was above the rules, and that there was no culture of accountability for misconduct.”

“The football program’s separate system of internal discipline,” the report continues, “reinforces the perception that rules applicable to other students are not applicable to football players, improperly insulates football players from appropriate disciplinary consequences, and puts students, the program, and the institution at risk of future misconduct.”

That’s a clear warning to athletic programs at every school in the country.

At Baylor, two former football players — Tevin Elliott and Sam Ukwuachu — already are in jail on sexual assault or rape convictions. Other football players have been accused. How many of these atrocities could have been avoided if the first one had been properly addressed? How many could have been avoided if Briles stood resolute and told the first accuser, “I’m so sorry this happened to you. I’m going to call the police and we’re going to put this animal behind bars.”

Sadly, predictably, Art Briles’ defenders stood loud and proud Thursday.

Minutes after the news that Baylor had fired Briles, Taylor Young, a junior linebacker, blindly announced his support for his coach on Twitter.

“I don’t think I can play Baylor football without having my headcoach (sic) back leading the charge(.) (C)oach Briles did everything by the books!!!” Young tweeted, not telling us exactly which books. And, “You don’t turn your back on your leader when things get ugly(.)” And, “I’m not playing til we get @CoachArtBriles back.” And, “He fought for me…Why not fight for him?”

It’s probably safe to say that Young’s own relationships are now under intense scrutiny.

By noon, it was James — the former SMU running back who helped land his school not only on NCAA probation but got it the NCAA’s only application of the “Death Penalty,” then played in the NFL for a bit, then called some games on TV and since then pretty much hasn’t done anything of note other than become a national punch line — who came to Briles’ defense.

“#baylor coach Briles a good man who provided 2nd chances & ended up being victim of it, too. Character & Integrity matters!”

Wow.

Briles already had done enough to damage his own reputation long before James chimed in and further assassinated Briles’ character by vouching for him.

And then by mid-afternoon, Briles’ youngest daughter, Staley Lebby (she’s married to Baylor assistant Jeff Lebby) posted on Facebook that she had “just stopped crying long enough” to weigh in on social media.

“Anyone who knows my dad knows he is a man of incredible character & Faith,” she wrote. (Hey, maybe all those rape victims just don’t know the real Art Briles.) “He has always wanted to take over programs that were suffering, like he once did, to take them to do the top, which he has done at multiple places. (Incredibly, schools paid him up to $4 million a year for this random act of kindness.)

“He only kept coaching as long as he has to build a sturdy foundation for his kids & grandkids,” she continued. (Amazing how sturdy a foundation $4 million a year can build.) “The fact that Baylor has treated him the way they have is the most disgusting thing I’ve ever seen. (Good thing she never saw Tevin Elliott or Sam Ukwuachu on a date.)

“This media witch hunt has been the most disturbing thing I’ve ever witnessed. (OK, so she’s prone to hyperbole. It seems unlikely that any of the media covering this absurdity participated in any rape on the Baylor campus, or tried to cover up multiple sexual assaults, or discouraged young women from reporting their assault, as was detailed in the findings by Pepper Hamilton’s investigation of Baylor’s inaction from the football coach all the way to the university president. But hey, blame the media if it keeps you warm inside.)

“The situation has been blown so out of proportion,” Lebby wrote. (It was just a few rapes. No big deal, right?) … “I guess a man that has resurrected your program and made you a top 10 program wasn’t worth fighting for or defending. (Um, no.) The easy way out was taken. (Sure, all is well at Baylor now. It’s all better.)

“I will never wear a Baylor tshirt ever again & I hate that, but they did the unthinkable to one that matters most.”

A lot of folks won’t be wearing Baylor T-shirts any more. But on that last note, Staley Lebby crossed the line from slightly delusional young woman lovingly and loyally defending her father to being willfully ignorant of the real victims here: young women just like her who were brutally raped and beaten.

The rape culture of Baylor football, all for the sake of winning and the many riches it brings, is nothing short of nauseating.

Don’t you dare try to defend Art Briles.

Firing him was the school’s first step toward regaining its moral center. Firing Art Briles was Baylor’s first act of real decency in this whole dark, disgraceful episode.

John Hoover

Hoover wrote for the Tulsa World for 24 years before joining The Franchise, where he’s now co-host of “Further Review” on The Franchise Tulsa (weekdays 12-3, fm107.9/am1270) . In his time at the World, Hoover won numerous writing and reporting awards, including in 2011 National Beat Writer of the Year from the Associated Press Sports Editors for his work covering the Oklahoma Sooners. Hoover also covered Oklahoma State, Arkansas, Oral Roberts and the NFL as a beat writer. From 2012 to 2016, Hoover was the World’s lead sports columnist. As a columnist, Hoover won national awards in 2012 and 2014 from the National Athletic Trainers Association for reporting on sports medicine and in 2015 won first place in sports columns from the Oklahoma Society of Professional Journalists. After receiving a journalism degree from East Central University, Hoover worked at newspapers in Ada, Okmulgee, Tahlequah and Waynesville, Mo. He played football at Ada High School and grew up in North Pole, Alaska. Hoover and his family live in Broken Arrow.

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