It has become an increasingly popular practice to vilify people. It sells newspapers and encourages clicks – all of which drives revenue. (At least it’s supposed to drive revenue. I’m looking at you ESPN with your subpar earnings killing my Disney call options quarter after quarter.)
It’s easy to do it. Just plant a suggestion of impropriety and the media herd will trample your target for you.
It might even be fun. I’ve done it while preaching, but I usually limit my targeting to Satan and spiritual forces of evil which have really brought the villain tag on themselves.
Be that as it may, vilifying people who have made mistakes is irresponsible and… well, villainous.
Art Briles is a good man.
It needs to be said by more people than just his daughter. He has spent his career shaping young men into good men. He has taught generations of malleable young men character and discipline, and for the most part, he has done a great job. In the instances that he has been unable to reach a young man he has dismissed them from his teams. Even then he continued to care for them and help them to grow.
He is a good man, and he deserves to be fired. Here are three reasons:
1. He subverted procedures
There are procedures in place for dealing with allegations of sexual assault. Those procedures are there to protect the rights of victims/accusers and perpetrators/the accused. By subverting the process, he robbed the victims of justice. These young women ought to have had the opportunity to make their claims heard.
Additionally, the young men who were accused deserve to have their names cleared, not by their coach and mentor, but by the appropriate authorities. We are charged in Matthew 10:16 to be as shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. By Briles not being the former he prevented his team from being the latter.
Some of the allegations may be false. Sadly, false accusations are made. By not following the procedures to let the guilty be found guilty he’s made everyone that was accused seem guilty and the whole program suspect.
2. He failed to recuse himself and his staff
I try to believe the best about people. It has served me well as a pastor, and it serves coaches well. A good coach can see the potential in a player and inspire them to unlock it. It is a great thing to have a coach believe in you like that.
That is not a character trait that serves an investigator well. My friends who are police officers tend to assume the worst about people, and they dig and pick at stories and people until they are satisfied with the truth. That truth is often sordid and ugly, but it is essential to the application of justice.
Briles’ actions would indicate that he believed the men in his program were innocent. Of course he would and he should. He should be supportive of his players, and that is why he should have taken himself and his staff out of the equation completely and immediately. It is difficult to recognize ones own bias, but everyone would have been better served if he had.
3. He brought disgrace to Baylor
Yes, he brought great acclaim to Baylor. He put Baylor’s football program on the map. When I attended Baylor we were the highlight reel victims of the Big XII. You need footage of a player making an amazing run? Watch their game against Baylor.
He could have started losing games. He could have let the program drop to the middle of the BigXII and no one would bat and eye. The acclaim he brought the school would have earned him a life estate in the coach’s office if they started to lose, but this disgrace is special. This isn’t failing to take a knee when you are seconds from beating UNLV at home. This isn’t even in the same league.
Any football failure could be quickly forgiven. This disgrace will stay with Baylor. The idea that Betty Baylor was sexually assaulted and left out in the cold is unacceptable. No amount of trophies or titles makes that OK.
So what becomes of Art Briles?
That is up to Art Briles.
He could play the blame game.
Obviously, there was plenty of blame to go around, just ask President, I mean Chancellor, I mean Professor Starr. He could say that other nameless people in his department failed to safeguard him and the players, but the Regents needed a high profile scapegoat. That approach may work to land him a coaching gig at a high school or small college program. No big school wants to hire a blamer.
He could play the role of the innocent victim.
He could say that the report got it all wrong, he did nothing wrong, but he took the fall for the sake of the university. There will be some who believe him. (Mostly people who, like me, believe the best about people.) There will be a lot of people who don’t believe him, but are still willing to pretend to because they want to win games and build stadiums. He would probably be able to sell that story well enough to land at another university, maybe even another Division I school.
I would propose a third option. He could admit his mistakes.
He could admit that he brought disgrace to Baylor, should have recused himself, and subverted procedures. He could go and visit the young ladies who accused his players. He could sit on their parent’s couches like he was on the recruiting trail. He could hear their stories and understand their scars. He could imagine (like I have) his daughter being held down and abused by the goliaths that he recruited and developed. Then he would say that he is sorry that he didn’t do more to protect them or at least bring them justice.
If he did that, if he showed that sort of character, schools would jump at the chance to hire him. Even Baylor might rehire him in a couple of years. He would show his players that there are more important things than football. He would show coaches everywhere what it looks like to take responsibility for ones mistakes. Most importantly, he would show the world that he is a good man, just like I have always thought.