AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
Grambling State has announced former Baylor head coach Art Briles as its next offensive coordinator, but his hiring is subject to majority approval by the 16-member University of Louisiana System in an April 28 vote, per Koki Riley of the Monroe News-Star.
“It’s up to the board and our board takes things very seriously,” vice president of external affairs and chief of staff for the UL System Cami Geisman said. “They’re not a rubber-stamp board by any means.”
UL System President Jim Henderson provided additional comments.
“Certainly when there is a high-profile hire, there’s going to be additional scrutiny at the System level,” he said Friday, without referring to Briles specifically.
Per Brad Reagan of the Wall Street Journal, 17 women reported sexual or domestic assaults that involved 19 players who were at Baylor while Briles coached the Bears.
A lawsuit from a Baylor University graduate filed in 2017 said that 31 Baylor football players committed 52 acts of rape at minimum between 2011 and 2014, per Sarah Mervosh of the Dallas Morning News.
Per Marvosh, “those figures could not be independently verified … and Baylor officials declined to comment on their accuracy.”
Baylor fired Briles in 2016 after an independent investigation by the law firm Pepper Hamilton found significant problems within the football program, athletic department and the school’s administration in responding to the allegations.
A May 26, 2016, news release from Baylor read in part:
“In addition to broader University failings, Pepper found specific failings within both the football program and Athletics department leadership, including a failure to identify and respond to a pattern of sexual violence by a football player and to a report of dating violence.”
The school also stated that the investigation showed “a fundamental failure by Baylor to implement Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX) and the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (VAWA).”
In regard to the football program, the statement said there are “significant concerns about the tone and culture within Baylor’s football program as it relates to accountability for all forms of athlete misconduct.”
Per Riley, the NCAA cleared Briles and his coaching staff of violations but said that the former Bears coach “failed to meet even the most basic expectations of how a person should react to the kind of conduct at issue.”
Since his Baylor tenure, Briles was hired as the CFL’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ assistant head coach for offense in 2017, but that fell through after a wave of criticism.
Briles coached the Italian Football League’s Guelfi Firenze in 2018. He interviewed for Southern Miss’ offensive coordinator job in 2019 but did not get hired amid more concerns. Briles then served as the head coach for Texas’ Mount Vernon High School for two years.
He had re-signed with Guelfi Firenze before Grambling head coach Hue Jackson brought him on staff. It’s no guarantee that’ll happen, but Riley wrote that the board has not denied a football coach’s contract or term sheet over the last five years.
Still, Riley wrote Saturday that there are “hurdles to clear” and “it’s expected Briles’ hiring will attract more attention than the usual coaching position.”
The decision has already created some backlash, with former Grambling star and Super Bowl XXII MVP Doug Williams expressing concerns to Andrew Golden and Nicki Jhabvala of the Washington Post.
“I’m very, very disappointed in Grambling, I really am. I talked to the [athletic director] a couple times. They knew where I stood, but they did it and if that’s what they want to do, that’s fine. I’m out.”
Grambling is in its first year under Jackson, whose 35-year coaching career includes stints as head coach of the Oakland Raiders and Cleveland Browns.