By Arnie Leshin
Let’s get something straight before it makes the fake news list. Art Briles was not fired by Baylor University for committing any sexual assault, he was discharged for covering it up until the sprawling sexual assault scandal was uncovered.
Briles, now 63, is a true-blue Texan who has been coaching football for ages. At this time he was head coach at Baylor, the world’s largest Baptist university. In 2015, he took the Bears to the doorsteps of the college football playoffs. Two years later, he was fired.
He had insisted that he felt he had handled the situation correctly. Several of his own players were named, but not by him. And so the school in Waco, Tx., dismissed him, told him he couldn’t coach there anymore, that he was a very good coach, but kept too many secrets.
It was humiliating for Briles, considered a legend in Texas coaching. He was a high school coach for 21 seasons, among those credited with introducing versions of the spread offense to high school ball in the Lone Star State. In 2000, he was hired as a Texas Tech assistant, and later the head coach at Houston and then Baylor.
He left behind four state championships in a seven-year span at Class 4A Stephenville High. But after being fired at Baylor, he got a lot of “no’s” when trying to get back into coaching.
He had received a payout of $15 million to settle his remaining contract with Baylor, but only a semipro team in Italy with players ranging in age from 16 to 43, who openly smoked and drank after late-night practices, contacted him, and he flew there because it was what he only knew, and that is coaching his favorite sport.
That was his last stop before he was introduced as the new head coach at Mount Vernon High School in Texas. The Lone Star State is where he wanted to be and a woman who lived in Mount Vernon,who had worked in his office at Baylor, initially contacted him. He contacted the school that lies just off Interstate 30 about 30 miles from Dallas, and informed his Italian team in English that he was leaving.
Before heading off to Europe, he was turned down by the Canadian Football League and a college in Mississippi.
Now he is with the purple and white team, the Tigers, in a town in the quiet, laid-back area, population 2,750, that is coming off an 11-0 record in 2017 when its only loss came in the second round of the state regional championship, and was 9-6 in 2018.
Now he is back where he began, officially welcomed back with a 2-year, $82,000 contract at a school that plays its home games at Don Meredith Stadium, who is easily the town’s most famous native son. His hiring was approved unanimously by the school board before the town got word of it.
He is elated to be there. Said, ‘I’m a football coach, that’s what I’ve always done, and this is as important as any job I’ve ever had. I welcome this opportunity.”
The Tigers open their season Friday night at non-conference opponent Bonham, the Warriors who also wear the purple and white colors. Last season they lost 48-21 at Mount Vernon.
He is some 200 miles from Baylor, but that is his past and this is his present. Now he can hardly wait to board the bus for Bonham, and is overwhelmed by the support of Mt. Vernon. Now he returns to Friday Night Football.
So toss the apparent fake news across the gridiron and kudos to Art Briles.