School is about to begin in Texas, which means that football season also is nearly upon us. I don’t know about you, but I might be looking with just a little bit more interest than usual at Mount Vernon High School, waiting to see how the team performs in its first season under the coaching leadership of a guy who – although he is a brilliant coach – shouldn’t have this job.
Art Briles is the new head football coach at Mount Vernon. You remember this guy, right? He once coached at Baylor University. He led the Bears to a lot of victories during his time in Waco.
But then he got into trouble by looking the other way while his players were raping women all over the university campus. Some of the players faced criminal charges; many of them were convicted. Briles, though, claimed to not know what his players were doing.
Well, the story got away from everyone. It swallowed up Baylor University. It consumed Waco. Briles became the face of a scandal of which he lost control.
Baylor University Chancellor Kenneth Starr – whose investigation into sexual misconduct at an entirely different level led to President Clinton’s impeachment in 1998 – was forced to resign. Baylor Athletics Director Ian McCaw also resigned. The Baylor regents then fired Briles.
Briles wandered in the coaching wilderness – in Canada and in Europe – for a time before Mount Vernon High came calling.
The Mount Vernon Independent School District’s decision to hire this guy remains a difficult tonic for many Northeast Texans to swallow. I don’t live in the Mount Vernon district, but I’m not terribly far away, living in Princeton. Yes, Briles’s hiring sticks in my craw, too.
The rationale for hiring Briles seems to track along two lines: He deserves a second chance and, perhaps more importantly to some, he’s a heck of a football coach.
I maintain the notion that Mount Vernon ISD could have found any number of equally competent football coaches who aren’t tainted with the scandal that has stained Briles’s reputation.
I have no personal interest in Mount Vernon Tigers’ football fortunes. I suppose I should cheer for the young athletes who will work hard to compete on the field under Briles’s leadership. However, this coach’s presence on the sideline taints Mount Vernon’s reputation.
Is that fair? Do I intend to punish the young men who play football to the best of their ability? No. I just cannot set aside the hideous circumstance that cost the coach his job at a Division I university in the first place.
If Mount Vernon wins a lot of football games in the years to come, how can we measure the cost – if not the damage – to the school district’s reputation in hiring this guy?
John Kanelis, former editorial page editor for the Amarillo Globe-News and the Beaumont Enterprise, is also a former blogger for Panhandle PBS in Amarillo. He is now retired, but still writing. Kanelis can be contacted via Twitter @jkanelis, on Facebook, or his blog, www.highplainsblogger.com. Kanelis' blog for KETR, "Piece of Mind," presents his views, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of KETR, its staff, or its members.
Kanelis lives in Princeton with his wife, Kathy.