Somewhere an iconic figure in East Texas sports history is spinning in his grave.
Or . . . he might be high-fiving someone over the decision by the Mount Vernon Independent School District to hire a disgraced college football coach as the head coach of a high school football team.
Art Briles is the new head coach of Mount Vernon High School. He’ll lead his team onto a field named after “Dandy Don” Meredith, a Mount Vernon High grad who went on to play pro football for the Dallas Cowboys and after that as a sportscaster who became known as a foil for the late Howard Cosell on ABC-TV’s “Monday Night Football.”
What would “Dandy Don” think about Briles’ being hired? I have no clue. I do know how I feel about it. Mount Vernon ISD has made a terrible decision.
Briles was canned as head football coach at Baylor University in 2016 after he became the face of a sex scandal that overwhelmed the Waco campus. Several players were implicated in a scandal involving alleged sexual assaults against female students at Baylor. It all happened on Briles’ watch as head coach.
He didn’t do anything about it. He was vilified and disgraced. The Baylor governing board of regents then decided to fire him. The scandal cost chancellor Kenneth Starr his job, too.
Briles needed to get as far away from coaching as possible. Still, he ended up in Italy coaching American-style football over there.
Then Mount Vernon ISD came calling. The school system hired Briles, a one-time successful high school coach in Stephenville, where he won several state football championships.
Briles, to my great surprise, is getting a fair amount of love from the Texas coaching community. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram polled several coaches – who asked to remain anonymous (imagine that) – who said Briles got “railroaded” at Baylor, that he “deserves a second chance” and that “it is not that big a deal” that his college team was assaulting women without the coach’s knowledge.
Holy mackerel, man!
To my way of thinking, what happened at Baylor on Briles’ watch is a huge deal.
According to the Dallas Morning News: An investigation into the football program by the Pepper Hamilton law firm found 17 sexual assaults or cases of domestic violence by 19 players from 2011 to 2016, including four gang rapes, according to Baylor regents. A civil lawsuit filed in 2017 alleged 31 football players committed 52 acts of rape from 2011-2014, though that information wasn't independently verified. Briles coached at Baylor from 2011 through his firing on May 26, 2016.
I happen to believe, based on what we know occurred at Baylor, that Coach Briles shouldn’t be put in charge of any program that involves young men. He failed miserably at Baylor to ensure that the student-athletes under his charge would conduct themselves properly at all times.
And to think that Mount Vernon ISD – in search of a coach to lead its young men into athletic competition – has hired Art Briles, who will be known forever as the coach who got caught up in a sex scandal that overwhelmed a university known as one of the nation’s premier faith-based educational institutions.
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.