#360USA: Briles’ apology falls on deaf ears

Steve Brenner 07:00 13/09/2016
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Persona non grata: Art Briles.

For Art Briles, life goes on. The disgraced former football coach of Baylor University hit the airwaves this week, finally admitting culpability for the horrific mess which resulted in his termination along with other officials in Texas earlier this year.

Briles talked openly to ESPN about how his ‘heart hurts’ for the numerous victims of sexual assault who were treated with sickening lack of respect while Baylor’s moral compass went haywire.

Yet while the 60 year-old attempts to move on and disprove his toxic status, the women involved remain stuck in time. The devout Baptist campus had made too many mistakes.

Female students, scared stiff of the repercussions for having the temerity to haul prized football stars into trouble, had suffered for years. Even when complaints were made, swift action never followed.

The roll of shame which led to Briles’ sacking is quite something. Surely action should have been taken against defensive end Tevin Elliott before he was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2014.

Over two years passed until an investigation was launched following the involvement of Tre’Von Armstead and Myke Chatman in a sexual assault police report – a timescale which far outstrips legal orders to immediately deal with such issues. There were many others.

Though the case involving defensive end Sam Ukwuachu was enough for action to finally be taken. He was charged with sexual assault against a female student, yet even following his indictment in June 2014 he was inexplicably allowed to continue participating in team activities.

He arrived at Baylor having been dumped by his previous college for similar behaviour, something Briles was fully aware of.

Philadelphia law firm Pepper Hamilton were subsequently brought in and launched a deep analysis of what was going wrong. Why were so many misdemeanours being emphatically swept under the carpet?

When the federal courts ordered Baylor to employ someone to deal with specific sexual assault claims, why did they wait three years before bringing someone in? The deluded pursuit of sporting excellence is the answer.

Baylor clearly needed to rectify matters on the field, as well as off it. Briles’ predecessor Guy Morriss endured a torrid spell from 2003 up until 2007, producing season after season of more losses than wins, culminating in the embarrassment of 0-8 in his final term.

Briles started badly and his second year saw another awful 1-7 campaign. Then, however, the tide turned impressively.

It wasn’t until Briles unleashed current Cleveland Browns star Robert Griffin III that there was an upturn in form. Two Conference titles were bagged by the Bears including double 8-1 drives in 2013 and 2014. There were no national titles, yet the seeds of achievement – and hope – had been sown.

Now, they’re in the mix every year, so the push for supremacy – clearly fuelled by cash and power-hungry men – began, leaving a trail of devastation in its wake.

With the Waco Police shamefully turning a blind eye, those who were affected by the continual stream of assaults had no-one to save them. Their deep religious beliefs (the college doesn’t believe in sexual intercourse before marriage, threatened to inform parents about rape claims and has a strict code regarding alcohol) ensured people would think twice before lodging complaints.

Briles, along with university president Ken Starr and athletic director Ian McCaw, was sacked once Pepper Hamilton’s findings were made clear in May.

People make mistakes and Briles deserves to be heard. Yet surely he’s unemployable, even if he’s hired legendary agent Jimmy Sexton to get him a new role. The reek of mismanagement is unmistakable.

“I lost some of my soul, quite honestly,” he said. “There were some bad things that happened under my watch. I made mistakes, I did wrong. And for that, I’m sorry. I’m going to learn. I’m going to get better.”

Baylor cultivated a football programme so desperate for success, it placed students in shocking, life-changing predicaments. That it’s taken so long to reach this point is a horrid crime within itself.

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