Dear Cougars: Just Say No to Art Briles

Former Baylor head coach Art Briles (middle of photo in black Nike cap) attends the Baylor/Rice football game earlier this year.
Former Baylor head coach Art Briles (middle of photo in black Nike cap) attends the Baylor/Rice football game earlier this year.
Jackson Gorman

The University of Houston football head coaching job is supposedly now one of the prime coaching jobs in the country. It’s the best of the Group of Five jobs. It’s so good that head coaches of power conference schools are supposedly willing to junk the prestige and take the Houston job.

So if the Houston Cougars job is so damn good, then the Cougars shouldn’t be considering retreads for the job. And UH definitely shouldn’t be considering retreads that bring all kinds of ethical and moral issues dragging along with them.

You know, retreads like Art Briles.

While seeming to back away from the issue later in the week, UH Board of Regents chairman Tilman Fertitta went on the radio Tuesday afternoon and spoke favorably of the idea of the Cougars hiring Briles. Fertitta is well aware of why Briles was fired by Baylor, but he seemed to go along with the idea that Briles is just some misunderstood genius being scapegoated by the powers that be.

“Do I think that Briles got a bad rap to some degree?” Fertitta asked. “Obviously he did. But at the same time, you're the boss, and there was an issue there. So there's an issue. Does everybody deserve to be forgiven? Yes. There's a lot of controversy surrounding him. I think he's a great football coach, and we'll just have to see where it goes from here.”

As a reminder, here is what Briles has gotten the bad rap for: Over a period of several years, multiple female Baylor students and female Baylor athletes complained to Baylor officials (including Briles) that they had been sexually assaulted by Baylor football players. Former players have been convicted of sexual assault. But despite the claims, players were allowed to stay on the team. Members of the Baylor Board of Regents have gone so far as to state that Briles covered up a gang rape of a female athlete.

So did Art Briles get a bad rap to some degree? Well, that’s kind of like saying that Joe Paterno got a bad rap for not going to the police once he discovered his friend and chief assistant coach was raping children in the team’s showers.

There has been a push among some UH boosters to bring back Briles to coach the Cougars. He did, after all, start the return of the football team from the purgatory of awful nothingness into which the Coogs had fallen following the departure of Jack Pardee for the Houston Oilers after the 1989 season. And since some of these boosters undoubtedly have money that they like to contribute to UH, it's likely that Fertitta has had to listen them.

But here’s the clarity that Fertitta so desperately seems to be seeking: Art Briles is not a victim. He has not been wronged. There is no other clarity required. Bad things happened at Baylor football while Art Briles was in charge. Bad things that Briles sat on and did nothing about. Bad things that have sent people to jail. Briles and his family and his acolytes might be okay with this. But no college should be okay. No high school should be okay with this. No organization that is in a position to hire Briles should be okay with this. The University of Houston and its board of regents should definitely not be okay with this.

There are a lot of candidates out there for UH to consider. Guys like Philip Montgomery, who is enjoying success at Tulsa. Or Lincoln Riley, the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma. Interim UH head coach Todd Orlando is well-regarded as a defensive coordinator and might be just the right person to elevate to that top spot on a permanent basis. And if UH is really interested in a retread, then why not try to haul in Les Miles — his LSU offenses weren’t exactly competent, but he wins games, has successfully coached in the most difficult conference in college football, and he’s a good recruiter. But please let the rumors about Lane Kiffin be inaccurate because the guy’s not exactly known as a good head coach, is overrated as an offensive coordinator and seemed to think the only use of the female population at the University of Tennessee was as a recruiting tool for high school boys.

Fertitta has since this week tried to back away from the interest in Briles, stressing the need for clarity before Houston can think about hiring him. But there should have never been any interest in the first place because the University of Houston is better than this.


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