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College Football

Art Briles Refuses To Go Away

Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Six years after he was fired by Baylor University for his role in the creation of a football program that became synonymous with sexual assault, Art Briles is finally returning to a college sideline.

Grambling State announced on Thursday that Briles, who was head coach of the Baylor Bears from 2008 to 2016, has been hired as the team’s offensive coordinator. He will be joining up with former Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson, who was picked in December to lead Grambling’s football program. After the hire was announced, Grambling athletic director Trayvean Scott spoke to ESPN and gave a typically sweaty answer about why he and Jackson felt that hiring Briles was the right choice:

“I’m rooted in fact,” Scott told ESPN’s Pete Thamel. “I know a lot of things are said and done. We felt it [was appropriate] to give him a chance to really redeem himself after understanding where the facts lie.”

ESPN

In case you have forgotten exactly why Briles might be seeking a chance to “redeem himself,” here is a refresher: According to Baylor’s own Board of Regents, at least 19 rapes were committed by 17 football players between 2011 and 2016. A lawsuit, which was later settled, claimed that 52 rapes had been carried out by 31 players in a span of four years. An investigation into Baylor’s institutional failure to prevent these assaults, the full findings of which were never made public, resulted in Briles being fired.

That Briles is returning to the ranks of college coaching now, all these years later, speaks to his steadfast refusal to accept that the sport is better off without him. Briles is 66 years old now, and when he was fired by Baylor he reached an undisclosed settlement with the school that surely padded out his already large bank account. It would have been the easiest thing in the world for Briles to just slide into a cushy retirement, living out the rest of his days in extreme comfort and acceptance of his failures. But Briles remained determined, and when no college coaching gigs were available to him, he went to coach in Canada, then to Italy, then to high school ball in Texas, and now, finally, to Grambling.

The lengthy, labyrinthine path that Briles has followed back to college football is evidence of how little interest he has ever had in accepting the consequences of his own actions. A person who defiantly crawls out of a pit of disgrace and then spends six years trying to rebuild his reputation and resume in far-flung places strikes me as the type of person who truly believes they deserve to be coaching football. Not being a football coach—not being a man that people are supposed to admire and trust and look up to—is something that Briles simply couldn’t accept. The basic facts of reality may have been enough to convince most people that Briles is not a man to be admired and trusted and looked up to, but Briles has never been one to let reality interfere with his own conception of the world. Look how far it’s gotten him.