In late February, Grambling State University hired Art Briles as offensive coordinator for their football program. After coaching in Canada, Italy, and at an East Texas high school, the position would have been Briles’s first at a college football program since he was fired as head coach of Baylor University in 2016 for the role he played in the school’s institutional failure to prevent sexual assaults.
The backlash to Briles’s hire was swift, national, and justified. Four days after Grambling State announced that Briles would be joining the football program, he resigned. Briles said that he resigned because he didn’t want to be a distraction to the team.
Earlier this month, I sent a Freedom of Information Act request to Grambling State in which I requested all communications concerning the Briles hire that were sent to and from school administrators between Feb. 12 and March 2. The records this request returned offer a look into what kind of backlash against the university was brewing, reveal what Briles’s salary was going to be, and highlight some ill feelings that have developed between former Grambling State quarterback Doug Williams and his alma mater.
On Feb. 13, Dr. Trayvean Scott, the Vice President of Intercollegiate Athletics at Grambling State who told ESPN that Briles was hired so that he could have a chance to “really redeem himself,” sent a term sheet laying out Briles’s proposed compensation package to head football coach Hue Jackson:
The next day, another term-sheet, still proposing a $150,000 annual salary but with a second year option, was forwarded from Scott to Jackson:
The FOIA request also revealed that in the days following the announcement of Briles being hired, both Scott and university president Richard Gallot, Jr. received a slew of angry emails from people expressing expressing their frustration, anger, and disappointment. One email came from a man who identified himself as a father of a student who was sexually assaulted at Baylor, while others came from angry fans and alumni.
Perhaps more revealing, though, is the fact that Gallot received a handful of messages from people who wanted to express their support for his decision to hire Briles. One such message came from Donald White, who is the Dean of the College of Business at Grambling State:
A man who identified himself as a “fellow student” with Art Briles at the University of Houston also sent in his support, along with an anecdote about Briles from his college days:
This one was short and to the point:
Gallot also received a supportive email from Jancy Briles, who is Art Briles’s daughter and a former member of the Dallas Cowboy’s public relations team. She wanted to personally thank Gallot for hiring her dad:
Gallot’s supporters weren’t confined to his email inbox. He received a string of enthusiastic text messages of support from a friend named Derek W., who also went out of his way to malign Doug Williams, who was the starting quarterback at Grambling in the ’70s and was briefly the head football coach in the ’90s. Based on his responses, Gallot seemed to get a real kick out of Derek’s thoughts on Williams:
Williams, who now works in the Washington Commanders’ front office, had voiced his displeasure with Grambling’s decision to hire Briles, telling ESPN that he was “not a fan” of the hire and that the thought Briles being on Grambling’s sideline didn’t “sit well” with him.
Williams also told ESPN that he had been in contact with Gallot and Scott about the Briles situation, though our FOIA request only returned one piece of communication between Williams and Scott on official administration accounts.
On March 1, one day after Briles had announced his resignation, Williams sent Scott a link to a syndicated USA Today opinion article republished on MSN titled, “Hue Jackson, Grambling State latest to learn Art Briles lesson – he’s forever radioactive.” Three minutes after receiving Williams’s message, Scott wrote back, “Thanks.”