Art Briles, who was fired as Baylor’s head football coach at the outset of the school’s ongoing sexual assaults scandal, insisted Thursday that he “did not cover up any sexual violence” while there. The 61-year-old, who has not been hired elsewhere, broke a lengthy public silence in written comments addressed to “Baylor Nation.”
Briles’s open letter comes a day after the Texas Rangers confirmed that they will conduct a preliminary investigation into Baylor. Texas legislators had recently called for the involvement of the state’s top law enforcement agency, with one lawmaker saying that Baylor administrators have “attempted to put the blame entirely on football coaches.”
In September, Briles apologized on ESPN for some of his players having done “wrong,” but he offered no specifics. Since then, a group of Baylor regents revealed that an outside law firm’s probe had found that 17 women reported incidents of sexual or domestic assault involving 19 football players — including four alleged gang rapes — since 2011. In addition, the school issued a statement alleging that Briles was informed of at least one alleged gang rape and failed to notify the proper authorities, a lawsuit claimed that at least 31 football players committed at least 52 “acts of rape” over four years and a court filing by a group of regents included text messages sent by Briles and other Baylor officials that appeared to reflect efforts to downplay crimes and other misconduct by players.
Saying Thursday that he could “remain silent no longer,” although “bound by certain confidentiality requirements,” Briles decried the “onslaught of information coming out in the press that is inaccurate, misleading and unfair to Baylor” and people associated with the school.
“Let me be clear: I did not cover-up any sexual violence,” Briles said (via KCEN). “I had no contact with anyone that claimed to be a victim of sexual or domestic assault. Anyone well-versed in my work as a coach knows that I strove to promote excellence, but never at the sacrifice of safety for anyone. I did not obstruct justice on campus or off.
“When I was alerted that there might have been an assault, my response was clear: the alleged victims should go to police, report it and it should be prosecuted.”
Briles was fired in May 2016 after a findings-of-fact report by the law firm Pepper Hamilton was made public. That report said it found that “in some cases, the University failed to take action to identify and eliminate a potential hostile environment, prevent its recurrence, or address its effects for individual complainants or the broader campus community.” The firm also said it “found examples of actions by University administrators that directly discouraged complainants from reporting or participating in student conduct processes, or that contributed to or accommodated a hostile environment.”
Briles filed a wrongful-termination suit against Baylor that was settled out of court. He later filed a libel lawsuit against the group of regents and other school officials. The document containing the alleged text messages, which they said had emerged from Pepper Hamilton’s investigation, was a response to that and a separate libel suit brought by another fired football staffer (Briles dropped his lawsuit in February).
The regent’s court filing included these alleged incidents (with their wording):
- On April 8, 2011, after a freshman defensive tackle was cited for illegal consumption of alcohol, Coach Briles sent a text message to an assistant coach: “Hopefully he’s under radar enough they won’t recognize name — did he get ticket from Baylor police or Waco? … Just trying to keep him away from our judicial affairs folks …”
- On September 20, 2013, after a player was arrested for assault and threatening to kill a non-athlete, a football operations staff official tried to talk the victim out of pressing criminal charges. Meanwhile, Coach Briles texted Athletic Director Ian McCaw: “Just talked to [the player] — he said Waco PD was there — said they were going to keep it quiet — Wasn’t a set up deal… I’ll get shill ([staffer Colin] Shillinglaw) to ck on Sibley (local attorney Jonathan Sibley).” Athletic Director Ian McCaw replied: “That would be great if they kept it quiet!”
- On May 14, 2014, after Coach Briles learned from an assistant coach that a player had been caught selling drugs, he texted: “I’m hoping it will take care of itself — if not we can discuss best way to move on it.” The offense was never reported to Judicial Affairs and Coach Briles arranged for the player to transfer to another school. The assistant coach texted: “Him just hanging around Waco scares me. [Another school] will take him. Knows baggage.”
The regents also claimed that, in the incident previously alleged by Baylor that Briles had been told of a female student-athlete’s accusations of gang rape and did nothing with the information, he was given the names of the accused players on a piece of paper. “Those are some bad dudes,” Briles was alleged to have said. “Why was she around those guys?”
“Rumor, innuendo, and out of context messages, emails and comments have no place in a true fact-finding mission,” Briles said Thursday. “The key to growth for the school begins with full transparency, not selective messaging. To participate, or worse yet, instigate such, is unfair to the victims, the accused, the programs and all of Baylor Nation.”
He added, “I hope and pray that at some point, those feeding this disinformation will stop, and full disclose rather than messaging misdirection will take place. It’s long overdue.”
“It’s hard to take any of Baylor’s former coaches seriously at this point. We’re going to find out for ourselves what happened and who deserves further consequences,” John Clune, an attorney for a woman who is suing Baylor under the pseudonym Elizabeth Doe, told the Associated Press.
“The coach is worried people have gotten the wrong impression about what he knew and when he knew it,” Briles’s attorney, Mark Lanier, told KCEN. “He wants to make sure everything is done to have the safest environment possible. He cares about the students and wants to make sure that any students in the past or future, who have any trouble at all, are in the best environment they can be in and he wants to make sure that he’s out there doing anything he can to help.”
Briles is named in at least one of the several lawsuits filed against Baylor by women claiming that their accusations of criminal conduct by players were dismissed and/or covered up by school officials. Baylor is also facing a federal civil rights investigation and a probe by the NCAA.