Mount Vernon High in East Texas executed a Friday night news dump last week, announcing the hiring of Art Briles as its new football coach on the Friday evening ahead of the three-day Memorial Day weekend. For good measure, the school made its announcement on the same night as its graduation ceremony.
But here’s the thing about Friday night news dumps: Eventually reporters will return to work and start asking questions. That’s what happened Tuesday afternoon when Jason McCullough, superintendent of the Mount Vernon Independent School District, finally answered questions about the decision to hire Briles, who was fired by Baylor three years ago after an investigation found that at least 17 women had reported being sexually assaulted by 19 of his football players and that Briles did little to hold those players accountable.
McCullough said the school district — located about 100 miles to the northeast of Dallas — “vetted Coach Briles to the best of our ability” and claimed that the process “was one that our community would be proud of and one that we know that we did our job with.” But that vetting was limited in scope: McCullough said the district was not able to talk with any of the Baylor victims or to NCAA investigators. It did, however, speak to Grant Teaff, who coached Baylor from 1972 to 1992 and whose wife formerly sat on the Baylor board of regents.
Mount Vernon ISD Supt Jason McCullough says that they “vetted coach [Art] Briles to the best of our ability.”— Mike Leslie (@MikeLeslieWFAA) May 28, 2019
Did that vetting include talking with any of the victims?
Any one from the NCAA?
No, other than fmr Baylor coach Grant Teaff.
Then what vetting did you do? pic.twitter.com/QVeS9jhp6e
In a written statement later obtained by the Associated Press, McCullough said the district conducted “an extensive due diligence process” that included reviewing reports and speaking with former supervisors, independent references and Briles.
“We believe that Coach Briles was sincere in expressing remorse over what occurred at Baylor while he was employed there,” McCullough said in the statement, adding that he had one daughter and two granddaughters. “[We] would never hire anyone if we did not feel confident they would adhere to high standards of conduct and student safety.”
Briles has insisted that he did not cover up anything at Baylor and has repeatedly expressed his desire to coach high-level football again (he’s coaching a team in Italy). And he almost has gotten there: In August 2017, the CFL’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats announced that Briles had been hired as an assistant, only to rescind the offer the same day. Earlier this year, Briles interviewed for the vacant offensive coordinator position at Southern Mississippi and seemed on track to land the job until school officials blocked the move.
Both Hamilton and Southern Miss faced sizable backlashes to their Briles dalliances, but several high school coaches contacted by the Star-Telegram had no problem with Mount Vernon’s decision.
“I don’t see anything wrong,” one said.
“Having a coach of Art’s caliber in high school again is good for football and really good for Mount Vernon. I don’t believe it’s a bad look for high school football in Texas. I would play Mount Vernon now,” another said.
“It’s great for the game,” one more said.
None of those coaches would allow their names to be used in connection with those quotes.
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