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Grambling hires Art Briles, who coached Baylor during scandal, as offensive coordinator

Art Briles was fired by Baylor in 2016. He is set to return to the college coaching ranks as the offensive coordinator at Grambling. (LM Otero/AP)
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Grambling State University hired Art Briles as its offensive coordinator, a school spokesperson confirmed Thursday, bringing Briles back into the college coaching ranks for the first time since Baylor fired him for his handling of sexual assault allegations against his players.

At Grambling, a historically Black university in Louisiana that competes in the Football Championship Subdivision, Briles joins the staff of former Cleveland Browns coach Hue Jackson, who took over the program in December. Offensive coordinator Ted White left the Tigers this month to become quarterbacks coach for the NFL’s Houston Texans.

From 2019: Banished after Baylor rape scandal, Art Briles is coaching again and wants to leave it at that

Briles was fired by Baylor in May 2016 after an external investigation into accusations of sexual assault found school and football administrators failed to adequately handle those allegations.

A report by law firm Pepper Hamilton 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.” The report found that 17 women reported incidents of sexual assault or sexual violence involving 19 football players and that Briles was informed of at least one of them but failed to report it to local authorities, as did other administrators.

Briles denied that he was involved in a coverup at Baylor.

“Let me be clear: I did not cover up any sexual violence,” he wrote in an open letter in 2017. “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.”

Former Grambling star quarterback Doug Williams, who went on to the NFL and led Washington to victory in Super Bowl XXII, claiming MVP honors, said he was disappointed by the hire. Williams, now special adviser to Commanders President Jason Wright, said he spoke to Grambling Athletic Director Trayveon Scott a few times and the program knew where he stood on the hiring.

“I don’t know Art Briles; I’ve never met him in my life,” said Williams, who also had two stints as Grambling’s coach. “But the situation, nobody else would hire him for whatever reason. I don’t know why Grambling State had to go be the one to hire him, so I’m not a fan at all.”

Asked whether he would continue to support the program, Williams said: “Oh, no. I can’t do that. No, no, no. If I support them, I condone it.”

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

In August, the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions said it could not conclude that Baylor violated NCAA rules with its actions regarding the sexual assault allegations, but it put the school on four years of probation for other violations that occurred between 2011 and 2016, including recruiting infractions and impermissible benefits provided to a player.

Briles, 66, compiled a 65-37 record over eight seasons at Baylor and led the program to two Big 12 championships. In 2017, he was almost named an assistant coach for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League before the league stepped in and the team reversed course. Southern Mississippi considered him to be its offensive coordinator in 2019 before school administrators overruled the move after public backlash.

After spending a year coaching in Italy, Briles was hired by Mount Vernon High in Texas, serving as its head coach in 2019 and 2020. At the time of Briles’s hiring, the superintendent of the Mount Vernon Independent School District said he had been vetted, but that process didn’t include speaking to any of the victims at Baylor or to NCAA officials.

Jackson and Briles have some history — Jackson brought Briles in as a guest to help the Browns’ offensive coaching staff in 2016, a few months after he was fired by Baylor.