The American Football Coaches Association is preparing for their annual convention of football coaches, which typically is planned around the playing of the College Football Playoff national championship. In a whirlwind 24 hours, however, the AFCA has had to do some serious damage control after it was reported by The Athletic that disgraced ex-Baylor football coach Art Briles was hired for a speaking engagement at a forum designed to share lessons about his experience at Baylor and how other coaches can avoid falling into similar situations as head coaches of their respective programs.
It was an obvious slight of judgment on behalf of the AFCA and a suggestion that Briles was still a part of the “old boys network” of football coaches that will always provide an opportunity for a head coach no matter what. It was just a flat-out bad look for the organization, and it took one day for the AFCA to pull Briles from the speaking engagement.
Statement from AFCA Executive Director Todd Berry on Art Briles speaking at the 2018 Convention pic.twitter.com/4tY7vObvDa
— #AFCA2018 (@WeAreAFCA) January 8, 2018
The news of Briles even being slotted as speaker at such a convention was widely panned by critics near and far for allowing Briles an opportunity to speak and educate about his experience at Baylor. For a reminder, his experience at Baylor ended because he was the head coach of a corrupt football program that had coaches actively working to cover up rape allegations of football players and interfering with Title IX processes for the sake of not having players removed from the playing field. Briles spent months denying any responsibility for the meltdown of program despite evidence suggesting he was not as innocent in the scandal as he tried to convince others he was.
I have to gather my thoughts. I’m not even sure how to respond to this. https://t.co/SC5V9mtWcT
— Brenda Tracy (@brendatracy24) January 7, 2018
In the end, the AFCA is making the right call in not having Briles on hand to speak as a professional expert in this particular field. However, it should not go without acknowledging that Briles can be an example for other coaches of what not to do. Perhaps Briles has learned where he failed as a head coach in such a serious situation with the Baylor football program. If that is the case, then it is fair to suggest hearing what Briles has to say can still be of interest and value. But the timing and execution in how the AFCA went about lining Briles up was mismanaged as well.
This is the second time in the past year Briles was in line for a job that got pulled from underneath him following the backlash to his presence being reported. Last August, the CFL’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats announced they were adding Briles to the coaching staff as an offensive assistant. One day later, the Ticats realized that hiring Briles was probably not a great move for the team from a public relations standpoint and announced they were no longer adding Briles to the staff. Being naive to Briles’ exit at Baylor seemed to be the cause of the poor decision making in the CFL, and to an extent that may be a valid excuse although a simple Google search for Briles should have prevented that from being the case anyway.
The AFCA is an organization that will look out for coaches and give those who deserve opportunities a chance to find them. Nobody is out there arguing Briles is in need of a second chance. Not at this point in time, at least. Baylor is still recovering from what went down in Waco, now two seasons removed from Briles’ final days. Still, given the role Briles played at Baylor and with an ongoing growth of awareness of sexual assault sweeping the nation and impacting the world of college football, the AFCA should have had somebody speak up and say bringing Briles in to speak as an authoritative voice on such issues is probably not the best decision that could be made. The only way this would have been worse is if the panel of coaches also included Rich Rodriguez.
Until Art Briles comes completely clean and stops painting himself as a victim just looking for a second chance, he deserves no respect from the coaching community. We’re not ready to offer him a redemption story.