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We finally know more about why Baylor fired Art Briles

The head coach allegedly learned about a violent incident, but failed to contact authorities.

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Texas v Baylor Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

In May, Baylor’s firing of head coach Art Briles came alongside a report by a third-party law firm that unnamed “football coaches or staff met directly with a complainant [as in, a person describing a sexual assault] and/or a parent of a complainant and did not report the misconduct.”

Briles’ exit never resolved that part of the report, seeing as he was just one coach, singular. A week after the report, Baylor quietly fired two non-coach staffers. The question of alleged involvement by other actual coaches remains unanswered, as has the question of exactly what Briles did.

A new Wall Street Journal report, based on interviews with Baylor regents, offers some clarity on the latter, while also finding that 17 women reported domestic violence or sexual assault incidents involving 19 football players since 2011, Briles’ fourth year at BU.

According to the report, regents said “Mr. Briles knew about an alleged incident and didn’t alert police, the school’s judicial-affairs staff or the Title IX office in charge of coordinating the school’s response to sexual violence.”

Later in the story, that incident appears to be revealed in more detail:

Baylor regents said that when Mr. Briles was asked what he would have done differently, he broke down and wept. Many board members began to cry as well.

“He couldn’t speak he was so upset, and all of us were,” Mr. Gray said. “Art said, ‘I delegated down, and I know I shouldn’t have. And I had a system where I was the last to know, and I should have been the first to know.’”

Mr. Cannon said Mr. Briles quoted Scripture and expressed his regrets over the painful situation Baylor was in, but didn’t admit to wrongdoing.

The board members said their decision to fire Mr. Briles wasn’t merely because of the school’s requirements under Title IX, the federal law that has increased the requirements on universities to police sexual violence on campus.

“As he heard information, what did he do with it? From a moral standpoint, what is the right thing to do?” said Ron Murff, a Dallas businessman who is chairman of the board of regents.

In one of the alleged gang rapes, the victim, who also was an athlete, told her coach that she didn’t want to go the police. When notified of the allegation, Mr. Briles told the victim’s coach that he hoped she would go to the police, according to people familiar with the matter. One person close to the victim said she viewed Mr. Briles as supportive of her claim. However, Mr. Briles didn’t notify the school’s judicial-affairs office or the Title IX office, these people said.

This new info comes after Baylor’s said for months it has nothing else it can publicly explain about Briles’ role in the scandal.

This would also mean Briles’ reaction has shifted between defiance and remorse throughout this process, albeit without any known acknowledgement of specific mistakes.

In September, months after his firing, Briles offered vague apologies during an ESPN interview, not specifying exactly what he was sorry for.

That was still a shift in Briles’ messaging, coming just weeks after this ...

... and after this, as part of a statement in June:

After 38 years of coaching, I have certainly made mistakes and, in hindsight, I would have done certain things differently. I always strive to be a better coach, a better father and husband, and a better person.

Keep in mind, the complete scope of what happened here has not been disclosed and unfortunately at this time I am contractually obligated to remain silent on the matter. The report prepared by Pepper Hamilton, the law firm hired and paid for by Baylor's Board of Regents, has not been shared with me directly, despite my full cooperation with the investigation. I can only assume that the report, which is not independent, supports the conclusions that the Board has already drawn. I hope to share with you what I was aware of as soon as I can so Baylor Nation can begin the healing process.

Briles’ former assistants remain on interim coach Jim Grobe’s staff. Briles showed up in the stands in Houston for Baylor’s game at Rice days after his ESPN interview.