clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Baylor officially firing Art Briles amid scandal

The Bears were under fire for their handling of alleged violence against women by players. Now, their coach has been "suspended with intent to terminate."

Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

Update: Baylor will fire head coach Art Briles, as previously reported by ESPN. The university announced on Thursday Briles had been suspended with intent to terminate as part of a larger release detailing a massive restructuring of the school's leadership.

BU commissioned a third-party law firm to investigate the school's handling of, among other things, many allegations of violence against women by football players. A summary of that report has been released, detailing, among other things, that football coaches failed to report complaints of "misconduct."

The school also announced university president and chancellor Ken Starr will lose his president title and athletic director Ian McCaw is "sanctioned" and "on probation."

Yahoo! Sports reports the following:

Bennett previously went 18-51 as the head coach at SMU. He was involved in one part of the scandal story, when he said a player was "expected" to take the field despite that player nearing a sexual assault conviction. Kendall, the offensive coordinator, is Briles' son.

Briles' rise to the top of the coaching pyramid ...

A former wide receiver at Houston, Briles coached at Texas high schools for 20 years before moving up to the college ranks in 2000, when he was hired by new Texas Tech head coach Mike Leach as his running backs coach. Briles recruited Wes Welker to the school, and he accepted the head coaching position at Houston in 2003.

Briles led the Cougars to bowl games in four of his five seasons with the school, including a 10-win season in 2006 and two straight division titles to end his tenure. He was hired by Baylor prior to the Cougars' bowl game in 2007, and immediately signed to a seven-year contract.

His first two years at Baylor produced what looked very much like the Bear teams of years past, finishing 4-8 each season with poor records in conference play. In 2010, the Bears went 7-5 in the regular season, securing a spot in their first bowl since 1994.

In 2011, Baylor was one of the surprise teams in the country, riding a Heisman-winning performance from Robert Griffin III to a 10-3 record and an Alamo Bowl victory. The next year saw a slight drop off, with an 8-5 record (and a Holiday Bowl win), but Baylor bounced back quickly in 2013.

The offensive excellence that had been glimpsed throughout Briles' career finally hit full steam, as Baylor utilized the most explosive offense in the nation to win the Big 12 title and keep the Bears in the national title argument for much of the season. A blowout loss to Oklahoma State ended those hopes, and Baylor finished 11-2 with a loss to UCF in the Fiesta Bowl.

At the end of the 2013 season, Briles received a contract extension through the 2023 season and immediately backed up the hype with another 11-win season and national title talks, although the Bears weren't selected by the College Football Playoff committee and instead played in (and lost to Michigan State in) the Cotton Bowl.

... but a culture lacking accountability has outweighed Briles' on-field success.

Baylor's positive momentum came to an abrupt and sudden halt with the scandal associated with Sam Ukwuachu. The former Boise State defensive end transferred to Baylor and was charged with sexual assault of a soccer player at the university before ever playing a game for the team. The football program didn't quickly come forward about the story.

Ukwuachu was eventually found guilty of the charges, but Briles insisted that he never would have accepted the transfer from Boise State if he were aware of the circumstances that led the Broncos to dismiss the defensive end. Chris Petersen and Briles had a back-and-forth shortly thereafter in which Petersen said he "thoroughly apprised Coach Briles of the circumstances," while Briles insisted he was only told that Ukwuachu was depressed and had some team-related issues.

However, Ukwuachu's legal problems were only the tip of the iceberg in Waco. A January 2016 Outside the Lines report detailed several instances where the school failed to appropriately investigate alleged sexual assaults involving members of the football team. Later, Shawn Oakman, who transferred to the program from Penn State after being dismissed for grabbing a woman's wrist while attempting to steal a sandwich in 2012, was the subject of a sexual assault investigation.

In May, another Outside the Lines investigation uncovered a multitude of violence allegations against members of Briles' team and an extraordinary effort from Waco police to keep those accusations from the public. The report included this damning quote about the culture surrounding the program.

"I'd seen other girls go through it, and nothing ever happened to the football players. It's mind-boggling to see it continue to happen. I can't understand why. I think as long as they're catching footballs and scoring touchdowns, the school won't do anything."

Now Briles is gone, despite Baylor's rapid on-field growth under his leadership. The football program is left in an uncertain state, and the university has hard questions to answer.