CFL team rescinds offer to Art Briles after public backlash

Former Baylor head football coach Art Briles was announced Monday as the new assistant head coach of offense for the Canadian Football League's Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

Until he wasn't.

The Tiger-Cats rescinded the offer less than 24 hours after extending it to Briles, who was at the center of an alleged cover-up of sexual assaults at Baylor. His players were accused of over 50 sex assaults during Briles' tenure in Waco, many of which were either ignored or buried by the athletics department.

Tiger-Cats CEO Scott Mitchell said the public's pointed opposition to the hiring caused the organization to change its mind about bringing Briles on board.

"What we thought was an opportunity to give someone a second chance was obviously not acceptable in relation to what had previously happened and what he had been involved with," Mitchell said. "At the end of the day, when the public is that clear about their opposition to something, you acknowledge that you’ve misread a situation. 

"You admit the mistake, and you’ve got to be public about that."

The Tiger-Cats and the CFL released a statement on the reversal of the decision:

“We made a large and serious mistake. We want to apologize to our fans, corporate partners and the Canadian Football League. It has been a difficult season and we are searching for answers. This is clearly not one of them. We have listened, we are reviewing our decision-making processes and we will learn. We will go on. We want to thank our fans, partners and the CFL for their help and support.”

The responses to the Tiger-Cats announcement of Briles' hiring on Twitter -- which has since been deleted -- were largely negative.

"This man enabled the rape of dozens of women, destroying many lives," one person wrote. "Shame on you Hamilton Tiger cats!"

"I am the father of a daughter and I will not be supporting this hire," said another. "As a result I will not be attending anymore games."

"'In eight seasons at Baylor, Briles’ list of accomplishments is headlined by"' ... you omitted the only headline that matters. Despicable," said another fan.

During his time at Baylor, Briles turned a floundering program into a perennial postseason contender. He was named Coach of the Year by various publications in 2013 and 2014. The Bears went to New Year’s Day bowl games in each of those years -- a first for the program.

But his illustrious career came to a troubling end, as a sexual assault scandal engulfed the football program and university. Briles and others in the athletic department were accused of covering up a number of rapes allegedly committed by football players.

Pepper Hamilton, the independent law firm hired to assess the university’s handling of sex assault complaints, found that athletics department leadership "hindered enforcement of rules and policies, and created a cultural perception that football was above the rules."

Text messages surfaced that indicated Briles tried to hide his players’ misconduct in the wake of more than one rape allegation.

Briles, 61, was fired in May of last year at the same time Baylor President Ken Starr was demoted and Athletic Director Ian McCaw was put on probation. Both have since stepped down from their positions. Briles fired back at the university, claiming he was scapegoated in the scandal.

Baylor finished 7-6 last year under interim head coach Jim Grobe.

The Tiger-Cats, who play in the Eastern Division of the CFL, were off to an 0-8 start to the season. They ranked last in the league in every major team offensive category.

© 2017 WFAA-TV


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