FSU coach stands by hir­ing of Briles

Florida State de­fends tab­bing ex-Bay­lor as­sis­tant amid crit­i­cism

Orlando Sentinel (Sunday) - - FRONT PAGE - By Chaunte'l Pow­ell Or­lando Sen­tinel

TAL­LA­HAS­SEE – Florida State Uni­ver­sity ad­min­is­tra­tors stand by their de­ci­sion to hire of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Ken­dal Briles, who has earned praise for his elite foot­ball acu­men and crit­i­cism for his ties to a vast Bay­lor Uni­ver­sity sex­ual-as­sault in­ves­ti­ga­tion that led to the ouster of the school’s pres­i­dent, ath­let­ics direc­tor and head foot­ball coach.

FSU foot­ball coach Willie Tag­gart’s hir­ing of Briles on Dec. 23 af­ter a dif­fi­cult 5-7 de­but sea­son com­pelled many Semi­noles fans to share their views on so­cial me­dia.

They voiced a mix of sup­port for a coach who could help Florida State get back on track and dis­may over the de­ci­sion to em­ploy a coach tied to the Bay­lor scan­dal that in­volved ac­cu­sa­tions the uni­ver­sity failed to in­ves­ti­gate at least 17 sex­ual or do­mes­tic as­saults in­volv­ing 19 foot­ball play­ers.

“Ken­dal’s ex­pe­ri­ence and back­ground have been thor­oughly vet­ted by the uni­ver­sity, in­clud­ing sub­stan­tive dis­cus­sions with ad-

min­is­tra­tors at Bay­lor, FAU and Hous­ton,” Florida State in­terim ath­let­ics direc­tor David Coburn said in a state­ment to the Or­lando Sen­tinel, not­ing the coach’s pre­vi­ous stints work­ing with the Owls and the Cougars.

“Not only did those re­sults re­veal him to be a strong can­di­date, but he re­ceived out­stand­ing per­sonal and pro­fes­sional rec­om­men­da­tions from each uni­ver­sity. We share Coach Tag­gart’s be­lief that he will be an out­stand­ing ad­di­tion to his coach­ing staff.”

Briles is the son of Art Briles, who in 2016 was re­lieved of his du­ties as head foot­ball coach at Bay­lor af­ter a third-party in­ves­ti­ga­tion de­ter­mined there was a fail­ure to re­port mis­con­duct by mem­bers of the coach­ing staff han­dling ac­cu­sa­tions of sex­ual as­sault lev­eled against Bears foot­ball play­ers.

In a law­suit filed against Bay­lor in 2017, Ken­dal Briles was ac­cused of promis­ing foot­ball re­cruits ac­cess to white women on cam­pus.

The uni­ver­sity used what was de­scribed as a “show ’em a good time” ap­proach with re­cruits, tak­ing them to strip clubs and mak­ing young women in Bay­lor’s host­ess pro­gram avail­able for sex in ad­di­tion to pro­vid­ing drugs and al­co­hol, ac­cord­ing to a Sun Sen­tinel re­port on the law­suit.

Tag­gart de­clined an Or­lando Sen­tinel in­ter­view re­quest seek­ing in­sight into the de­ci­sion to hire Briles. The head coach praised Briles’ of­fen­sive prow­ess in a news re­lease an­nounc­ing the hire.

“I’m ex­cited about the ad­di­tion of Ken­dal to our staff,” Tag­gart said. “He brings play-call­ing ex­pe­ri­ence and fa­mil­iar­ity with the type of scheme and tempo we will run, which is sim­i­lar to the of­fenses he has co­or­di­nated. His abil­ity to re­cruit, man­age an of­fen­sive staff, de­velop quar­ter­backs and make in-game ad­just­ments will be ben­e­fi­cial to us as we evolve in our of­fense.”

While the move may make sense from an X’sand-O’s stand­point, it dis­ap­pointed some fans and col­lege foot­ball ob­servers.

One of them was Brenda Tracy. She was gang-raped by a group of Ore­gon State foot­ball play­ers and has since be­come an ac­tivist, lead­ing train­ing ses­sions with col­lege foot­ball pro­grams dur­ing which she urges them to set higher ex­pec­ta­tions for the treat­ment of women.

She has met Tag­gart and Briles on sep­a­rate oc­ca­sions.

Tracy spoke to Uni­ver­sity of Ore­gon play­ers dur­ing Tag­gart’s ten­ure. In an in­ter­view with the Ringer.com chron­i­cling Tracy’s work as a sur­vivor and ad­vo­cate, Tag­gart said, “‘Why is this still hap­pen­ing?’ We have to ask our­selves that. And part of the an­swer is that these young men have grown up in a cul­ture that con­dones it. They need to be ed­u­cated. And it’s our re­spon­si­bil­ity as coaches to ed­u­cate them.”

Tracy re­called Tag­gart stat­ing he had a zero-tol­er­ance pol­icy when it came to vi­o­lence against women. She said hear­ing he opted to hire Briles, who has de­fended his fa­ther and the Bay­lor pro­gram, was ex­tremely dis­ap­point­ing.

“I re­mem­ber feel­ing like Coach Tag­gart got it. He was one of the coaches that was will­ing to take a stand on vi­o­lence against women,” Tracy told the Or­lando Sen­tinel. “…To see this hire was re­ally dis­ap­point­ing for me, es­pe­cially given the quotes in that pro­file [of ] me and [my visit to Ore­gon].”

Dur­ing her speak­ing tour, she vis­ited the Uni­ver­sity of Hous­ton, where Briles was the of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor at the time. She said af­ter­ward she was ap­proached by Briles, whom she told to “please do right by these guys” and be a leader help­ing pre­vent vi­o­lence against women.

Tracy said she is most trou­bled by Briles’ de­ci­sion not to re­pent in any way for his work at Bay­lor.

“Ken­dal Briles has never, him and his fa­ther, has never taken any ac­count­abil­ity or re­spon­si­bil­ity for any­thing that hap­pened in that foot­ball pro­gram,” she said. “That’s one of the things that both­ers me the most. You had one of the big­gest scan­dals in col­lege foot­ball his­tory hap­pen and no one is tak­ing any type of ac­count­abil­ity or re­spon­si­bil­ity as part of the prob­lem in the foot­ball pro­gram.”

The onus, ac­cord­ing to Tracy, is ul­ti­mately on coaches and ad­min­is­tra­tors to take a stand and send a mes­sage to their play­ers and fans that sex­ual as­sault and vi­o­lence against women will not be tol­er­ated or swept un­der the rug.

She added that fans can also do their part to help change a cul­ture that has con­doned the mis­treat­ment of women.

“There’s a pres­sure on coaches to win where if you don’t win, you lose your job and we have to stop do­ing that,” she said. “Be­cause what hap­pens is you have some coaches who are of very strong char­ac­ter and are go­ing to do the right thing no mat­ter what and then you have some coaches that are go­ing to make ex­cep­tions. They’re go­ing to bend. … We need to al­low our coaches to make good de­ci­sions. We need to al­low them to pos­si­bly lose if it means sit­ting a player or not re­cruit­ing a player or coach that could help them.”

The Briles hire comes af­ter Florida State was sued by former stu­dent Erica Kins­man, who has pub­licly dis­closed her iden­tity since ac­cus­ing Heis­man Tro­phy­win­ning quar­ter­back Jameis Win­ston of rap­ing her. Win­ston was never charged with a crime in con­nec­tion with the al­le­ga­tions.

FSU ul­ti­mately reached a $950,000 set­tle­ment with Kins­man.

The school also was sub­ject of a Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion in­ves­ti­ga­tion af­ter it was ac­cused of fail­ing to com­ply with Ti­tle IX stan­dards for han­dling sex­ual-as­sault com­plaints against stu­dents.

FSU Pres­i­dent John Thrasher re­sponded to the Kins­man law­suit when it was first filed by de­fend­ing the school’s treat­ment of stu­dents.

“For many years, Florida State Uni­ver­sity has had ex­cel­lent vic­tim-cen­tered poli­cies with re­gard to sex­ual vi­o­lence,” Thrasher said in 2015. “The uni­ver­sity re­cently con­ducted an ex­haus­tive re­view and took ad­di­tional steps to fur­ther en­sure it em­ploys the very best prac­tices.

“Florida State Uni­ver­sity does not tol­er­ate sex­ual vi­o­lence in any form, re­gard­less of who the al­leged per­pe­tra­tor might be.”

“Not only did those re­sults re­veal him to be a strong can­di­date, but he re­ceived out­stand­ing per­sonal and pro­fes­sional rec­om­men­da­tions from each uni­ver­sity.” David Coburn, Florida State in­terim ath­let­ics direc­tor said in a state­ment

Briles

Tag­gart

MARK WALLHEISER/AP

FSU coach Tag­gart hired ex-Bay­lor of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Ken­dal Briles de­spite ties to an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the han­dling of sex­ual as­saults against Bears foot­ball play­ers.

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