FSU coach stands by hiring of Briles
Florida State defends tabbing ex-Baylor assistant amid criticism
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
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.