Ex-Baylor coach Art Briles resurfaced at Dallas Cowboys preseason camp yesterday, and he took the opportunity to talk with assembled media members about his future. Predictably, he thinks he’ll get another shot to coach soon.
Just as predictably, respected columnist Tim Cowlishaw responded with a piece arguing that Briles hasn’t paid a high enough price to merit another opportunity.
“Art Briles is not ready for that second chance. He's not deserving of that second chance -- not yet, anyway.”
Briles’ tenure at Baylor ended amid a string of allegations of sexual assault against his players and condemnation from the law firm hired by his own school to investigate his program. What, exactly, would it take to prove that he deserves another shot at coaching?
Cowlishaw’s prescriptions of time, honesty and contrition are industry standard. They demonstrate dedication to returning to the field and recognition on some level of what went wrong. In other words, Briles can show that he learned his lesson if he says the right things and proves that he wants badly enough to coach again. (To be fair, Cowlishaw implies that even that might not be enough.)
The logic doesn't of that penance doesn't make much sense. Yet, to me, the greater flaw with these kinds of solutions is that they’re rooted in the same idea as the problem. Namely, they rest on the idea that the honorable intentions of noble men -- gender-specificity intended -- should be enough to sustain college football. Things fall apart when the head honchos lack scruples or lose their way; therefore, the proper fix is a moral (re-)education.
In fact, no one really deserves the power that comes along with being the head football coach at a major school today. Limited transparency and inadequate checks on authority are universal throughout a sport in which coaches get paid millions based on the performances of college students. Baylor might be an extreme case, but the situation is begging to be abused everywhere -- even by pretty decent people.
We should take cases like Baylor and Penn State as signs that we need better systems and controls, not better people in charge. The best thing that could come of all this would be for schools to implement adequate safeguards so that if and when Briles gets another chance, it won’t matter whether we think he deserves it or not.