Art Briles

Former Baylor University head football coach Art Briles released a statement Wednesday defending himself and asking regents to demonstrate full transparency regarding the school’s sexual assault scandal.

Staff photo — Rod Aydelotte, file

Former Baylor University head football coach Art Briles released a statement Wednesday afternoon defending his reputation and asking Baylor regents to “remember the importance of thorough investigations with full transparency.”

“Despite the insistence of certain people, I can remain silent no longer,” the letter begins.

“Let me be clear,” Briles wrote. “I did not cover up sexual violence. I had no contact with anyone that claimed to be a victim of sexual or domestic assault. Anyone well-versed in my work as a coach knows that I strove to promote excellence but never at the sacrifice of safety for anyone. I did not obstruct justice on campus or off.”

Briles was fired in May amid the school’s sexual assault scandal. In an October lawsuit, he accused three regents and a senior administrator of libel, slander and conspiracy in the wake of a settlement Briles reached with the school in the summer.

Regents’ accusations

A day after Briles dropped the suit, the same three regents alleged that Briles and others attempted to keep players accused of crimes out of the public eye and the university’s judicial system. The regents’ allegations came in a filing responding to a separate lawsuit brought by another fired staffer.

In the new statement, Briles said when he was alerted of an alleged assault, his response was that the complainant should go to police. He also said he never knowingly played anyone with a sexual assault allegation against him.

A Baylor spokeswoman declined comment on behalf of the university.

Briles said anyone being hurt physically, sexually, emotionally or spiritually is tragic. He also said he sees where improvements in procedures can be made and that he would volunteer time and energy to establish those procedures at Baylor or any other school.

Referring to the regents’ filing last month, Briles said, “rumor, innuendo and out-of-context messages, emails and comments have no place in a true-fact-finding mission. The key to growth for the school begins with full transparency, not selective messaging. To participate or, worse yet, instigate such is unfair to the victims, the accused, the programs and all of Baylor nation. I hope and pray that at some point, those feeding this disinformation will stop, and full disclosure rather than messaging misdirection will take place. It’s long overdue.”

Alleged messages

In the filing, regents listed alleged text messages from Briles, where the former coach asks why an alleged gang rape victim was “hanging around” with “bad dudes.” Another text message Briles allegedly sent to then-staffer Colin Shillinglaw read, “Not quite as bad,” after Briles learned a player had exposed himself to a masseuse during a massage, not to a stripper, and asked for sexual favors.

Ernest Cannon, Briles’ attorney, said Wednesday that if Briles could speak to the media, he would.

“Art has not spoken because of agreements with Baylor on the subject of confidentiality, but he felt like it was time to express his gratitude to the university and the students and the fans and people in Waco and tell them how he felt and how he felt about them,” Cannon said.

Regarding the alleged incident with the masseuse, Cannon said Briles’ “not quite as bad” text meant that Briles was glad the player’s actions did not happen in public at a strip club.

Briles is listed as a defendant in one of six Title IX lawsuits Baylor is facing.

Philadelphia law firm Pepper Hamilton LLP conducted an investigation from September 2015 to May 2016 into Baylor’s institutional response to sexual violence. Regents released a 13-page document and 105 recommendations for improvement, and Ken Starr was fired as president.

Ian McCaw resigned days later as athletics director, and he now holds the same role at Liberty University.

Phillip has covered higher education for the Tribune-Herald since November 2015.

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