The rumors started circulating Sunday afternoon that something cataclysmic was about to happen at Baylor.
The Baylor board of regents was meeting to bring back Art Briles as football coach. Expect an announcement Monday afternoon.
But that announcement never came.
Despite reports that some of Baylor’s big money donors wanted Briles back, there was never a vote taken by the board of regents Monday night.
For a school that’s under intense national scrutiny for a sexual assault scandal, bringing back Briles in 2017 after a one-season suspension would be a public relations disaster.
Baylor might have left a crack in the door for a Briles return on May 26 when it announced the highly successful coach was “suspended with intent to terminate.” It didn’t exactly say he was fired but most people read it that way.
But if Baylor ever planned to reinstate Briles after the scathing Pepper Hamilton findings, the national outcry would be deafening. It would provide critics with even more fuel that football trumps all at Baylor.
Briles oversaw a football program that the Pepper Hamilton report described as operating an “internal system of discipline separate from the university process.”
The report said football coaches took improper steps to disclosures of sexual assault or dating violence that precluded the university from fulfilling its legal obligations. It said some football staff conducted its own untrained internal inquiries that improperly discredited complainants and denied them a fair, impartial investigation.
Those findings and others along the same lines were crushing. While it’s unfair to blame Briles for every misstep in the football program, he was the captain of that ship.
It’s natural for some Baylor fans to want to bring back the coach who guided the Bears to their greatest five-year run in school history.
Baylor’s success over that time period was staggering: A 50-15 record, two Big 12 championships, five bowl appearances and a Heisman Trophy winner. Gleaming new McLane Stadium was a product of that success.
Who wouldn’t want to keep the good times rolling?
But Baylor fans now need to move on and accept the new reality.
First and foremost, this is a football program that’s badly in need of repair internally. Sexual assault and other forms of misconduct cannot be tolerated. In his May 30 introductory press conference, interim coach Jim Grobe said he’d initiate a zero tolerance policy.
While the vast majority of Briles’ recruits were good players and good citizens, it only took a relatively few bad ones to bring the program to its knees. Though it’s impossible to predict the behavior of every recruit, more care must be taken in the recruiting process.
The Bears will still field a highly competitive team this season and probably next year. But with the 2016 class likely to lose its top players and the 2017 class down to one commitment, the Bears will certainly take a hit on the field in the future.
Who knows if the NCAA will swoop in and penalize Baylor? That could be another factor as the Bears try to dig out from the depths of this scandal.
That’s who Baylor fans need to get behind now. The Briles era is over.