Grambling State tries to hire Art Briles, Hue Jackson, reputation in tatters, Baylor sex assault scandal

This should have been the simplest positive story of college football’s offseason.

Hue Jackson, the former head coach of the NFL’s Oakland Raiders and Cleveland Browns, took over as coach at Grambling State University.

It matters because Jackson, one of 24 black head coaches in NFL history, was stepping into the big chair of a black college football powerhouse — just when historically black colleges and universities (HBCU ) were experiencing a sporting resurgence.

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HBCUs – schools established for overwhelmingly black students before the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which finally outlawed racial segregation – have a proud history of giving marginalized athletes a chance to compete and show off their talents. before a career in the NFL.

Some of the greatest players of all time, like Walter Payton and Jerry Rice, as well as modern champions like Michael Strahan and Steve McNair, have played at HBCUs.

Grambling State, home to four Pro Football Hall of Famers, hired Jackson last December. This marks a continuing trend of former big-name coaches and players taking jobs at HBCUs.

For example, NFL great Deion Sanders’ recent work at Jackson State brought more attention to the school than ever before, including landing the No. 1 rookie in all of college football – an absurd feat considering that Jackson State doesn’t even play. at the highest level of sport.

Grambling State, an HBCU in Louisiana, plays in the second tier of college football known as FCS and primarily against other HBCUs. (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

So how did Jackson screw it all up in the space of about 72 hours?

His name is Art Briles, and he was the man behind one of college football’s most shameful sagas in the modern era. (Warning trigger for sexual assault.)

Briles is a great offensive mind, which is why Jackson tried to hire him as offensive coordinator late last week. He led Baylor University to unprecedented success, with two Big 12 conference championships in eight years after a period of absolute nil. His quarterback Robert Griffin III won the Heisman Trophy as the best player in college football in 2011 and then became No. 2 in the NFL Draft.

It was this resume that prompted Jackson to hire Briles – despite the huge sexual assault scandal under his watch.

Briles was sacked in 2016 after an investigation found there was “no culture of accountability for misconduct”, with “significant concerns about the tone and culture within Baylor’s football programme”.

A lawsuit filed in 2017 alleged that at least 52 rapes by more than 30 soccer players occurred over four years, and Baylor team officials chose not to report “sexual and dating violence.” “.

It was alleged that officials at Briles and Baylor knew of a “serial sex offender” as early as 2011.

An NCAA panel report found that Briles’ “inquisitive attitude toward the potential criminal conduct of his student-athletes was deeply troubling to the panel.”

“The Head Coach has failed to meet the most basic expectations of how a person should respond to the type of conduct at issue in this case. Further, as the leader of the campus, the Head Coach is held to an even higher standard. He completely failed to meet that standard.

Art Briles’ powerful attacks at Baylor won him praise and helped Robert Griffin III win the Heisman, but he was fired in disgrace. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

These investigations show that Briles allowed this culture to fester in college because the players involved were talented enough to help him win football games. In turn, the safety of women in school was threatened.

To be clear, Briles admitted wrongdoing. “I made a few mistakes. I was wrong. I’m sorry. I’ll learn. I’ll do better,” he told ESPN in 2016.

Briles has been kicked out of training by almost everyone – but he’s certainly tried his best to come back.

In 2017, Briles was hired by a Canadian Football League team for several hours before public and league pressure forced them to do a backflip. He found a job in Italy for the 2018 season, before shockingly being hired as a high school coach in Mount Vernon, Texas; as you might know if you’ve seen Friday Night Lights, they care a lot about football there.

A top university, Southern Miss, interviewed Briles for a position in 2019, but the decision discussed was shouted down.

So it’s unclear what Jackson saw in that record that made him think bringing Briles back to college football would be okay.

“It’s not (a lack of) due diligence (that’s the problem). That’s assuming you’ll get through it – as long as you ride out a brief flurry of bad publicity,” Nicole Auerbach of The Athletic tweeted.

“These schools/organizations still claim they checked it out and did their due diligence. Which means they listen to him and people around him pretend he’s a scapegoat who has done nothing wrong.

Hue Jackson went 3-36-1 as Cleveland’s head coach, including overseeing their 0-16 campaign in 2017. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

Grambling did not announce the move as of the end of last week; it came out via media reports in the region. Coincidentally, the Russian invasion of Ukraine had just begun – not that we’re suggesting they were trying to hide the announcement.

“You know, you report what you know. We did our best at the time. Apparently it wasn’t good enough,” Briles told KTAL Sports.

A huge outpouring of anger, much like with Briles’ previous offers to return to pro-level coaching, followed. Still, the school tried to hold on.

They weren’t helped by the Twitter account of the Hue Jackson Foundation, a small charity set up by the coach to fight human trafficking.

The foundation released a statement suggesting hiring Briles would actually teach people how to handle sexual assault cases, and shockingly saying we shouldn’t bring up his past as it would ‘re-traumatize and re-victimize’ those involved. .

It went wrong and things got worse when an ESPN writer pointed out that the foundation received $158,000 in 2019 and only spent $4,000 of it on grants for the charity’s stated cause. .

In return, the foundation acknowledged that its primary source of funding was Hue Jackson and the earnings of the foundation’s sole worker — leading many to wonder about the tax and legal implications of the whole situation.

Still, it was just a side show to Briles’ whole decision, and on Tuesday morning (AEDT), Briles “resigned” from the school, believing he would be “a distraction.”

In the end, the saga shattered two reputations; Jackson’s, for being the undisputed driver of the rental, and Grambling’s, for allowing him to make the call.

Sports Illustrated’s Richard Johnson, pointing to a legendary Grambling head coach who led the football team for a remarkable 56 years, summed it up on ESPN Radio.

“Eddie Robinson is rolling over in his grave,” Johnson said.

“It’s a program that should have a level of pride not to do something like this and they stooped.”