Art Briles, the former Baylor University football coach who was ousted in May 2016 amid a sexual assault scandal involving some team players, will return to the sidelines this fall as the head coach of a Texas high school football team.
In a statement Friday, the Mount Vernon Independent School District announced Briles would begin this fall as head football coach at Mount Vernon High School as part of a two-year contract, sparking controversy and a backlash.
Briles was fired from Baylor three years ago following an independent investigation that showed a "fundamental failure" by officials to respond adequately to students' allegations of sexual assault, some of which involved Baylor football players.
"We are pleased to welcome Coach Briles back home to Texas," Jason McCullough, superintendent of the Mount Vernon district, said in a statement. "He brings with him a wealth of not only football experience but also life experience.
"He is passionate about investing in the lives of young people and helping them to succeed both on the field and in life," he said, adding, "We believe our students will benefit greatly from his skills and experience."
Since leaving Baylor, Briles had struggled to find a new gig in the United States, though he was hired in 2018 to coach in Florence, Italy, according to ESPN.
He was denied a role as offensive coordinator at the University of Southern Mississippi in February, ESPN reported, and he was briefly hired by the Canadian Football League in 2017, but the position was revoked after public backlash, it said.
In a video posted to the Mount Vernon district's Facebook page, officials are seen congratulating Briles via video chat. "I'm ready to go to work," he says.
"Take care of yourselves," he says, addressing a handful of football players in the room. "Work hard, eat right, sleep right and plan on being the champions, because that's what we're going to be."
After inheriting the Baylor Bears in 2008 -- right after the school's 11th consecutive losing season -- Briles made the program one of the best in the country. Five years later, the team was 11-2 and Big 12 conference champions.
In the news release announcing his new position, Briles called high school football "a Texas institution" and his "first love" as a coach.
"You'll make no bigger impact in this world than when you shape the lives of young people -- one practice, one game, and one life at a time."
Among those congratulating Briles was Robert Griffin III, a quarterback for the Baltimore Ravens and a former Baylor star, who tweeted Friday, "Happy for you Coach Art Briles!"
'What type of message are we sending to our kids?'
But some, like Franklin County District Clerk and Mount Vernon resident Ellen Jaggers, are opposed to Briles' hire.
Citing her decades of experience working with victims of sex crimes in court, Jaggers wrote in a Facebook post that the allegations Briles failed to respond to were "violent crimes of control and power and Mt. Vernon ISD endorsed this action by hiring this coach."
"I am so disappointed in our leaders," she wrote.
Jaggers echoed those remarks in a phone interview with CNN, saying there are "lots and lots of coaches that would be great for Mount Vernon. Why do we have to have this coach with this type of negativity? What type of message are we sending to our kids?"
She pointed to the role that football coaches play in the lives of their young players, saying that they're responsible for teaching them to not only be good athletes but to be "decent young men."
"I think there's been a really bad decision made by leaders in our school," Jaggers told CNN. "It's created a lot of divisions in our community because of this."
Jaggers added that Briles deserves to be forgiven, "but if you want to talk forgiveness, why don't you talk about forgiveness for the Baylor victims? He has shown no sympathy whatsoever."
Briles did apologize in September 2016 in an interview with ESPN, admitting he "made mistakes" and promised to "do better."
But Jenny Dial Creech, a sports columnist for the Houston Chronicle, told CNN's Martin Savidge on Saturday that apology seemed "very disingenuous" and that survivors did not take anything from it.
Creech, who said she's been in contact with a number of women who were victims of assault in Baylor cases, told CNN they are "hurting."
"This was, to be fair, an institution-wide failure that Baylor has been working to correct," she said.
"It wasn't just Briles, but Briles was a big player in this. And winning games mattered more than women. That's what it comes down to," Creech said.
Survivors have been texting and calling her, she said, "and they're heartbroken. Every time something like this happens, they feel, once again, like they don't matter."
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