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O’Boyle: LSU should stay away from Art Briles

| Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Just over a week ago, after a dramatic loss to Auburn, LSU fired head coach Les Miles.

Miles had achieved plenty of success for the Tigers, including a national championship and an average of 10 wins a year, but the team had stagnated in recent years, even with elite recruiting classes. There are certainly good cases to be made both for letting Miles go and for keeping him in charge. And it’s hard to ignore the fact that we were only milliseconds away from instead seeing Miles keep his job and Auburn’s Gus Malzahn looking for a new one.

But I’m not here to talk about whether Miles should have been let go or not. What LSU did after firing Miles is far more important. The day after the defeat to Auburn, LSU’s search for their next coach began. According to Billy Embody of Scout.com, the Tigers contacted two candidates that day. One of those candidate’s, unsurprisingly, was Houston’s Tom Herman. Herman’s success in turning the Cougars into a playoff contender in just two years is incredible, as is his work as offensive coordinator at Ohio State, where he won a national championship with a third-string quarterback. Undoubtedly, Herman will be the top target for any team looking for a new head coach.

LSU contacted another candidate though. Another coach who had previously been in charge at Houston and built a playoff contender with another Texas school thanks to a dynamic and innovative offense. That coach is Art Briles. While Herman should be at the top of every team’s coaching list, no school should even consider letting Art Briles run a college football program again. Briles’ teams have had success on the field, of course, but the off-the-field incidents at Baylor should mean no school should ever want his name involved with their program.

Under Briles, Baylor — and Baylor football in particular — was at the center of one of the worst college sexual assault scandals in recent memory. Briles and his staff were aware of sexual assaults by the players on his team, and he took no action. What went on at Baylor was far from one or two isolated incidents; it was systemic failure, and Briles’ involvement cannot be downplayed. The problems were more than just Art Briles, of course, but as a head coach, being aware of sexual assaults and taking no action is an unforgivable offense, especially when we’re talking about the huge number of assaults that occurred during Briles’ tenure at Baylor. Briles himself took four months to apologize for his part in what occurred at Baylor, and even that was as much about his own public image as it was any actual guilt or sorrow he might have felt.

LSU will not be the only team looking for a coach before the start of next season. USC, Auburn, Oklahoma and Texas are among the most high-profile teams who may part ways with their coach at the end of the year. With only one Tom Herman and a lack of other clear-cut options, a big-name team may decide to consider Briles for their vacancy. Such a decision by a university would be nothing short of valuing college football wins over the safety of their own students. The complete wrongdoing on every level that occurred at Baylor may never be repeated, but Briles himself is still responsible for too much of what went wrong, and when one sexual assault is too many, a man with a history of mishandling the issue is a man who should not be given authority on a college campus. Any school that hires Art Briles to run their football program is making a very clear statement: They are not looking out for the wellbeing of their students.

Unless we have some clear reason to believe Briles can change how he runs a team, he should not be allowed near a college football program ever again.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Daniel O'Boyle

Daniel O'Boyle is a senior sports writer living in Alumni Hall, majoring in Political Science. He is currently on the Notre Dame Women's Basketball, Men's Tennis and Women's Soccer beats. Originally from Belfast, Northern Ireland, Daniel spends most of his free time attempting to keep up with second-flight English soccer and his beloved Reading FC. He believes Lonzo Ball is the greatest basketball player of all time.

Contact Daniel