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Proven results, concerning past: Examining FSU’s hiring of Kendal Briles as its new offensive coordinator

Is this the right move for the Seminoles?

Oklahoma State v Baylor Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

By now, you’ve heard: Florida State has its new offensive coordinator, former Houston OC Kendal Briles. The Seminoles wanted a big name to fill this crucial role; and, for better or worse, they’ve gotten just that. So let’s take a look at both sides of the coin.

Let’s begin with an unmistakable positive of this decision: between the sidelines and from a strictly football standpoint, this could be a home-run hire. Briles has a very sharp offensive mind, and his approach to the game is quite in line with what head coach Willie Taggart wants to do with the ball. The Houston attack he led in the 2018 season finished with an offensive S&P+ ranking of 11th among FBS teams. In 2017, with FAU, that number was 6th, nationally. Before that, at Baylor, Briles’ offense finished 38th in 2016 and, in 2015, his first year as an OC anywhere, No. 1 in the country.

But here’s the thing. Some will read that last sentence and focus on No. 1. Others will see little more than one word: Baylor. Briles, the son of former Baylor head coach Art Briles, was in Waco for the entirety of a sexual assault scandal that rocked the university, during which 31 Baylor football players were accused of 52 rapes between 2011-2014. The elder Briles was fired as a result and now coaches in Italy.

As for the younger Briles now in the employ of FSU, there’s this, as part of a piece from The New York Times, in March of 2017:

A particularly notorious allegation in the lawsuit is that Kendal Briles, a former assistant coach and Art Briles’s son, enticed one recruit by saying: “Do you like white women? Because we have a lot of them at Baylor and they LOVE football players.”

The younger Mr. Briles declined to comment through a spokeswoman for his [former] employer, Florida Atlantic University.

As for the assault accusations, Baylor’s Board of Regents later concluded that the football program’s coaches and staff “reinforced an overall perception that football was above the rules, and that there was no culture of accountability for misconduct.”

Baylor, they wrote, “failed to take sufficient action to identify, eliminate, prevent and address a potential hostile environment in individual cases.”

One could look at these horrific allegations and cite the fact that Kendal Briles was vetted enough that he was subsequently hired at both FAU and Houston. Of course, neither of those programs command anything near the spotlight that Florida State does. And it’s a logical assumption that he’s also been well vetted by the Seminoles. But even with any prospective legal hurdles having been cleared, the question remains: is it realistic that the OC and son of the head coach knew nothing of the alleged culture created and sustained right under his nose?

Moreover, and back to the topic of vetting, there exist fair questions about how much transparency can ever really be achieved when dealing with a university like Baylor. Because Baylor is a private institution, it has no real obligation to disclose anything to anyone or any other program— including Florida State.

And that brings up another issue concerning both optics and ethics. The first part of that involves how this looks for FSU, a program, justly or not, often tied to allegations of wrongdoing within the past decade. But more importantly, is this the right thing to do?

I’m not trying to make up your mind on this, but rather to present both sides of a complex story.