You had to know it was coming, but you don’t have to like it.
Disgraced former Baylor coach Art Briles, who showed striking indifference to a string of sexual assaults committed in his program, is beginning his redemption tour.
Barely three months after being fired from Baylor, Briles sat down with ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi for an interview aired Saturday on College Gameday. Briles dodged some questions about specific assaults by his players, denied knowing about the dangerous culture in his program, then half-heartedly admitted some responsibility.
At one point Rinaldi asked Briles what he would expect the victims to say to him. After Briles said he’d be “a little bit apprehensive” to face them, Rinaldi asked why, and Briles responded like this:
“Part of the football team were the guys that violated them, so that puts me with that. Because they’re part of the team that I coached. But I’m hoping they could get past that and see that each individual is responsible for their own actions, and it was not a reflection of anything that I felt.”
There are two problems here:
1. ESPN gave Briles a platform to redeem himself only months after he presided over, and maybe even covered up, some truly abhorrent behavior. The problem isn’t that ESPN interviewed Briles — he is a newsworthy public figure — but that they interviewed him on camera in a format basically tailored to his explaining away his sins. At the very least, they could have edited out the part where he starts crying as he talks about the memory of his parents. The whole thing felt icky from the start.
2. Briles could not even properly execute his redemption, denying complicity whenever possible and coming off as someone interested in saving his hide, not apologizing to victims of sexual violence. The former coach basically vacillated between admitting he should have done more to prevent sexual violence in his program and declining any responsibility. It was not a good look.
In a moment of honesty, right before he started crying, Briles told Rinaldi that, “I’ve lost some of my soul.” If that’s true. he certainly didn’t get it back Saturday morning.