MOUNT VERNON, Texas (KLTV) - Football practices are underway across East Texas, including in Mount Vernon. The town of just over 2,600 residents does not usually attract statewide attention for its sports programs, having never won a state championship in boys’ varsity football.
In 2019, however, the school board made a decision many considered controversial when they chose former Baylor Head Coach Art Briles to take over the football program at Mount Vernon High School. Briles agreed to speak to the press on August 5 at the end of that afternoon’s practice with the team. The school had said that Briles would only answer questions for 15 to 20 minutes at that time, and they could only be Tiger football-related questions.
A statement from Briles’ lawyer and one from Baylor’s general counsel was given to media after the press conference. Representatives with Mount Vernon ISD said that this will be the only time Briles will speak to media before football season begins.
Baylor University fired Briles three years ago as a result of a scandal that stemmed from allegations that 31 Baylor football players committed 52 acts of sexual abuse and domestic violence. Briles was accused of covering up for the players. According to ESPN, Briles said he did not cover up any reports of assaults by players. He also said he encouraged the women involved in the allegations to go to the police.
Statement from Briles’ attorneys, Darrell Barger and Ernest Cannon, released on August 5, 2019:
Our client Art Briles understands and appreciates the public’s interest in what occurred at Baylor University. However, Coach Briles is a defendant in one civil lawsuit brought against him in July 2018 relating to 2014 incidents that the Plaintiff alleges were physical (non-sexual) assault by her former boyfriend. Because of this pending lawsuit, Coach Briles will not discuss matters related to his employment at Baylor.
As Coach Briles’ counsel, we are glad the facts are slowly coming to light, thanks mostly to the courage and tenacity of the 15 “Jane Doe” plaintiffs who are fighting hard to get to the truth of what caused the systemic, institutional failures at Baylor. The facts these brave young women have uncovered support a much different narrative than the one perpetuated for years by those with an interest in placing blame on Coach Briles.
For example, in September 2014 - almost 7 years into Coach Briles’ tenure at Baylor - a 115 page independent investigation report by Title IX consultants Margolis-Healy cited no Title IX failings in the football program, but did identify serious and widespread problems within Baylor’s campus safety leadership. No one has publicly identified these senior campus safety officials, or disclosed how, if at all, they were held accountable. The Margolis-Healy report was not shared with Art Briles during his employment and it was concealed from the public until the Jane Doe lawsuit brought it to light only recently. It has received very little public attention, despite the fact it eviscerates the narrative the public has long been fed.
Margolis-Healy’s detailed, 115-page report stands in stark contrast to the 13-page “Findings of Fact” issued by the Baylor Board of Regents in May 2016, which contains no facts. To this day, the underlying detailed written findings and chronology created during the Regent-led investigation, the existence of which was first revealed in a hearing earlier this summer, are being witheld by Baylor, preventing victims, their families, and the many good people of the Baylor family from actually knowing the facts.
In addition, Coach Briles is grateful that Baylor’s general counsel in May 2017 provided him with a letter of exoneration of any wrongdoing in any sexual assault case. That letter provides in no uncertain terms that Baylor is unaware of any situation in which Coach Briles had contact with a person who reported being the victim of sexual assault, or any situation in which Coach Briles discouraged a sexual assault victim from reporting to law enforcement or university officials. The letter also clarifies that Baylor is unaware of any instance in which Coach Briles actually played a student athlete who had been found responsible for sexual assault.
On August 30, 2018, Coach Briles filed a 34-page Answer in the single lawsuit in which he is a party. That document, which has received very little public notice, includes new, detailed information, supported by tape recordings and documents, demonstrating that what the public has been led to believe about Coach Briles is flatly false.
The school board unanimously approved the decision to hire Briles on May 24, 2019, and the decision made national headlines.