Art Briles hired as assistant coach by CFL’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats – ESPN
Former Hawai’i and SMU coach June Jones, who was named the Tiger-Cats’ head coach on Thursday, hired Briles as the team’s assistant head coach for offense. The Tiger-Cats were 0-8 when former coach Kent Austin stepped down and Jones was promoted last week.
Briles, 61, has been out of coaching since May 2016, when Baylor officials suspended him with intent to terminate for his role in the school’s sexual assault scandal. He later reached an undisclosed financial settlement with Baylor, where he coached from 2008 to 2015, posting a 65-37 record and winning a share of back-to-back Big 12 titles in 2013 and 2014.
The Tiger-Cats have quarterback Robert Griffin III, who played for Briles at Baylor, on their negotiation list, meaning they have exclusive rights to sign him if he wants to play in the CFL.
Hamilton, Ontario, is also only 15 minutes away from Burlington, Ontario — the hometown of former Baylor athletic director Ian McCaw.
Briles’ hiring has drawn criticism from Canadian news outlets and on social media among people who have identified themselves as Tiger-Cats fans. Calls and emails to the Tiger-Cats’ executive and media communications offices have not been returned.
Tiger-Cats CEO Scott Mitchell defended the decision to hire Briles in an interview with the Hamilton Spectator.
“We just thought it was a very serious situation, but we also felt that after talking to dozens of people, people we trust, people we admire, that Art Briles is a good man that was caught in a very bad situation,” Mitchell said. “Clearly, some serious mistakes were made along the way, but we feel strongly that people deserve second chances and that’s what we’ve decided to do with Art Briles.”
Mitchell added that there was no consideration to reversing the team’s decision based on the backlash.
In March 2016, the team promoted Eric Tillman to general manager. Tillman, who has been with the Tiger-Cats since 2013, pleaded guilty in January 2010 to sexually assaulting a teenage babysitter. The charge was a summary offense, which is roughly akin to a misdemeanor in the United States.
The incident happened in August 2008, when Tillman approached the babysitter as she was bent over and “put his hands on her hips with his fingers in her belt loops and pulled her toward him,” according to a CBC News report and information ESPN obtained from a Saskatchewan court. The CBC report indicated that he was under the influence of a “double dose of sleeping pills and muscle relaxants” when the incident occurred.
Tillman was the general manager for the Saskatchewan Roughriders at the time.
Although he pleaded guilty, he received an absolute discharge, which in Canadian courts means there was never a conviction entered, and the court had no record of any sentencing. According to the CBC, prosecutors and the girl’s parents were “not opposed to Tillman continuing his employment with the football club.” But Tillman resigned as general manager just days after entering his plea.
Baylor’s investigation into its handling of sexual violence complaints, amid publicity of several sexual assault and domestic violence allegations involving football players, culminated in May 2016 with the firing of Briles, the demotion of president Ken Starr and the suspension of Baylor athletic director Ian McCaw. Starr and McCaw left Baylor soon after.