WACO, Texas (KWTX) After months of silence, ousted Baylor head football coach Art Briles is speaking out in a letter addressed to the Baylor Nation in which he denies covering up sexual violence and calls for greater transparency from the leadership of the university.
Baylor regents fired Briles on May 26, 2016 after hearing a scathing review of the university’s handling of sexual assaults involving football payers.
In the one page letter, which Briles initially intended to send to the Baylor student newspaper, The Lariat, the former coach says he never covered up sexual violence, never had contact with any victim of sexual or domestic violence and claims the potentially damming text messages of his released by an attorney representing Baylor regents were “out of context.”
“Let me be clear. I did not cover up sexual violence,” the letter reads. “Anyone well-versed in my work as a coach knows that I strove to promote excellence, but never at the sacrifice or safety for anyone.”
Briles claims he was never given a reason for his termination,
Sources have told KWTX he was paid more than $15 million in exchange for a non-disparagement and confidentiality agreement with the school.
His letter indicates that is why he waited until now to speak.
“Despite the insistence of certain people, I can remain silent no longer. There is an onslaught of information coming out in the press that is inaccurate, misleading, and unfair to Baylor, its amazing students, its strong faculty, the administration, and its athletic programs.”
Baylor initially refused to release any information about Briles’ alleged role in the sexual assault scandal, but late in 2016, regents did begin to go public with some information at the urging of GF Bunting, the California-based PR firm the board hired to guide its response to the controversy.
In October, regents speaking with the Wall Street journal dropped a bombshell when they claimed the violence included 17 women reporting incidents of sexual or domestic assault involving 19 football players, including four alleged gang rapes since 2011.
A regent who spoke on the condition of anonymity told KWTX “The vast majority of those allegations presented did not have facts to support them.”
In January, a lawsuit filed on behalf of an alleged victim who claimed to have been gang- raped by two football players alleged that 31 Baylor football players committed at least 52 acts of rape, including five gang-rapes, between 2011 and 2014, numbers that far exceed those previously provided by school officials.
Baylor school officials have since said that number is not accurate.
In the letter Briles also appears to be addressing his role in a highly-debated alleged incident involving a Baylor volleyball player who claimed she was gang-raped in 2012 by multiple football players.
In November, Baylor released information claiming Briles was informed of the incident by the volleyball player’s head coach, as was then athletic director, Ian McCaw, but that no one reported it to the school’s office of Judicial Affairs as required by university policy.
KWTX has learned the volleyball coach, Jim Barnes, who’s no longer at Baylor, maintains he did call Judicial Affairs after he was made aware of the incident, and in a sworn statement obtained by KWTX, Barnes says thought Briles “handled the matter honorably and with the serious attention it deserved.”
“I did not obstruct justice on campus or off,” Briles said in the open letter.
“When I was alerted that there might have been an assault, my response was clear: the alleged victims should go to police, report it and it should be prosecuted. “
Briles filed a libel lawsuit against some members of the Baylor Board of Regents, but dropped it in early February.
Meanwhile in February, an attorney representing Baylor regents gained access to information from the 52 laptops and 62 mobile devices Pepper Hamilton investigators studied.
In response to a libel lawsuit filed on behalf of fired athletic employee, Colin Shillinglaw, the regents’ attorney released several text message exchanges between Briles and other officials about player misconduct.
After one football player was cited for illegal consumption of alcohol in 2011, Briles texted another coach “Hopefully he’s under the radar enough they won’t recognize his name…. did he get ticket from Baylor police or Waco? … Just trying to keep him away from our judicial affairs folks.”
But Briles says the messages released were out of context and misleading.
“Rumor, innuendo, and out of context messages, emails and comments have no place in a true fact-finding mission. The key to growth for the school begins with full transparency, not selective messaging. To participate, or worse yet, instigate such, is unfair to the victims, the accused, the programs and all of Baylor Nation.”
“I hope and pray that at some point, those feeding this disinformation will stop, and full disclose rather than messaging misdirection will take place. It’s long overdue.”
When contacted by phone Briles’ former attorney, Ernest Cannon, wouldn’t comment on details of the statement, but told KWTX that’s mostly because he had no role in crafting the message. He says his former client, who hasn’t hired a public relations firm, wrote it from the heart.
“This was totally Art Briles idea and his words and his feelings,” Cannon said.
“He wanted to communicate to Baylor fans and the university what they meant to him and how much he misses them.”