WACO, Texas (KWTX) A letter written by Baylor’s general counsel that leaked after former head coach Art Briles was hired and then fired in the span of a day by a Canadian Football League team is at odds with some of what some BU officials have said publicly about Briles over the past 15 months.
In the private letter dated May 23, Baylor General Counsel Chris Holmes says the school is unaware of any cases in which Briles failed to report an alleged sexual assault or fielded a player found responsible for a sexual assault.
The letter was intended for Briles to use with potential employers, including the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, who announced Tuesday that Briles would be joining head coach June Jones' staff as assistant head coach of offense.
In the face of strong public backlash, the team and the Canadian Football League announced just hours later that Briles wouldn’t be joining the team, after all.
The letter leaked after the firing and KWTX has obtained and authenticated a copy.
“Coach Briles did not release this letter, the CFL did,” Briles attorney Mark Lanier said Friday in an email.
“The letter merely states the truth we have been saying for months. Don’t believe everything you hear from lawyers suing for money and from reporters selling books. Coach Briles has been maligned and it is unfair to the nth degree.”
In the letter, Baylor General Counsel Chris Holmes wrote: “As you speak with others regarding these issues, you can be assured you may make certain statements without fear of contradiction from Baylor based on the information currently known to us. In particular at this time we are unaware of any situation where you personally had contact with anyone who directly reported to you being the victim of sexual assault or that you directly discouraged the victim of an alleged sexual assault from reporting to law enforcement or university officials. Nor are we aware of any situation where you played a student athlete who had been found responsible for sexual assault.”
Holmes, however, did not back off from the joint statement Baylor and Briles issued when they formally parted ways in June 2016 in which Briles and the school acknowledged “there were serious shortcomings in the response to reports of sexual violence by some student-athletes, including deficiencies in university processes and the delegation of disciplinary responsibilities with the football program.”
The letter also didn't address allegations in court filings in the cascade of lawsuits filed against the school since the sexual assault scandal surfaced.
The letter was written after Briles wrote a one-page letter on March 1 that he initially intended to send to the Baylor student newspaper, The Lariat.
In the letter addressed to the Baylor Nation, Briles said 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.”
Baylor regents fired Briles on May 26, 2016 after hearing a scathing review of the university's handling of sexual assaults involving football payers.
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 2016, 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 at the time, "The vast majority of those allegations presented did not have facts to support them."
In November 2016, Baylor released information claiming Briles was informed of a Baylor volleyball player’s claim that she was gang-raped in 2012 by multiple football players, but that neither he nor the volleyball player's head coach nor then athletic director, Ian McCaw, reported it to the school's office of Judicial Affairs as required by university policy.
KWTX has learned, however, that the woman’s coach, who told Briles and McCaw about the woman's claims, said Briles treated the volleyball player’s claim seriously and was focused on the woman’s well being and reporting the alleged rape.
Only one of the players allegedly involved in the assault was still on the team at the time, and Briles suspended him after learning of the allegations.
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, in the open letter he wrote in March, said 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."
"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."