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Ousted BU coach Art Briles sues regents, school official

(KWTX staff photo/file)
(KWTX staff photo/file)(KWTX)
Published: Dec. 8, 2016 at 4:37 PM CST
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Fired Baylor head football coach Art Briles filed a defamation suit Thursday in state district court in Llano County claiming that three Baylor regents and a university official aided by a California public relations firm so damaged his reputation with “false information and defamatory statements” that he may never again hold a head coaching job.

The libel and slander have “already cost him one or more prospective head football coaching jobs and likely ended his profession and career as a head football coach at any level,” the suit, filed by Stephenville lawyer Ernest Cannon, says.

The suit, which names Board of Regents Chairman Ronald Murff, Regents J. Cary Gray and David Harper, and Senior Vice President for Operations and Chief Financial Officer Reagan Ramsower, seeks unspecified damages in excess of $1 million.

"We have no comment at this time," Baylor spokeswoman Lori Fogelman said in an email Thursday evening in response to a request for a statement from the university about the lawsuit.

On May 26, after hearing a lengthy report from the Pepper Hamilton law firm, regents, saying they "were horrified by the extent of these acts of sexual violence on our campus," reassigned Chancellor and President Ken Starr, fired head football coach Art Briles and put Athletic Director Ian McCaw on probation in the wake of the scathing Pepper Hamilton report.

Briles and Starr later reached settlements with the school and McCaw remained on the payroll until he was hired by Liberty University.

Pepper Hamilton produced a 13-page findings of fact that didn't identify any specific cases or name Briles or any other individual and until late October, Baylor and the board maintained it couldn't provide any details about the specific cases in which Pepper Hamilton found university and athletic department failures.

“Months later,” the suit alleges, “in a complete about-face and acting on the advice of its PR firm, (G.F. Bunting and Co.), the Baylor Regents Defendants made themselves available for interviews with Buntings media friends, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today, CBS Showtime’s “60 Minutes Sports,” the Dallas Morning News and others”

On Oct. 28, citing regents as sources, The Wall Street Journal published an article in which it reported that the scandal that cost Briles his job “involved 17 women who reported sexual or domestic assaults involving 19 players, including four alleged gang rapes since 2011.”

“These new allegations made in the Wall Street Journal are false and were manufactured by Bunting to re-create the story line expose Coach Briles to public hatred, contempt, ridicule and cause him financial injury.

“The purpose was to provide a newly created story line replete with details of false information and defamatory statements about Coach Briles,” the suit says.

The suit says Briles was fired in May “without explanation to him or the public” and that despite repeated requests was never provided with the “so-called facts” that were the basis of the 13-page Findings of Fact the school released.

“Prior to their publication in the Wall Street Journal, Coach Briles had never heard these facts or these numbers. These statements and alleged facts had never before been disclosed by any member of the Baylor Board of Regents and were never discussed at the time of Baylor’s investigation of and settlement with Coach Briles,” the suit says.

“These defendants have been relentless in their false attacks upon Coach Briles in the media despite his repeated requests that they cease and retract their onslaught of untruths,” the suit alleges.

“In their actions to defame Coach Briles, the Baylor Regents Defendants have expended and continue to expend millions of dollars contributed to the University in good faith by large and small donors and (alumni).”

The suit was filed in Llano County because Briles was in residence there at the time of the alleged defamation.