Ticats go from controversy to contrition over hiring of Art Briles

In the span of less than a day, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats went from controversy to contrition over the hiring of disgraced former Baylor coach Art Briles.

Team owner Bob Young and CEO Scott Mitchell both apologized for adding Briles as assistant head coach on Monday, an offer that was rescinded following an outcry from fans and an intervention by the Canadian Football League.

“Clearly, what was being contemplated was totally unacceptable to the general public and the media,” Mitchell said. “I think when we took a step back and had a chance to talk to the league and some of our partners and some of our fans, what we thought was an opportunity to give somebody a second chance was clearly not acceptable in relation to what had previously happened and what [Briles] had been involved with.”

Briles was fired as the head coach of Baylor University last May after an investigation discovered the school mishandled numerous sexual assault allegations, including some against football players and that “football personnel chose not to report sexual violence and dating violence.” One former player is serving a 20-year sentence for sexual assault and the school is facing a number of lawsuits, not to mention ongoing investigations by state and federal authorities as well as the NCAA.

While he initially defended the move, Mitchell reconsidered after CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie drove to Hamilton on Monday evening for a face-to-face meeting. The commissioner has sweeping powers when it comes to who plays in the league but less authority over front office personnel and so he encouraged the Ticats to stand down.

“I think Randy Ambrosie showed great leadership and he brought a lot of important issues to the table that were more important than the issues that we had focussed on,” Mitchell said. “We saw that our stance on this being a second chance for somebody was certainly not acceptable versus the impact of everything that happened at Baylor had.”

Mitchell said the decision to hire Briles was primarily a football one. New head coach June Jones has a long-standing friendship with Briles, who has had trouble finding work after the scandal at Baylor. Briles also has a relationship with former NFL quarterbacks Robert Griffin III and Johnny Manziel, both of whom are on the Ticats’ exclusive negotiation list.

“I think we got too wrapped up in the inner sanctum of football discussions and forget about important things like our standing in the community and how it reflects on the franchise,” Mitchell said.

Jones was reluctant to discuss the team’s decision to part ways with Briles.

“Art and I have been friends for 40 years and this is really an emotional thing for me, very personal. I’ve had a history of helping people and that’s what I’m about,” Jones said. “I have my own opinion on the whole thing but it’s really meaningless right now because we’ve made the decision as a club and that’s the way it is right now.”

Meanwhile Young, whose Twitter feed @CaretakerBob was inundated with fans outraged by the move, also issued a statement through the team on Tuesday.

“We made a large and serious mistake. We want to apologize to our fans, corporate partners and the Canadian Football League,” the statement read. “It has been a difficult season and we are searching for answers. This is clearly not one of them. We have listened, we are reviewing our decision-making processes and we will learn. We will go on. We want to thank our fans, partners and the CFL for their help and support.”

Mitchell said he believes that Briles will coach football again at some point but that it won’t be with the Ticats. He also took personal responsibility for the decision to bring in Briles in the first place.

“I don’t think there’s any question, ultimately I’m responsible because any situation like this has to be brought to me,” Mitchell said. “When you make a mistake like this, there are lessons to be learned and we’ve learned a great amount in the last 24 hours.”

Drew Edwards

Drew Edwards

Drew Edwards is into his eighth season covering the CFL and the Ticats for the Hamilton Spectator. He is the founder and editor of 3DownNation.
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Drew Edwards
About Drew Edwards (1457 Articles)
Drew Edwards is into his eighth season covering the CFL and the Ticats for the Hamilton Spectator. He is the founder and editor of 3DownNation.

33 Comments on Ticats go from controversy to contrition over hiring of Art Briles

  1. White Horse // August 29, 2017 at 6:22 pm //

    Good acceptable response Ticats. It’s time to move on. You need to win some football games. East playoffs are close enough to make a run for it.

  2. the fact that they aren’t talking more and acknowledging why it was an awful moves is frustrating as a fan.
    Does Bob think that garbage paragraph is enough? These men don’t seem to realize why what they did was reprehensible and seemingly just want to put this past them. As a fan this isn’t good enough and I’m very let down that Mitchell went on the radio and tried to defend this not own it up right.

    • Caledonian // August 29, 2017 at 7:00 pm //

      Dead on! He may have well said, “I’m sorry but…..” this was not an apology, not an acknowledgement of poor decision making or ethics, it was lame.

    • Move on You call your self a fan. nOT

    • your let dowm? the world is built on second chances in which im positive you have had your share, so lets not get caught up in this childish responsive behavior.

      the only reason you are hurt is because its a football team so purely selfish reasons on most peoples part…next time someone forgives you and gives you a pass think about this please

  3. Sounds good except for one thing. They still employ a man in the front office who plead guilty to sexual assault of a minor. In my view they are really just butt covering because there is no fire burning about hiring that guy like there was about hiring Art Briles. The “second chance” thing rings hollow. This comes down to money. Sponsors and fans let them know it was going to cost them if they didn’t pull back, so they did. To me that’s the only reason they pulled back because Scott Mitchell made it clear they were going to stand their ground while the shit flew. Anyway, I can’t wait to see Masoli play!!!!

    • Get a life. Do you know the details of Tilman. I think not. Just trying to tat and feather a person from this issue

    • second chances are what the world and our lives are premised on…maybe we can burn down the observatory next time a meteor threatens our planet.

      mob mentality limits us as a species ..you have had many second chances so relax..you wouldnt even care if this wasnt football

  4. I agree. This rings hollow with Eric Tillman still in the fold. If they’ve suddenly woken up and had an attack of conscience then Tillman has to go as well.

    • See above comment moron. Move on.

      • KENT . . . Really??? Calling the RDF a moron . . . have some respect for yourself . . . actually, not surprised you called him what you did . . . someone with some self-respect would not stoop to such a level. 🙁
        . . . I am disappointed in your sad demeanor! hey, i am sure you do not care what I think . . . good on you 🙂 Canada, home of the . . . .

  5. Marty Mathieson // August 29, 2017 at 7:28 pm //

    The crazy thing is, from a purely football perspective it would have been a very good hire. Having followed Baylor football for 3 decades plus, Briles revived a program that had become a joke, more often than not on the receiving end of blowouts from the likes of Texas and Oklahoma. He is an acknowledged offensive mastermind, which the Cats need BADLY. And in most cases, it would be right to give a man who has transgressed a second chance.
    That said, some things are not worth the price. The facts are that Briles interpreted his mandate from Baylor as being to win football games at any cost, including excusing and covering up utterly reprehensible behaviour by the young men under his charge (remember, these were university students, not grown men under professional contract) IF those young men helped him win football games. There are some transgressions so egregious that the person involved should, if not incarcerated, be at least barred from their profession permanently. Analogous to a lawyer being disbarred or a doctor or accountant losing their licence. The Cat management let their desire to put a good product on the field (in itself understandable) override what should have been their good judgment. It should not have taken public outcry to force them to do the right thing.

    • Well-said Marty! Obviously WAY too much emphasis was put on the football reasons and in the process they totally forgot their own values and the impact such a hiring would have on the team, league, fans and their sponsors.

  6. Randy Ambrosie, the new CFL commissioner, knew about the prospect of hiring Briles long before the public did, and he obviously did nothing at that time to dissuade the TiCats. So what does that say about Ambrosie? Just another good old boy who blew the most important call he’ll have for some time to come. People are blaming the TiCat brass (as they should), and Mitchell the TiCat President, playing his role of showing the CFL Commish in good light, said Ambrosie made the heroic recommendation to not hire Briles after the fit hit the shan, but it turns out Ambrosie was onside with the hire from the beginning, and only turned negative once the Twitter stream went ballistic. Shame on Ambrosie for ignoring this egregious misjudgement by the TiCats, he’s not much of a Commissioner and not much of a man.

  7. As a ti cat fan I take this subject of sexual violence very serious I also accept the apology from the ti cat organization and I am ready to move on . Some people will not move on and that’s fine, but just go away then and stop posting all the negatives about this whole thing . I know this already I have read 25 goddam articles with everyrones negative view on the situation. I personally don’t need all these articles to teach me that sexual violence is wrong I was raised with morals (thanks mom and dad ) Let’s get back to discussing the game of football !

  8. Can we please talk about football?

  9. Who’s gonna win Monday…how does everyone feel about Masoli getting the start . Should Zack be given the opportunity to perform under June Jones. Is Zack the future? We need answers people

    • Randy, they are moderating my comments so hopefully I don’t end up double posting here. I’m very excited to see Masoli play on Monday! I wish Zack well and hope he gets another shot, but maybe Masoli is the future of the Ticats. June Jones is not Kent Austin and maybe either one of them will shine. I haven’t seen much of Masoli but what little I have, the guy is exciting!

  10. Boys! The website published a bunch of stories that interest a lot of people. And they left comments open. If you can’t hack the stories or the comments, either grow a pair or stop reading them.

  11. Tillman was granted an absolute discharge and the “crime” albeit technically a crime was pretty clearly over the top in crown prosecutors putting this to trial.
    The judge said:
    “”In this case there’s no suggestion that Mr. Tillman is not generally of good character,” Hinds said.
    “He has no prior criminal record. His behaviour towards (the teenage girl) on Aug. 6 appears to be an aberration fuelled by his consumption of two non-prescription drugs, which he used for sleep and pain relief.”
    The judge’s decision means Tillman is still considered guilty of the offence, but he will not have a criminal conviction and will not have to meet any sentencing conditions.
    “While I’m very pleased obviously with the decision today, I want to make it very, very clear that a mistake was made and I, as I said yesterday, I assume full responsibility for it,” Tillman told reporters Tuesday outside the courthouse. “Although it was without an ounce of malice or intent, it’s a regret that I’ll take to my grave. As I said yesterday I am profoundly sorry.”
    On Monday, Tillman stood up in court and tearfully apologized to the victim, his and her families and the Roughrider organization and its fans.
    Tillman, 52, was arrested on Jan. 27, 2009 after the 16-year-old girl filed a complaint.
    On Monday, court heard that on the day of the incident, Aug. 6, 2008, Tillman attended a board meeting at the team’s facility, and board members noticed he was “acting loopy.”
    Tillman admitted that he had taken both a sleep aid and medication for back pain and was sent home, where the incident took place.
    Court heard that Tillman came up behind the teen as she bent over to feed one of the children, put his arms around her, put his thumbs through her belt loops and pulled her toward him.
    “While in that position there was physical contact that was clearly of a sexual nature,” Crown prosecutor Bill Burge told court.
    Tillman said he could not remember the incident or how he got home from the meeting.
    The teen declined to make a victim-impact statement in court, but she and her family have accepted Tillman’s apology, Burge said.”

    • Greg. Thanks. Most fans already know the story. But apparently it is necessary to put the facts on the table again.

    • Really? It was good of you to quote that whole article, but let’s have a look at this part again:
      ***
      Court heard that Tillman came up behind the teen as she bent over to feed one of the children, put his arms around her, put his thumbs through her belt loops and pulled her toward him.

      “While in that position there was physical contact that was clearly of a sexual nature,” Crown prosecutor Bill Burge told court.
      ***
      If some adult male did this to your 16 year old daughter would you consider it a minor thing? I was told – and note that this part is second hand information – that someone had walked in and witnessed this, and that interrupted things and led to the police being called. Here are a few more general facts you may not be aware of. The first time someone is convicted of a sexual offence against a child is almost never the first time they’ve committed such an offence. People who do this kind of thing are generally con artists and predators who are masters of manipulation. The other thing to note is that drugs don’t make you want to sexually assault young children. Many, many, people have either accidentally or intentionally misused drugs and have not had the urge to sexually assault a child. If someone assaults a child while on drugs it’s because of their own impulses, not the drugs. I suspect that if the drugs were a factor here in any way then they probably caused him to be careless and get caught. But these are exactly the kinds of things you would say to a male judge who may not be familiar enough with such crimes. This was Tillman’s first conviction, and he turned on the water works and cried a river, and he professed his deep remorse, but he also blamed the drugs and said he didn’t remember anything. So he says he’s remorseful, but he also says he doesn’t remember anything, so in fact he’s not really taking responsibility for anything. Tricky, just like a conman would play it. Just to be clear, I think Tillman played this so well I’m not sure the judge had any other choice, but I definitely think the league should have a zero tolerance policy for such crimes committed against children.

      • if the world had a zero tolerance which included second chances then we would ease to exist.

        this is 2017 not 1917 and people learn from their mistakes unlike your seemingly burn them at the stake mentality.

        youve been forgiven many times so how about returning the favor with some maturity

        • In general I agree with you on second chances. I very much do believe in second chances, but when it comes to the CFL and offences like this against children I draw the line. Hypothetically, if Tillman had genuinely come clean at the trial and admitted to what he did and shown genuine remorse, and perhaps agreed to undergo therapy, or perhaps agreed to chemical castration or something like that, then I would have been in favour of the judge giving him a second chance, but I probably still would not have been in favour of the CFL giving him a second chance. This is a family league and as far as the CFL goes I think he did something you can’t come back from.

    • Also think about Tillman’s football career. The guy has been a disaster everywhere he’s gone, and yet somehow he keeps getting hired! He must be a master conman indeed. Hamilton is his latest train wreck, but before that it was Edmonton, and before that Saskatchewan, and before that Ottawa. Even back in the 90s he was hired by Toronto to be their GM, the team won the Grey Cup, and Tillman was fired! The gory details of these cases include many ugly things, btw, but one overarching theme is that he lies all the time and about almost everything. He lied so much in Saskatchewan, even at times when there was nothing to be gained by it, that I honestly wondered if he was some kind of sociopath. And then you look at his subsequent conviction, and the excuses he gave, and the performance he put on, and it all fits, imo.

  12. Hahaha hahahahaha

    • YES, thanks Greg . . .

      Amicus, you assume oh so much!! and YES, many of US “FANS,” may not know the story . . . even though I DO . . . I am not so arrogant to ASS-U-ME what others know!

      Randy . . . what is so Funny 🙂 . . . there is a lot here to interpreted . . . I suggest being a bit more forthcoming here . . .

  13. I too read that story. You don’t mention what he said just after he was arrested. As I recall, he self righteously swore up and down he was NOT guilty and would clear his name. This of course left the victim as the one who accused the GM of the Saskatchewan Roughriders of sexual assault. Given his standing in the community, and how the residents of Sask feel about their riders, can you imagine what the poor kid went through all those months? Fans dumped horse manure on Paul M’s lawn for missing a field goal! There are many fanatical fans in Sask. But Tillman I assume wanted to take full advantage of his legal rights and stretch out the proceedings as long as he could – leaving the kid in the lurch. At the last moment when there were no other options, he pleads guilty and lets her off the hook after collecting tens of thousands from the Riders I assume, (since he plead not guilty) while he tried to run the team from home. These may not be the exact facts and please correct me if I’m wrong, but if it even comes close to this, what do you think of a man who would do that? A man who would use intoxication as an excuse or an explanation or whatever? If any of us get drunk and drive home we’re not let off the hook because we were loaded. The police throw the book at us and rightly so. But the GM of a pro team seems to be able to get some credit for being intoxicated when it comes to putting his hands on the babysitter.

  14. Well-said Marty! Obviously WAY too much emphasis was put on the football reasons and in the process they totally forgot their own values and the impact such a hiring would have on the team, league, fans and their sponsors.

  15. Drew, time to drop Arash Madani from this site’s writers. His tweets calling out several senior female CFL executives in the wake of this hiring were without a doubt crossing a line of decency. Until he’s dropped there is no chance I return to this site and I might be the only one, maybe not. Good luck.

  16. King tut the third of egypt // August 30, 2017 at 8:25 am //

    FIRE SCOTT MITCHELL AND SHAWN BURKE

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