Following the controversial hiring of former Baylor head coach Art Briles, we asked Hamilton Tiger-Cats CEO Scott Mitchell about the team’s decision and the reaction from across North America.
Drew Edwards: Were you aware of the issues surrounding Art Briles’ tenure at Baylor before you hired him?
Scott Mitchell: We were very well aware of it and it’s been a long deliberation internally, collecting information, talking to as many people as possible, quite frankly getting the facts about things straightened away. The history is that June Jones and Art Briles have known each other for decades and June was very forthright about what the situation was and the more we contemplated it, deliberated over it – and obviously I spoke to Bob Young about it as well –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 a is a good man that was caught in a very bad situation. 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.
DE: Was the league aware of the hiring of Art Briles before you announced it?
SM: They were. I spoke to the league about it as a potential concept and had a good discussion about it, a good deliberation about it. At the end of the day, it comes down to whether a person deserves a second chance. In no way, shape or form can you diminish the clearly institutional, horrific issues that went on at Baylor. But Art was exonerated by his own university, he certainly had nothing to do with no criminal discussions or proceedings. That doesn’t excuse what went on there by any stretch or the horrific experiences that some young women went through. But as an organization we have to decide whether we’re going to give people a second chance and judge them for their own character, morality, and ethics. I can tell you there wasn’t one single person that we spoke to who knows Art Briles that didn’t think he deserved an opportunity to work in football.
DE: There are many people, including Ticats fans, who are expressing outrage about this. Are you concerned by the reaction?
SM: I’m always concerned about our fans. This is a very inflammatory subject, a very serious subject. I think our fans know enough about the organization, that we have an extremely high moral standard, we try and bring in high character people. Our history suggests that. I’m not sure we’ve had one issue since the present administration was involved. It’s something we take very seriously. It’s my hope that fans get as accurate a portrayal of exactly what happened as possible, I hope they understand that there’s the world we live in with the quick rush to judgment – which again, is not to diminish a very, very serious issue – but at the end of the day I think people would agree that people deserve second chances. We’ve proven our track record is taking subjects seriously and doing our due diligence. It’s a terribly unfortunate background to it but that doesn’t take away that people feel strongly that Art Briles is a good person who deserves the opportunity to be a coach.
DE: Given the reaction, has there been any discussion about rescinding this decision?
SM: No. We didn’t enter into this today, this has been a topic of discussion for several weeks, collecting information and making a decision. This is about giving someone a second chance and we’re committed to doing that. For every reaction that you’re getting from social media and media, there’s a tremendous amount of support behind the scenes for a tough decision. I think a lot of people in this world, including myself, have made bad decisions and have regrets and I certainly feel strongly that in this case, Art Briles deserves a second opportunity.
DE: Baylor did find that Briles and the football administration was responsible for a culture that covered up alleged sexual assaults.
SM: I think there’s a plethora of information that is not necessarily in the public realm and I think it’s dangerous to comment on what’s out there because some of it might be accurate but a lot of it isn’t accurate as to what exactly occurred. We’ve done our due diligence from a legal perspective, we understand what the findings were and in many cases, those are different than what’s been discussed in the media.
I think our record speaks for itself in terms of making good decisions about people in this organization from an ethical and character standpoint and I think everybody should understand we’ve made the decision that Art Briles deserves a second chance and we hope that we’ll get the support from our fans to give a guy a second chance as well.