Baylor’s Next Coach Will Have Steep Hill to Climb to Overcome Public Outrage

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Baylor just can’t get out of its own way.

The school, the administration, the community. Everybody. 

If getting blown out by an average TCU team 62-22 at home on Saturday wasn’t bad enough, the community embarrassed itself even further by selling #CAB shirts prior to the game.

The hashtag and shirts are in reference to Coach Art Briles, who was fired prior to the season for his role in the ongoing sexual assault scandal that embroiled his program. Briles, according to the Wall Street Journal‘s most recent story on the scandal by Brad Reagan, oversaw a program that had 19 players involved in 17 domestic or sexual assault allegations since 2011, including four gang rapes. 

That image spoke volumes to Brenda Tracy, a rape survivor, activist and public speaker who was gang-raped in 1998 by football players, two of whom played for Oregon State. She told Mark Schlabach of after the game that Baylor should cancel the rest of the season to set an example. She spoke with the Baylor football team and staff this summer and is appalled at the actions—or inactions—of the community.

“The picture of that woman, and people lining up to buy them, was horrifying to me,” Tracy told Bleacher Report on Monday morning. “It was painful. I was hurt. I cried. It represented people who just don’t care about what happened to these victims. These victims’ lives have been changed forever. They will struggle. I know what that struggle is. I went through that struggle for 16 years before coming forward with my story.”

What’s even worse is that assistant coaches on Baylor’s staff—including Briles’ son Kendal (the current Bears offensive coordinator)—appear to be behind the movement.

Are you kidding me, Baylor?

The focus shouldn’t be on the past and, specifically, defending the indefensible. It should be on the future.

“I don’t think those assistants should even be there,” Tracy said. “All of the assistant coaches who tweeted out support of Briles prior to the blackout game…I don’t think any of them should be on staff.”

While speaking with Baylor over the summer, Tracy got the impression that her visit wouldn’t resonate with most of the people in power—most notably receivers coach Tate Wallis.

“Specifically, he wanted to know why I was there,” Tracy said. “He said over and over again that there was not a problem with football. This was a problem on the rest of the campus but not with football, and that Art Briles did nothing. Absolutely nothing. It was a conspiracy by everybody else to bring down the football program because everybody hated them.”

The heated discussion left Tracy with little confidence that things would get better in Waco.

“If that’s the man who’s in charge of these kids and that’s the way these assistant coaches feel, what I just said is not going to matter and will fall on deaf ears,” Tracy said. “Any good that I did during that time with the football players—which was a short time—is going to be undone. We’ve seen over time that anything that I’ve said has been undone. If that’s your leadership, then I feel bad for these guys, this team and these students.”

The future for Baylor will likely include a new head coach (although it’s possible Jim Grobe could be retained), and should include an atmosphere on campus and in the Waco community that focuses attention on preventing the program—whether Briles had a big, small or no role in covering up previous alleged crimes—from going down the same road moving forward.

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McLane Stadium in Waco, Texas

The job should be attractive when you ignore the obvious off-the-field issue: McLane Stadium, a gorgeous, 45,140-seat stadium on the banks of the Brazos River, is located in one of the top states in the country for high school football, and being a Big 12 institution brings a lot of television money and access to major bowls.

Grobe is a solid head coach, won an ACC title at Wake Forest of all places and has steered the ship well from a football perspective during his first two months as Baylor’s head coach. 

“It has everything you need footballwise,” said Scott Roussel, president of “The facilities are very good. The stadium is beautiful. The commitment from the university, donors and community is very strong. High school players only know the ‘good Baylor.’ Many (but certainly not all) high school athletes won’t understand the current issues and won’t be deterred by them. Baylor has demonstrated the ability to compete for and win conference championships…which could lead to the playoffs.”

The cons, though, are as clear as day.

“The con is the unknown that could come from NCAA issues, legal issues and whatever else comes from all that has transpired over past few years,” Roussel said. “You can’t overstate how big that ‘unknown’ looms over this search. It could have far-reaching, long-lasting impact; or it could not. That’s the problem. No certainty.” 

Who’s going to want this job if the culture doesn’t change?

An established head coach who might want a change of scenery? Absolutely not.

Can you imagine Houston head coach Tom Herman taking over this train wreck if he gets passed over by LSU and (potentially) Texas? 

Baylor has two commits in the 2017 class, both of whom are 3-star players. For perspective, Herman has 14 at Houston despite being mentioned in several actual and potential coaching vacancies. Just because Baylor is in a Power Five conference doesn’t make it a better job than some of the top Group of Five jobs out there.

Despite a slightly disappointing season, Herman knows that the support and excitement that he has helped bring to the program will keep it relevant for the foreseeable future.

Baylor is on the fast track to irrelevancy due to the unstable nature of the program and its future with a new coach. The public support of Briles isn’t helping.

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Former Baylor head coach Art Briles

What about a true up-and-comer like Western Michigan’s P.J. Fleck? After all, Fleck’s Broncos are 9-0, ranked 14th in the Associated Press Top 25 and are on the fast track toward receiving the Group of Five berth in a New Year’s Six bowl.

Nope, not likely.

He is a shining star in the coaching ranks, but there’s no way he’d risk dimming his shine by taking a job with a roster that was thinned by departures from last year’s class, is anemic this year and has to overcome a PR hurdle the size of McLane Stadium.

“Somebody over there at Baylor is going to have to take a stand, do something drastic, shake it up and say, ‘This is not who we’re going to be,'” Tracy said. “The response to everything seems to be the same: Nobody’s really doing anything and they’re not taking it seriously. They just want it to die down and go away, but it’s not going to go away.

“I’ve been waiting for Baylor to be the hero. They have set the bar as far as what not to do. There’s this horrible example of what happens when you have no institutional control and athletics runs things. They’re the perfect example of how not to handle things. They could also, on the other side, be the example of what to do. How to handle this. How to respond. How to turn it around. How to do the right thing.”

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Yet, the coaching staff and (hopefully a small minority of) fans have dug their heels in and further stained the image of Baylor University.

Why on earth would any coach, save for a washed-up has-been, step into that mess on a full-time basis?

The difference between a top-five and top-50 job these days is razor-thin, thanks to the money that has been injected into the sport over the last decade, facilities that have been built as a result and head coaches who realize that taking a small step forward just to take it sometimes backfires (see: former Buffalo and Kansas head coach Turner Gill). 

In the wake of the TCU game, #CAB T-shirt sale and statement by the assistants, a group of high-profile Baylor supporters launched a nonprofit organization demanding an overhaul of the board of regents, according to‘s Paula Lavigne. That’s a start, for sure. But it should only be the beginning.

Until Baylor cleans itself up, its new coach will be climbing up a steep hill.

“It’s so frustrating that they could be doing something to change the culture, and they are just refusing to do it,” Tracy said.

When the culture changes, Baylor will have the ability to build its football team back into a power. 

Until then, the future looks bleak.


All statistics via CFBStats unless otherwise noted. All recruiting information is courtesy of Scout. Odds provided by Odds Shark.

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter: @BarrettSallee.