Deion Sanders banned a Black reporter from covering his program. Eddie George had to be convinced by a white man to take a job at a Historically Black College and University. And now Hue Jackson — a man with an 11-44 record as an NFL head coach — has hired Art Briles, an alleged serial rape enabler, to his staff at Grambling State University — arguably the most historic program in all of HBCU football.
How is any of this helping HBCUs?
It isn’t. It’s making a mockery of them.
In case you forgot, Briles apparently hates women. That last sentence isn’t libel either, as Briles was fired as the head coach at Baylor in 2016 after a sex scandal discovered that the university’s former president down to Briles were looking the other way and ignoring rape allegations against numerous members of the Bears’ high-profiled football team. One former student claimed that over 50 girls had been sexually assaulted and raped by more than 30 players during a four-year span. It’s one of the vilest sex scandals college sports has ever witnessed, and it’s right up there with Michigan State and USA Gymnastics, Jerry Sandusky at Penn State, and the Robert Anderson case at Michigan. But yet, Jackson thought Briles was the right person to bring to an HBCU campus that has the slogan, “where everybody is somebody.” Briles denied knowledge of his players’ crimes but admitted to mistakes while at Baylor.
As Briles told ESPN back in 2016 about Baylor’s failure to properly address allegations of sexual assualt:
There were some bad things that happened under my watch. And for that, I’m sorry. ... I was wrong. I’m sorry. I’m going to learn. I’m going to get better.
“I’m not a fan at all. I’m very, very disappointed in Grambling, I really am,” Doug Williams, Grambling’s most iconic player and former two-time coach of the program, told The Washington Post’s Nicki Jhabvala. “I talked to the AD a couple times. They knew where I stood, but they did it and if that’s what they want to do, that’s fine. I’m out.”
As long as Briles is on staff, the program will not have Williams’ support.
“Oh, no. I can’t do that. No, no, no. If I support them, I condone it,” he said according to the report.
Jackson, however, has supported Briles for years. And despite how the school denied rumors that Briles was in play over the past two weeks, that all changed Thursday when Jackson got his way.
“I’ve gotten to know coach Briles, and he’s a tremendous offensive-minded football coach,’’ Jackson said about Briles in 2016. Jackson thought it was a good idea at the time to bring in Briles to help with the Browns offense when Jackson was the head coach in Cleveland. “I’m always looking for different ways of doing things. What happened at Baylor’s at Baylor.’’
That was the day that Jackson proved that he will work with anybody to win football games. Ironically, it didn’t work. The Browns were 1-15 in 2016.
“I truly believe (Briles) is going to get back to doing what he does at some point in time,’’ Jackson predicted six years ago. “We’ve all been kind of knocked down before, I have, too. I’ve been unfairly judged before and judged correctly, too. I try not to do that with people. I try to take people for face value and I just know I’ve met him and have talked to him extensively and whatever’s happened at Baylor, I’m not condoning or him being here says that we condone anything.’’
Every few decades, HBCUs receive the rightful attention and appreciation they deserve from the rest of the country. And that’s exactly what we’re experiencing at the moment, as HBCUs haven’t been highlighted like this since the 1990s. But with attention comes responsibility. And the decision to hire Briles is an unacceptable one given what’s happened at some HBCU campuses over the past few years. In 2019, a sorority graduate adviser who was also the executive assistant to the president at Fort Valley State University was indicted in a prostitution ring. In 2020, Jackson State’s president had to resign after also being caught in a prostitution bust. And now we have the hiring of a man like Briles. Nothing positive can come from this as HBCUs are trying to clean up their campuses when someone with Briles’ reputation and past gets hired. College campuses are places where girls and women have been fighting for their safety for decades — no matter if it’s an HBCU or a predominately white institution.
But, none of that matters. Because when you’re one of the best innovators of the spread offense, people will look the other way if it means that football games can be won.
When Hue Jackson was hired at Grambling he said he planned to stay “until they kick me out.” I hope he meant that. But, I pray that the university realizes that hiring Briles is a fireable offense and sends them both on their way. Because while that campus may be a place where “everybody is somebody,” it doesn’t mean that everybody deserves to be there.