A committee representing the governing body of public high school sports in Texas on Tuesday denied the appeals of two players declared ineligible on a football team led by former Baylor coach Art Briles.
A pair of 4-1 votes upheld a decision earlier this month by a district executive committee that Brock and Cameron Nellor moved to Mount Vernon for athletic purposes in violation of University Interscholastic League rules.
Briles attended the UIL's state executive committee hearing near Austin but didn't speak. Mount Vernon Superintendent Jason McCullough talked briefly to reporters, saying the school district was disappointed in the decision but respected it. McCullough and Briles didn't take questions.
"We still believe that the Nellors moved to Mount Vernon as they should have the right to, and our view still is it was not for athletic purposes but unfortunately that's what the state executive committee upheld," McCullough said.
A district executive committee voted 6-0 on Oct. 6 to declare the players ineligible, reversing a 3-0 decision three weeks earlier that had cleared the Nellors to play. Because of the first ruling, Mount Vernon won't have to forfeit the five games in which the two played.
Mount Vernon lost its first game after the players were declared ineligible and is now 6-1 with three games remaining in the regular season.
The 63-year-old Briles is in his first year at Mount Vernon after coaching overseas in Italy. The former Stephenville High School coach was fired at Baylor in the wake of a sprawling sexual assault scandal in 2016.
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The Nellors had moved from Colorado prior to the beginning of the season, enrolling at the school where Briles was hired in May. Part of the hearing centered on the role a former player of Briles, Lynx Hawthorne, might have played in the move.
Hawthorne played at Baylor from 2012 to 2016 and is married to a cousin of the Nellor brothers. He is currently working as a ground producer for a documentary on the Briles, and followed the coach to Italy before coming to Mount Vernon.
"Obviously the fact that Mr. Hawthorne was embedded in the program at Mount Vernon probably had something to do with the issue," said state executive committee chairman Mike Motheral. "That was probably the biggest issue."
Motheral said Briles and his staff were "not guilty of any kind of recruitment" in the Nellors' move from Colorado.
Briles, who led the Bears to consecutive Big 12 championships in 2013-14, insisted he handled the sexual assault scandal properly after he was fired.
An investigation by a law firm hired by the university found that members of the football staff failed to report numerous sexual assault allegations, and that school administrators encouraged victims not to report complaints.
Briles settled with Baylor for $15 million. He was denied coaching opportunities in the United States and Canada for the past three years, eventually landing with a semipro team in Italy.
The arrival of Briles in Mount Vernon has brought national attention to the town of 3,000 in East Texas, where the high school competes in Class 3A.
"When you're dealing with high-profile coaches, they're under scrutiny," Motheral said. "People are really watching. But again, we've seen nothing that coach Briles did that was anywhere close to problematic."