Art Briles, the 63-year-old former Baylor football coach who parted ways with the university amid a sexual assault scandal at the Baptist school, has been hired to lead an East Texas high school program.
Mount Vernon ISD superintendent Jason McCullough announced Friday the board of trustees had approved a two-year contract with Briles, who was 65-37 in eight seasons with Baylor. Before coaching in college, Briles had a successful 20-year career as a high school coach in Texas.
"We are pleased to welcome Coach Briles back home to Texas," McCullough said in a statement. "He brings with him a wealth of not only football experience but also life experience. He is passionate about investing in the lives of young people and helping them to succeed both on the field and in life. After a thorough due diligence process and several earnest conversations, we believe our students will benefit greatly from his skills and experience."
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McCollough spoke with NBC 5 Tuesday about the vetting process. He said that they did not speak to any of the victims at Baylor and that the only person they spoke to connected with the NCAA was Grant Teaff, a former Baylor coach.
"We talked to people who know him personally and who were involved into that, some who we are not able to name at this time. But we really believe that the process we went through was one that our community would be proud of and one that we know we did our job with," said McCullough.
In the town of less than 3,000, neighbors are split over the decision.
"What I'm concerned about is the divide it caused. Because some of them are for it and some are against it and just creating the divisiveness is something that I don’t think is positive for the community," said former council member Jeff Briscoe.
Briles has not been able to land a job in coaching in the United States since he left Baylor. Southern Mississippi coach Jay Hopson wanted to hire Briles as offensive coordinator in February, but the school's athletic director quashed the idea. He was hired as an assistant by Hamilton in the Canadian Football League in 2017, but after public backlash the Tiger-Cats quickly rescinded the move.
Briles was hired in 2018 to coach a team in Florence, Italy.
"High school football is a Texas institution. As a coach, it's my first love. You'll make no bigger impact in this world than when you shape the lives of young people -- one practice, one game, and one life at a time. I am excited to be coaching at Mount Vernon this fall," Briles said in a statement.
Briles won four state championships at Stephenville in the 1990s, the last in 1999 before joining Mike Leach at Texas Tech. Briles was head coach at the University of Houston from 2003-2007, going 34-28 before taking over at Baylor.
Mount Vernon has never appeared in a state championship game, according to Texas Football magazine.
Briles, who led the Bears to consecutive Big 12 titles in 2013 and 2014, was fired after an external investigation revealed in May 2016 that Baylor had for years mishandled numerous sexual assault allegations by students, including some against football players.
The Pepper Hamilton firm's investigation found at least 17 women who reported being sexually assaulted by 19 football players.
Briles has insisted he did not cover up reports of assaults by players, and that he encouraged women involved in the alleged incidents to go to the police.
Baylor is still waiting for the outcome of an NCAA investigation into the school's conduct.