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In Filing, Briles Accuses Baylor of Scapegoating Him in Sexual Assault Scandal

Former Baylor University head football coach Art Briles is fighting back against his sudden dismissal, arguing that he was wrongfully terminated and is being used as a scapegoat for the sexual assault scandal that has shamed the school.

Baylor University football head coach Art Briles speaks at a press conference on the Baylor campus on Sept. 6, 2014.

Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout.

Former Baylor University head football coach Art Briles excoriated the school Thursday, arguing that he was wrongfully terminated and made a scapegoat for the sexual assault scandal that shamed the university. 

He made those claims in a formal response to a federal lawsuit filed against him and the university for the handling of an allegation of sexual assault. The filing includes a letter from Stephenville attorney Ernest Cannon to Baylor that claims that Briles' firing was “in breach of his written contract" and noting Cannon has been hired in the matter. 

“The conclusion is inescapable that the motive of Baylor University and the Board of Regents was to use its Head Football Coach and the Baylor Athletic Department as a camouflage to disguise and distract from its own institutional failure to comply with Title IX and other federal civil rights laws,” the letter says.

Briles lost his job after investigators commissioned by the university found that Baylor’s football coaches or staff met women who said they were raped by football players, but the staff didn’t report the allegations to anyone outside the athletics department. As a result, the investigators said, nobody did anything to “fairly and impartially” investigate.

The investigative findings, which were compiled by the law firm Pepper Hamilton, don't mention Briles — or any other coaches — by name, but are highly critical of the leadership of the program that Briles oversaw.

“The choices made by football staff and athletics leadership, in some instances, posed a risk to campus safety and the integrity of the University,” the report said.

The letter from Briles’ lawyer says the head coach first met with investigators from Pepper Hamilton in February 2016, which was after the most recent football season ended and six months after the investigation began.

Briles’ lawyer asks in the letter for numerous documents related to the scandal. Those include all the “investigation documentation” from the Pepper Hamilton report — things like interview notes and e-mails and text messages produced during the inquiry.

Baylor didn't immediately respond to a request to comment for this article.

The letter was part of a legal filing in a lawsuit against Baylor and Briles by a woman who said a Baylor football player raped her. The suit claims that the school didn't take any action to investigate the student's claim of rape or offer her counseling. She left Baylor in 2013 after being placed on academic probation and losing her scholarship. Multiple other students have come forward with similar complaints. 

Baylor has indicated in court documents that it hopes to settle the case. In its most recent filing, it said that it is representing Briles in the issue. But Briles’ filing makes clear that he doesn’t want that to be the case and that he doesn’t want to settle.

“Prior to and since the date of the filing in the ... lawsuit, Baylor University and the Board of Regents have taken a multitude of actions that are in [direct] violation of their fiduciary duties to Art Briles and represent a clear and undeniable conflict of interest between Art Briles and Baylor University and the Board of Regents,” the letter says.

Briles was “suspended with intent to terminate” on May 26. That same day, Ken Starr lost his job as university president. Since then, some powerful Baylor boosters have reportedly argued that Briles deserves to keep his job, claiming that Starr deserves more blame for the problems at Baylor.

Under federal statute, universities are required to thoroughly investigate any claims of sexual assault among students. Disciplinary action is expected if investigators find that it’s more likely than not that an assault occurred — regardless of whether police are also investigating. And the school is expected to accommodate sexual assault victims as much as possible.

At Baylor, the Pepper Hamilton report found insufficient investigations and, at times, intimidation against women who came forward to say they had been raped. Many of those rapes involved football players, but problems were also identified in cases involving non-athletes.

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