WACO, Texas (CN) – Baylor University’s former head football coach Art Briles on Thursday denied that he participated in a cover-up, the day after a state lawmaker confirmed that the Texas Rangers will investigate the school’s persistent rape scandal.
Briles said in a statement that he “did not obstruct justice on campus or off.”
“Let me be clear, I did not cover up sexual violence,” he said. “I had no contact with anyone that claimed to be a victim of sexual or domestic assault. Anyone well-versed in my work as a coach knows that I strove to promote excellence but never at the sacrifice of safety for anyone.”
Briles said he could no longer stay silent “despite the insistence of certain people,” alluding to damning allegations that Baylor regents made in February when they answered a defamation lawsuit filed by fired director of football operations Colin Shillinglaw.
In his lawsuit in Dallas County Court, Shillinglaw claims school officials and Philadelphia-based Pepper Hamilton law firm, hired to investigate the school’s handling of rape claims, defamed him in the fallout of the investigation.
The regents fired back within days, saying Shillinglaw was “integrally involved” with player discipline in a football program that “became a black hole.” They accused Briles of personally intervening in the suspension of Tevin Elliott, who was convicted of sexual assault. They disclosed text messages, allegedly of Briles reacting to Elliott “admit[ting] he lied” about not knowing a girl he was accused of assaulting.
The regents claim a female student-athlete’s coach reported to former athletic director Ian McCaw and Briles allegations of a gang rape involving five football players in April 2013.
“Those are some bad dudes,” Briles told the coach, the regents said. “Why was she around those guys?”
Briles denounced the “rumor, innuendo and out-of-context messages, emails and comments” as having “no place in a true fact-finding mission.”
“The key to growth for the school begins with full transparency, not selective messaging,” Briles said. “To participate or, worse yet, instigate such is unfair to the victims, the accused, the programs and all of Baylor nation. I hope and pray that at some point, those feeding this disinformation will stop, and full disclosure rather than messaging misdirection will take place. It’s long overdue.”
Briles’ attorney, Ernest Cannon, of Stephenville, said Wednesday that his client would speak to the media if he could.
“Art has not spoken because of agreements with Baylor on the subject of confidentiality, but he felt like it was time to express his gratitude to the university and the students and the fans and people in Waco and tell them how he felt and how he felt about them,” Cannon told the Waco-Tribune Herald.
The scandal has claimed the jobs of Briles, former athletic director Ian McCaw and former school president Ken Starr.
Briles’ statement came two days after state Rep. Roland Gutierrez, D-San Antonio, demanded that the Texas Rangers investigate whether Baylor police or administrators obstructed justice.
In filing House Resolution 664, Gutierrez cited the school’s admission that more than 34 football players assaulted more than 52 women over the course of five years. He asked Gov. Greg Abbott to order the Rangers to investigate.
“The level of cover-up that has been both reported and also admitted at this point is appalling,” the resolution states. “Widespread evidence of obstruction of justice has come out over the last several months. We have learned examples of how Baylor University officials ‘failed to investigate, or adequately investigate, allegations of sexual violence.’”
Speaking Wednesday on the ESPN podcast “Capital Games,” Gutierrez confirmed that the Rangers have launched an investigation. He criticized Baylor’s leaders for “wholesale failure” in failing their students, particularly the victims who allegedly were “shamed and coerced” by school officials.
“It is nice to know that people are listening,” Gutierrez said. “They went off and had some preliminary investigations, made some phone calls within the Waco community and felt there was enough – just on the surface admissions made in the Pepper Hamilton report – to go forward. I am very proud that our elite team of investigators have seen that there is a need to go in there.”