One day after hiring disgraced ex-Baylor head coach Art Briles—and then reversing course—the CFL’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats are attempting to explain how the ill-advised decision was made.
The decision to hire Briles, who was found to have ignored credible allegations of sexual assault by his players while coaching Baylor, was met with near-universal negative reaction.
CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie met with team leadership on Monday night and convinced them to not to hire Briles. Hamilton owner Bob Young tweeted that Ambrosie “saved the @Ticats from a major blunder today” and released a longer statement Tuesday morning.
“We made a large and serious mistake,” Young said. “We want to apologize to our fans, corporate partners and the Canadian Football League. It has been a difficult season and we are searching for answers. This is clearly not one of them. We have listened, we are reviewing our decision-making processes and we will learn. We will go on. We want to thank our fans, partners and the CFL for their help and support.”
In an interview Tuesday morning on Sportsnet 590’s The Jeff Blair Show, Ticats CEO Scott Mitchell said the team was unaware hiring Briles would inspire so much criticism from Americans.
“I think what was underestimated was the vitriol that would come out of the States, which I think created a lot of the momentum behind this, for good reason,” Mitchell said. “We had to acknowledge the mistake that it just wasn’t going to work. There is no moral highground on an issue like this, second chance or otherwise.”
The team felt comfortable hire Briles after conducting its own investigation into his much-publicized misconduct, TSN’s Dave Naylor reported, and concluded that Briles was “more naive than he was willfully culpable.” Mitchell said repeatedly that the team was trying to give Briles a “second opportunity” and decided to do so after reviewing information that is “not what’s available in the public.”
“There’s the truth about what went on and there’s what is out there in the media,” Mitchell said. “I think, probably, we got far too wrapped up in what we understand happened, we understand is going to happen. We felt he deserved a second opportunity and I think, clearly that’s unacceptable to society today, it’s unacceptable to the media that have taken on the issue. I think anything related to domestic violence is, for good reason, so toxic that regardless of what limited or extreme level someone may have had in it, it’s just totally unacceptable to the public that somebody is going to be allowed to work based on that experience right now.”
Mitchell repeated this point—that “society” expressed via social media that it is not willing to give Briles another shot—on several occasions during the 10-minute interview.
“Our thought of second opportunity was misguided, because it’s clearly not acceptable and it’s not the right time, it’s not the right place,” Mitchell said. “I hope Coach Briles, at some point, gets a second opportunity. I’m not sure when or if that’ll ever come because I think clearly right now society isn’t going to accept that.”