The Buck must always stop at the top
Art Briles was the man in charge of the Baylor football program during a time of numerous where heinous violations of both legal and NCAA law were taking place. Lawsuits have been working their way through the system since his firing with 31 Baylor players accused of having committed more than 50 rapes and sexual assaults. While final conclusions must always be drawn after all the evidence is confirmed and a verdict rendered, the sheer volume of allegations and evidence is impossible to accept as anything but proof of a rogue program where coaches and players believed they had a free hand to break any law at any time, simply because they were part of a major college football program.
Those who did and still side with Briles, maintaining there is no way he knew what was happening in his program, are the same type of people wearing blinders in their personal and professional lives. Sadly, many times they are in management positions at small and major corporations and organizations around the world. Those who have risen to by deed or been handed by sleight of hand a position of authority over others. Those who have either never understood the need for accountability and responsibility in every facet of their lives, or who have been allowed by those above them to slide by and do “whatever it takes” to succeed.
Without getting caught, that is.
Briles broke that cardinal rule of those always seeking to get by on lies, cover-ups and failing to take responsibility for their actions. But by the time he was fired by Baylor, it was obvious he had failed to take responsibility and a true leadership role at Baylor many years earlier.
Art Briles has yet to earn a second chance
When news broke this week Briles had been hired as an assistant coach for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the CFL, fair to say ti caught a number of people off guard. Especially when one considers in the stories announcing the move, Briles’ connection to the sexual assaults at Baylor were right there in the copy.
The uproar and response from the general public was, in the words of a friend of mine who works in the CFL, “cataclysmic”. Yes, it’s a bit hyperbolic. Certainly understandable. Which is why Briles rightfully set a new CFL record for the shortest tenure of an assistant coach.
How the CFL and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats could have even started a conversation with Briles, much less announce his hiring, without knowing the intimate and very public details of what happened at Baylor is mind-numbing. It makes one wonder if anyone inside either organization is smart enough to turn on a computer, open a browser, go to Google and type in “ART BRILES BAYLOR” and watch what pops up.
My sainted Granny always taught me it was rude and impolite to call someone “stupid”. She’s correct, of course. Name calling doesn’t help anything, and the intelligent person should be able to come up with more fitting words.
So let’s leave it that more than a few people in the Tiger-Cats organization need a remedial lesson in “How to ensure the person you’re hiring for a job is the type of person you would want representing your organization and your brand”.
The Tiger-Cats public apology to their fans was indeed necessary. However, once again, it smacks of being little more than a forced apology to save face. It’s not as if everything about Briles tenure at Baylor and the words “sexual assault” were not already attached to his image.
The “accepted business” of major college athletics
I’ve been around and covered college athletics my entire adult life, and have not once known the inner workings of a program where the person in charge was completely clueless about what was happening on their watch. Many times giving their tacit approval to do whatever it takes to win, keep the money flowing, and keep the job. And there is not one single doubt that more often than not the slimy side of the major boosters not only know what’s going on, they’re involved in the crime itself with a wink and a nod.
Not as if it hasn’t been made public knowledge. covered, reported upon and discussed for decades.
Then again, if we’re discussing accountability and leadership ensuring a brand itself has a high standard and must be protected at all times by those in charge, I need to point out that the leadership at Baylor University itself needs more than a little work. Many of you will recall my comment on what happened to the Head Coach of their men’s basketball program. Sad to note there is a pattern here, one that upper management of every company of every size must pay heed to.
Your brand, your image, is the most important thing in your personal and professional life. Failure to understand and embrace that concept will cost you dearly. Besides, why would you want anything but the highest regard for your brand?
Briles hasn’t earned another chance for a disaster of his own making
As noted at the top of this commentary, the bottom line is still the saying that was on a plaque that sat on the desk of President Harry Truman.
Briles is the one who was in charge of his career and his decisions. Briles was handed a leadership role of the football program, and leadership role in any and EVERY business is the one where the buck stops with you. Period. End of story.
At the same time, a level of criticism must be leveled at the upper level management and leadership at Baylor University. It is without question unfathomable to conceive that someone or more than a few at the top knew or was just slightly aware of what was going on in that program. And again, it comes down to leadership and responsibility. It was their responsibility to act and rein in this level of arrogance and lawlessness.
Then again, in big time college athletics, much like big business, there are those willing to risk their brand and their image to make more money. College football is in most cases a license to print money. It was at Baylor, and now they’ll pay a price for their lack of accountability.
Back to Art Briles. He is the one who became so reckless and perhaps even criminally responsible in pursuit of football victories. The various lawsuits and judgements will decide that level of involvement. But the bucks stopped with him, and he failed.
Briles has no one to blame but himself for being fired at Baylor and being disgraced once again.
There is not one manner in which he should ever be allowed to coach the game at any level, much less be trusted to hold a job of any sort that comes in contact with young men and women or demands even a hint of accountability, responsibility, and indeed, leadership. It is doubtful after this episode he will ever be considered for another coaching job. His fault. No one else.
Apply what we’ve discussed here to your personal and professional lives. Understand that you make the decisions on your life. You must be liable 24/7 for your brand and your image. Your level of responsibility and accountability is something that will stay with you throughout your life, and will often be how you are judged. Especially by those you work with and work for.
Leaders make mistakes like everyone else. Yet the true leaders are those who catch them, correct them, and take responsibility if they had apart in the mistake. Honesty still remains the bedrock of your brand. And it’s up to you which direction you go.
The direction Art Briles and others at Baylor took was to win at all costs and look the other way while laws were allegedly being broken and sexual assaults were reportedly taking place.
As an individual, be better than Art Briles. As an organization, be better than Baylor University.
Be accountable, be responsible, and earn that “Undefeated Image” level of leadership.
You and your organization will reach greater heights than you could possibly imagine.