And just like that, Kendal Briles is in the news again.
Before this past weekend, his most recent front-page headlines concerned his flirtation with Mississippi State for its offensive coordinator position. Just 10 days before the deadline to enter the transfer portal, he decided to remain a Hog and left the Bulldogs with a bunch of wasted time they’ll never get back.
It’s safe to say that a majority of Arkansas fans wondered why Briles would even consider Mississippi State given that, at best, it’s a lateral move. At the end of the day, he still had a Hog on his shirt.
Kendal Briles Next OC Candidate at TCU
Looks like that may not last for long, however, given recent reports of national championship runner-up TCU’s serious interest in him. So serious, in fact, that on Wednesday this broke:
Briles would replace TCU’s former offensive coordinator Garrett Riley, who is the new offensive coordinator at Clemson.
After TCU’s performance, or lack thereof, in the national championship game against Georgia, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Horned Frogs would not only want an offensive coordinator who has a demonstrated ability to put points on the board, but one who has done it against SEC teams — granted, Briles has managed just 10 points in two games against the Bulldogs. Plus, at least as of Jan. 6, it appeared Briles wanted to continue doing it for at least another year.
For a smart head coach like Sonny Dykes, the Abilene native certainly fits the bill, Arkansas football reporter Tom Murphy said on Hit That Line. Briles “is a Texas guy, and perhaps this is for his dream fulfillment, heading toward his ultimate goal to be a head coach. This would get him closer to there because he’s back in his home state.”
The Hogs ended the season ranked 16th nationally in total offense against a slate including eight SEC defenses and never having a recruiting class ranked in the top half of the conference.
In three seasons, Briles’ Arkansas football teams steadily increased their point production from 25.7 points per game in 2020 to 32.5 in 2022. Even though quarterback KJ Jefferson played in only 11 games (averaging 36 ppg), his passing yardage did not suffer from the loss of Treylon Burks to the NFL.
Yes, you can say Jefferson was a year older and more experienced, but you also must admit he would not have achieved that level of success without great coaching.
Why TCU Football Fans are Split
Fortunately, if you’re a Briles fan — and chances are just as good that you’re not — as a Big 12 program, TCU must weigh other things that Mississippi State didn’t care much about. Namely, the long memory of the Horned Frog faithful who recall Kendal Briles coaching under his father, Art, at Baylor.
“The Briles name carries a certain theme in TCU circles based on the rivalry between TCU and Baylor and Art Briles, and there were dust ups between Briles and Gary Patterson,” the former TCU football coach, Murphy added in his ESPN Arkansas interview. “Now, does that taint the son’s name? It really shouldn’t, but yet it’s there. So I think even if Sonny Dykes might really prefer to hire Kendal Briles, he has probably gotten some pushback [from] some prominent boosters as well.”
It’s hard to forget that the uber-successful Briles era at Baylor was a sex-related scandal not among either of the Briles, but among a number of players. Much of it was blamed on the culture that had been established during the Briles years. A lawsuit involving the case alleged 52 rapes, including five gang rapes, by 31 players between 2011 and 2014. Kendal Briles coached at Baylor from 2008-16.
There were allegations and convictions regarding incidents that were known, but went un-reported among other misdeeds. While it remains unclear as to what role Kendal might have had, his dad was fired.
Peter Bukowski, host of the Locked On Horned Frogs podcast, like many other TCU fans, doesn’t want to see Kendal Briles coach in Fort Worth. In the podcast, he cites the lack of public apologies, as well as the specter of witness tampering and victim intimidation that were assumed throughout as reasons he’s hoping head coach Sonny Dykes will pump the brakes on Briles.
The Flaw in that Argument
Trouble follows some people, and some flat out bring it with them. Kendal Briles is neither of those guys.
Since Baylor, Briles has coached at Florida Atlantic, Florida State, Houston and Arkansas. At no stop along his career path, since Baylor, has anything remotely similar occurred or even been alleged.
Furthermore, fathers and sons don’t need to search far to see the similarities and differences between themselves. Personally, my son, a senior at Arkansas, would be happy as a “pig in (bleep)” to see Briles go. Even when presented with clear evidence that Barry Odom’s defenses continuously put the Hogs in a ringer that Briles had to pull them out of, he would still rather have seen Briles than Odom take a hike.
He and I both agree that his untimely use of trick plays and inability to move the pile at times are major problems, but that’s a subject for another day. The point is that while Kendal Briles worked for his father, he isn’t the same person.
None of Bukowski’s stated reasons for passing on Briles are for on-the-field performance. They are all related to the Baylor scandal and that there seemed to be “no remorse” for what happened there. Mainly, he feels Briles is not a “risk worth taking,” and that Dykes can find someone who is competent enough without the baggage — although he fails to mention that Dykes already has two former Art Briles staffers currently employed in Carlton Buckels and Kaz Kazadi.
It’s interesting that nobody at TCU seems to be getting up in arms about the hires of Buckels, the secondary coach, or Kazadi, the strength and conditioning coach. It seems that Kendal’s last name is proving to be the lightning rod in this case.
The criticism Briles takes from Hog fans, disconnected from reality as it sometimes is, has absolutely nothing to do with what happened nearly a decade ago at a different school.
To be perfectly clear, what happened at Baylor nearly a decade ago is inexcusable, but at this point, one of the things we know for sure is that Briles was never convicted, or even charged, with a crime. When Kendal Briles was hired at Houston ahead of the 2018 season, he avoided a direct comment about the Baylor scandal:
“Judge me for me,” he said, leaving his father’s name unspoken. “I lived my whole life pretty pure, and you can judge me for what I do.”
The Briles-to-TCU reports have shown many Horned Frog fans have yet to turn the page on a controversy so many Razorback fans never cared much about, or have long gotten over.
Getting over Briles leaving Razorback Nation after broadcasting his plan to stick around just 13 days ago, however, may prove a different matter altogether.
Read more about Kendal Briles here:
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