Saturday, March 26, 2022

New rule: No passing around bad coaches

Art Briles, former Baylor head coach, dismissed as part of the house cleaning (that was largely a PR move) in the wake of the sexual assault scandal (see Baylor tag for more details if you are not familiar or this ESPN timeline) got a job! He was hired in February as the offensive coordinator for Grambling State University, an HBCU in Louisiana. Briles has been away from college coaching for six years now.* 

And he will continue that streak because he stepped down from that position after significant backlash in the wake of his hiring. He lasted three days; which is two and a half days longer than his stint with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League in 2017. 

I find it heartening when people push back strongly enough to prevent those who should not be given "second chances" from getting jobs in which they can continue to do damage. I find it disheartening that 1) institutions still offer these jobs in the first place and 2) that these decisions also receive praise (see this article that details communication to and from Grambling folks after the announcement of the hiring).

Grambling State did not have to walk back the offer because Briles officially resigned. But apparently learning nothing from this incident, they turned right around and offered the job to John Simon, who had previously coached at University of Memphis. Simons left the Memphis staff weeks after being placed on administrative leave in 2021 in the wake of a Title IX and sexual assault complaint. Grambling head coach Hue Jackson had already brought on Simon has an assistant coach, but elevated him to offensive coordinator when Briles resigned. 

It is not a done deal. however, because Simon needs to be approved by the University of Louisiana System board at their April meeting. A spokesperson for the UL board said it was not a rubber-stamping organization and that it would scrutinize the candidate. The UL system, however, is not a shining example of how to handle Title IX issues, so I suspect that they will come out with something like "he denies all allegations against him and was never criminally charged, so he's in!" 

This situation at Grambling demonstrates, to me, the need for some rules regulating the hiring process of collegiate coaches. The system, for all coaches--not just football, is so steeped in all the inequities that is is hard to know where to start. 

My suggestion: don't hire coaches with histories of Title IX and interpersonal violence complaints. The SEC and other conferences and/or schools have this policy as it pertains to athletes,** so why not coaches? As we approach the 50th anniversary of Title IX's passage, I have been thinking more and more about how to improve on the law's application; what other ways can it be used to ensure equity. This seems like an easy one. 

* He has coached at the high school level though. This is a somewhat tangential, but quite fascinating, article about his first season at Mount Vernon High School in Texas. 

** Rumor has it that the NCAA is looking to implement a policy where ALL intercollegiate athletes have to be vetted for violent crimes, including interpersonal violence and sexual assault. I hope to find out more about this and post about it soon. 

Thursday, March 03, 2022

The day the rowers took action

 Today marks the 46th anniversary of the Yale women's rowing team's protest of their deplorable conditions. 

This event is, of course, partial inspiration for this blog--as evidenced by the heading picture. 

This is not a particularly momentous anniversary (especially as we gear up for the 50th anniversary of Title IX this summer), but I did hear a BBC piece about it (done in 2015 but re-aired a couple of months ago) which I am using an excuse to post. 

It is short (8 minutes) but informative for those who do not know the story. It features Chris Ernst and Ginny Gilder who were part of the protest. They talk about their actions; walking into Joni Barnett's office and taking off their shirts to reveal Title IX written on their chests and backs. But they also share things that went beyond that office and speak to a dismissive culture that resulted in more than the lack of a boat house (the impetus for the naked protest). Gilder discusses how the women's team was shunned and made fun of by men when they were using the weight room, for example. 

While it is important to remember the significance of the event, we should also use it as an example--a model--for athlete activism. These women were smart and creative. They called the New York Times to get a reporter to cover the protest. They thought about potential actions ahead of time, including taking a bucket and sponge "shower" in Barnett's office, which I think would have been equally effective! They had a statement ready to read to Barnett and the press. Relatively speaking, it was a small action that caused a large effect (international press and new boathouse in less than a year!). 

There have certainly been significant and important college athlete protests and actions before and  since (Mizzou's 2015 football team protest/solidarity action against campus racism; the 1968 protest by 14 Wyoming football players against the institutional racism of BYU; and many others in intercollegiate football.) 

Students have power, but the system that is Intercollegiate Sports has effectively suppressed it. Teaching and sharing information about past protests and actions can mitigate the suppression. It would also be great to see teams act in solidarity when one team takes a stand. This happened to a degree at the start of the pandemic when athletes in the PAC-12 came together to protest conditions. It could be happening more.