Let’s be clear: It’s not necessarily wrong that Kendal Briles is Florida State’s highly-paid offensive coordinator. I won’t go that far, and if people have gained the impression that I think Briles has no right to be hired by schools in need of a good play-caller, I need to be more specific than I have been in the past. This informs my view of the dismissal of Deondre Francois from Florida State’s program Sunday, not too long after a post on social media accused him, again, of domestic violence:
Deondre Francois dismissed from Florida State. pic.twitter.com/NvHt6v46yo
— Andy Staples (@Andy_Staples) February 3, 2019
The more precise point I need (and needed) to make about Briles is that there is a difference between guilt and accountability, between failure and inadequacy, between bad behavior and a lack of ideal behavior. There is — or at least, there often can be — a lot of daylight between those different ends of a behavioral spectrum.
Kendal Briles isn’t necessarily a guilty man, but he IS a man, who has not yet been ACCOUNTABLE for his actions under his daddy, Art Briles, at Baylor.
Yes, Kendal Briles wasn’t at the top of an organizational structure, so he is not accountable for what happened to nearly the same degree as his father. We don’t really know everything about what Kendal Briles knew. We know a lot more about what Art Briles and former Baylor athletic director Ian McCaw knew. They were the two people most fully in charge of the program. How much should Kendal Briles’ career suffer for the sins of his father? It all depends on how much Kendal himself knew.
We shouldn’t think he is guilty, but we certainly should expect him to be accountable for what happened, and to provide an explanation for why he didn’t do enough to stem the rape culture which emerged at Baylor. Maybe his explanation would be credible, and maybe it would not be — but he at least needed (and still does need, in the present tense) — to offer that public statement which basically says:
“I am accountable for my actions and did not know about various events This does not make me a good person — I need to be better and more vigilant, and I detest what happened under my father at Baylor — but it does mean I did not witness or learn about appalling behavior and fail to address it. I am acutely aware that I cannot tolerate such behavior now or at any point in my future coaching career.”
The public at least deserves that kind of statement in conjunction with a fuller public account of his time at Baylor. If his statement checked out, by all means, he would deserve to be hired by anyone… but in the absence of that kind of public disclosure, what is a wary population supposed to think about his level of involvement in everything bad which happened under his father at Baylor?
In the absence of taking at least some ownership of the situation and making a more profound acknowledgment of the pain and trauma caused to so many young women at Baylor under a program (poorly) monitored by his own father, everyone on the outside is left to think — and possibly FEAR — the worst about Kendal Briles.
That’s the more precise point I wanted to make when I criticized Florida State’s decision to hire him. The hiring wasn’t wrong in itself; the hiring was wrong (or perhaps premature) in the context of Kendal Briles not taking sufficient public ownership or accountability for the Baylor mess. Had Kendal done so, he could have cleared up misperceptions and improved public awareness of his role (or non-role, as it might be) in that awful series of events in Waco.
As it stands, Kendal Briles still hasn’t opened up to the public in a display of sunlight and transparency a billion-dollar college sports industry ought to expect from its well-compensated employees.
Now, turn to Francois.
Maybe he has been absolutely nailed to the wall for his behaviors. He might have done something quite terrible. I’m not saying or suggesting he didn’t However: I have seen plenty of schools wait longer than roughly 14 hours to make rulings in these sorts of situations. I have seen college athletes get away with similar levels of (alleged) behavior. Why is Francois so swiftly being dismissed?
A big reason is the previous similar allegations and circumstances last winter against Francois. He ended up not being charged and played in 2018.
Willie Taggart referred in the statement Sunday to having “the highest standards” in his program. That sounds great, but this is where the Kendal Briles hire — without a public statement of accountability from the offensive coordinator — comes back to make FSU and Taggart look bad.
It’s a very familiar story in college sports: The coach stays on board with his big paycheck (Briles), while the athlete is left to fend for himself. Again, this doesn’t mean Briles is automatically guilty. It doesn’t mean Francois is innocent, either.
It DOES mean that, as we have recently seen with Silvio De Sousa and Bill Self — and other NCAA basketball cases related to a range of events, including but not limited to the recent FBI investigation into payments involving shoe/apparel companies — the coach somehow regularly manages to skate free, while the athlete gets whacked. One gets a lot more due process or benefit of the doubt than the other.
Kendal Briles isn’t necessarily guilty. One must prove that first. Deondre Francois might not have committed a crime, but he clearly seems to have demonstrated terrible judgment, again, something which — in the realm of possible sexual abuse or domestic violence — can indeed be enough to merit dismissal from an athletic program. It’s not as though Briles being on FSU’s staff is inherently or automatically bad, or that Francois being dismissed is just as automatically unfair.
That’s not my point.
My point is that when a coach and an athlete get treated in two very different ways — something which just keeps happening with ceaseless regularity in college sports — we have to stop and ask ourselves why accountability isn’t a two-way street, and why coaches aren’t held to the same standards of athletes.
That’s my point, and I hope it sticks this time.
FSU visited by Dungy and Brooks in Bradenton
FSU has spent the week practicing at IMG in Bradenton. On Wednesday, head coach Willie Taggart invited former NFL head coach Tony Dungy and Seminole legend Derrick Brooks spend some time with the team and offer a few words of wisdom after practice.
Had a wonderful time visiting the @FSUFootball team today with @DBrooks55 We talked about developing a positive culture of excellence and unity. Derrick talked about how to be a well rounded student and teammate. Thanks Coach Taggart for giving us the opportunity. https://t.co/yrWsJUbMJK
— Tony Dungy (@TonyDungy) August 14, 2019
Taggart wanted the guys to give his payers some insight on what it takes to be a part of a turn around team.
The former Super Bowl winning head coach told the team team that, if they want to see success on the field, they’re going to have to come together to do it.
— FSU Football (@FSUFootball) August 15, 2019
He ended with what it really means to be a champion, and having that championship mentality goes far beyond what you can do for your school on the field.
“Being a champion isn’t just being the best you can be on the field. Thats part of it. But it’s being the best teammate you can be, its being the best student you can be, person you can be and impact everyone. We didn’t bring you to Florida State just to win a national champion ship…Be the best person you can be for this university, for your family for your teammates, and you’ll leave a legacy here at Florida State.
You guys wanted to come to Florida State because of what these guys did. There are kids now who are going to want to come to Florida State because of what guys do. And that’s the power, that’s the fun, that’s what you’re going to really remember.”
Brooks then joined him for an extended Q&A session and told the group of guys, including his son, sophomore DeCalon Brooks, about what goes into a championship culture.
“It doesn’t take talent to have a championship culture, right? It takes effort. It takes awesome. No excuses, no explanations.” And mirroring the sentiment of Dungy he added, “that championship culture has to extend itself off the field…and we have the ingredients to be a championship-culture program.”
Coach Dungy has had a relationship with the Seminoles for a while, as Bobby Bowden was one of his role models when he began his career in coaching. And, in his time in Tampa with the Bucs, he coached two FSU greats in Brooks and Warrick Dunn.
Dungy and Brooks were foundational pieces of turning the Buccaneer program around and instilling a championship culture in Tampa Bay.
There’s no doubt that Tallahassee is ready for the return of a championship culture.
FSU Starting QB plot thickens
Many FSU fans are heading into the football season cautiously optimistic that this year, at the very least, will be an improvement from the last. Others are still questioning if Willie Taggart’s second year will look any different from the first, and that’s largely due to the fact that the Noles are just under three weeks away from kickoff with no certain QB1.
With former FSU starter Deodre Francois long gone, the battle is mainly between former backup QB James Blackman and former Wisconsin QB Alex Hornibrook. From what we can tell so far, it seems as if FSU’s offensive staff has spent much of the offseason preparing Blackman for the job, but for the most part, it still seems up in the air.
On Monday, Taggart was asked by the media if there would any benefit to deciding who is going to be the starting quarterback sooner rather than later.
His answer was vauge, but encouraging.
“It all depends on the circumstances. I think you always like to have a guy that’s your guy but we’re going to keep it competitive. Both guys are doing a great job and it’s been fun to watch. They both go in and execute the offense and I’ve been impressed because not only do they execute the offense with the ones but they get in with the twos and do that same thing. That’s impressive to me. They both are having a really good camp and we’ll keep it going.”
“We’ll keep it going” is not exactly what Florida State fans want to hear as they eagerly await for an offensive leader they can begin rallying behind.
For now, all we have to go on is what’s been happening in practice.
Brendan Sonnone of Noles247 reported on the state of the competition from practice on Monday. Here’s what he had to say about each of the guys vying for the job.
Sonnone started with Blackman, saying that he’s continuing to stand out.
“Spent 10-15 minutes watching the quarterbacks throw on Sunday and James Blackman remained the most consistent of the bunch in that viewing time. Blackman, who appears to be having fun but also quickly getting in and out of reps, was on target on every throw he made on the day. He regularly put it across the facemasks of his receiver or on their hands. Easily catchable balls.”
James Blackman to Tre’ McKitty pic.twitter.com/rqKTB2q0j0
— Noles247.com (@Noles247) August 11, 2019
As for Hornibrook, Sonnone said:
“He also knows where he is going with the ball and when to get rid of it. His main issue is that he sometimes leaves them a bit high.”
Alex Hornibrook to Jordan Young pic.twitter.com/bk3CNqdlRF
— Noles247.com (@Noles247) August 11, 2019
But, now officially in the mix is Louisville transfer, Jordan Travis. On Monday morning, it was announced that he has been officially been granted eligibility for the 2019 season.
According to Noles247, “He had one of the nicer balls of the viewing session when he connected on a vertical route with wide receiver Adarius Dent. Travis has looked to be moving around with a bit of a limp in recent days.”
Jordan Travis to Adarius Dent pic.twitter.com/UKofjCi5Nb
— Noles247.com (@Noles247) August 11, 2019
The addition of Travis into the competition is likely going to make it harder for Taggart and OC Kendal Briles to select their starting guy, but on the positive side, it’s better to have too many options than not enough.
We just hope that the right decision can be made before the season kicks off, rather than during.