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.
FAU hires former FSU coach Willie Taggart
The “coaching carousel” of college football continues to spin, and for Florida State fans, they have to be pleased, as it looks like Willie Taggart will immediately take another job and not even leave the state.
Florida Atlantic is nearing completion of a deal w/Willie Taggart, source told @Stadium. Taggart would be a huge get for FAU w/his recruiting ties in the state
— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) December 11, 2019
Taggart, who was fired in November, halfway into his second season at Florida State, will be replacing Lane Kiffin, who departed for Ole Miss after Saturday’s Conference USA championship game win over UAB.
The reason Florida State fans have to be so enthusiastic is the Taggart was reportedly owed over $17 million on his buyout with four years left on his deal. However, that amount has to be lessened some, if not significantly, since he’s going to immediately take another head coaching job.
FAU made the hire official later on Wednesday night:
— FAU Football (@FAU_Football) December 11, 2019
Taggart went just 9-12 in his season and a half, which included Florida State suffering their first losing season in over forty years in 2018, when they went 5 – 7. When 2019 began with a collapsing loss at home to Boise State and then a near loss-OT victory over UL-Monroe, it seemed the handwriting was on the wall.
The final blow in Tallahassee came when Taggart’s team looked lifeless and undisciplined in their 27-10 loss to ACC instate rival Miami. He was dismissed the next afternoon.
Taggart came to FSU from Oregon, where he spent one year and went 7-5 before jumping, again, in December of 2017 to take the Noles job. He previously was the coach at USF for four seasons, where after starting 2-10 year one, he reversed that number in his final year (2016) to 10 – 2.
FAU enjoyed a resurgence under Kiffin and just won the C-USA Championship Game for the second time in three years. South Florida is obviously fertile ground for recruits and Taggart definitely has much experience recruiting the state for both the Seminoles, the Bulls and having also previously played High School football in Sarasota.
FSU coaching staff- who’s in and who’s out so far
Mike Norvell is wasting no time getting into his recruiting stride in Tallahassee, and he’s starting from the top down, with his coaching staff. So far, he’s secured two coaches that will be a part of the FSU staff in 2020.
With head coaching changes, traditionally comes a “clean sweep” of the previous coaches staff. However, Norvell’s first official hire was one of the programs most familiar faces, Odell Haggins. Norvell announced on Monday that Haggins will continue to run the Noles Defensive line and will be an associate head coach.
— FSU Football (@FSUFootball) December 9, 2019
In his announcement he said, “I’m extremely excited to announce that Coach Odell Haggins will be my first official assistant coach here at Florida State,” Norvell said. “He is an incredible representative of Florida State football, a tremendous leader and teacher and a wonderful man. His knowledge and understanding of the Nole Way will be critical in our pursuit of excellence for this football team on and off the field.”
Norvell’s next hire, announced Monday afternoon, is Auburn OC Kenny Dillingham in the same role with the Seminoles.
Source: Florida State is hiring Auburn OC Kenny Dillingham as the offensive coordinator. He worked under Mike Norvell at Memphis and Arizona State is considered one of the country's rising OC stars.
— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) December 9, 2019
The news means that Kendal Briles is officially out, who likely won’t have a hard time landing somewhere else, as one of the nations most promising OC’s, despite the lackluster year with FSU’s struggling offense.
Dillingham was preciously an assistant to Norvell at Memphis for three seasons from 2016 to 2018, before taking his job at Auburn. In his final year at Memphis he was promoted to OC, and lead an offense that ranked fourth nationally in total offense (534.3 ypg), third in rushing offense (285.5 ypg) and seventh in scoring offense (43.6 ppg).
Now on to what may be the most import hire of Norvell’s new staff, a frontman for the FSU defense. Right now, it is rumored that his third hire could be a coordinator from another SEC powerhouse. There’s lots of chatter online about the potential of Norvell landing Georgia’s current DC, Dan Lanning. While nothing has been confirmed yet, the move seems likely due to the connection between Norvell and Lanning at both Arizona State in 2012 and again at Memphis in 2016. Many Seminole fans are speculating on his potential move to Tallahassee when they noticed Lanning following FSU players and media on Twitter Monday afternoon.
Why is uga dc Dan lanning following our players 🤫 pic.twitter.com/ign0sEK2qp
— COONIE (@CooN6GoTDouGH) December 9, 2019
As of right now, it is just talk, though he certainly would be an amazing hire for FSU. Much of what undid Willie Taggart was the failure to produce a solid defensive scheme. If an announcement about Lanning’s move is made in the next couple of days, it would be an excellent first week on the job for Norvell.