The Canadian Football League has long been known as a league of second chances for players.
If you screwed up in college or have a poor off-field history, the CFL often serves as a platform to prove to the NFL you can clean up your act to become a professional football player.
On Monday morning, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats extended that same opportunity to disgraced former Baylor head coach Art Briles — which is a big problem and has created an instant and rightful backlash toward the last-place Ti-Cats.
Art Briles? Do the Hamilton Tiger-Cats not think that news crosses the Canadian border?
— Bruce Arthur (@bruce_arthur) August 28, 2017
— Arash Madani (@ArashMadani) August 28, 2017
With former Grey cup-winning head coach and current Hamilton VP of football operations Kent Austin conceding his head coaching duties to June Jones, the duo announced the hiring of Briles as an assistant offensive head coach.
On the football side, the move does make sense. Art Briles’ offense at Baylor was one of the most explosive systems in the history of collegiate football.
But this hire should never have happened because of Briles’ very public moral shortcomings that ended his time at Baylor just over a year ago. The Ti-Cats organization ignored morality to bring an offensive assistant into an 0-8 club with no real chance of making the postseason.
Briles turned a blind eye to seemingly countless sexual assault accusations in his tenure at Baylor.
His firing after years of success at the school only came after it was completely evident to even his most loyal of supporters that he had lost control of his program — to the point his players were accused of 52 alleged sexual assaults over a four year period.
How the Ti-Cats — an organization that promotes itself as a family-friendly brand, like most CFL franchises tend to — could hire a man who turned a blind eye to a staggering amount of sexual assaults under his watch is disheartening.
Perhaps Ti-Cats brass hoped that Briles’ scandal at Baylor would not resonate in Canada.
If that was the case, it was a major miscalculation of the awareness those in the Canadian media have of Briles. At the worst, it is an insult to the intelligence and morality of Canadian football fans and the Ti-Cats proud fanbase.
To think there wouldn’t be recoil in response to hiring a disgraceful human being and failed leader of men, in a pitiful attempt to revive the fortunes of a winless team at the bottom of the standings, is the most concerning part of this story.
Clearly, someone within the Ti-Cats organization thought they could get away with this; just sweep the hiring of a man pleading ignorance to literally scores of sexual assault allegations against his former team under the rug.
That the CFL has been a league of second chances for players has brought the league under scrutiny in the past — particularly when those same players slip up again once in Canada. That’s the risk an organization runs offering a shot at redemption in exchange for the possibility of success.
But Art Briles is not a young football player who made mistakes as a college athlete. Briles is a grown adult who, at best, was complicit in his ignorance. At worst, that ignorance was an accepted byproduct for producing the winningest era in Baylor football history.
Some might argue that Briles deserves a chance to work in football again; maybe, but certainly not just one year removed from his disgraceful ouster.
Did the Ti-Cats really need to bring this type of attention to a team that will undoubtedly finish dead-last in the CFL’s weak East Division?
The answer is a resounding no, and now the 0-8 Ti-Cats and their dumpster fire of a 2017 season is further magnified by this moronic and morally bankrupt decision.
Both June Jones and Kent Austin — the latter a legendary figure in Canadian football as both a quarterback and Grey Cup-winning head coach — should hang their heads in shame today for putting the chance to be less terrible on the football field ahead of doing the right thing.
How long Art Briles lasts north of the border amid the immediate backlash will be revealed soon enough. If the Ti-Cats want to finish their nightmare season with their heads held high, they will backpedal immediately on this and admit their mistake to consider Briles.
If not, we will know that at least one CFL franchise values a slight competitive edge over moral decency.