In his first comments since resigning as Grambling State offensive coordinator mere days after the school’s athletic confirmed he was a member of the football staff, Art Briles suggested he was forced to step down from a position he held for weeks prior to any public knowledge he was actually working with the team.
“I would never step away from a chance to help young people … not voluntarily,” he said.
On Monday, with unbridled criticism mounting against Grambling amid news of his return to college football, Briles released a statement announcing that he didn’t want his “continued presence will be a distraction.”
Briles, who has been exiled from the sport at the collegiate level after he was fired from Baylor in the wake of sexual assault allegations into the Bears football program while he was head coach, told Whitlock that he didn’t want Grambling to endure an avalanche of media admonishment.
“I didn’t want Grambling to go through a media flurry that could be avoided,” he said. “I was very anxious, and very excited, and very driven to go help the Grambling Tigers and the G-Men and Coach Jackson and that university. I was presented with a situation that looked liked it was not going to happen.”
During the near hourlong appearance, Briles revealed that he had been working with head coach Hue Jackson and players for two weeks before news of his association with the program even surfaced.
“I was on campus, eating in the cafeteria and installing the offense,” said Briles. “I was on campus for two weeks, getting there early, staying late and having fun coaching ball.”
Briles said he developed a strong relationship with players and was looking forward to working with them during the season before his status with the team changed.
“That was hardest part. I already formed bonds with them and (was) looking (forward) to go into battle with them on the football field,” he said. “It was two of the best weeks I’ve had in the last six years.”
The ex-Baylor coach described being emotional following his first practice with the team to the point where “one or two” tears were shed appreciating the position he’d found himself in after being away from the game for so long.
“… Just the joy and the excitement of being back on the field,” said Briles explaining how he processed it all. “Just being back to place where I’m comfortable to where I feel like I can help and serve a purpose.”
Among the notable detractors to Briles joining Grambling was prominent alum and former head coach Doug Williams. Williams, who led the Tigers to a Black National Championship over a pair of stints on the sideline, said he wouldn’t support the program as long as Briles was there.
Briles, however, said he wasn’t aware of Williams’ comments or was privy to widespread dissatisfaction from Grambling stakeholders that he wasn’t wanted.
“I’ve never talked to Doug Williams,” he said. “I would talk with him any time just to give him an opportunity to ask any questions he wanted and get to know where my heart is.”
When ask whether such a meeting with Williams and Jackson could lead to a return to Grambling, Briles was intrigued by the prospect.
“I don’t know if there is a Hail Mary or not. I hope so. You hate to say its over,” said Briles. “I’ve learned the last few years to remain faithful and hopeful and always ready.”
The 66-year-old coach joked that “we would have cut this interview short” if Grambling greenlighted a reunion.
Briles maintained that Jackson reaching out to him was in the football program’s best interest — something that attracted him to the job when it was offered.
“He’s (Jackson) just trying to do the best for Grambling (State) University and that’s what I’m all about, too,” he said. “It’s sad that it didn’t work out.”