On Nov. 28, 2007, Baylor introduced Art Briles as its new head coach. The offensive genius from West Texas had his work cut out for him, taking over a program that had gone 35-101 in the Big 12 era, with zero bowl game appearances since 1994.
The longtime high school coach had worked wonders at Houston from 2003 to ’07, his first college head-coaching job, and he signed a seven-year contract to do the same in Waco.
“My charge to director of athletics Ian McCaw was to locate a championship-caliber head football coach who embraced Baylor’s Christian mission and could lead, inspire and win with integrity,” Baylor president John Lilley said. “Ian has done an outstanding job and brings forward in Art Briles a person who can begin a new era for Baylor University football.”
But after a damning report from law firm Pepper Hamilton to the Board of Regents on May 13 that outlined a litany of sexual assaults and violent incidents involving players, Baylor announced on Thursday that it had suspended the 60-year-old Briles with intent to terminate.
Here’s a timeline of his nine-plus years in Waco:
Feb. 6, 2008: Briles signs his first recruiting class at Baylor. The gem of the group is Copperas Cove quarterback Robert Griffin III, who’d previously committed to Briles at Houston. He’s joined in the class by future All-America receivers Terrance Williams and Kendall Wright.
Sept. 26, 2009: Griffin suffers a torn ACL in his right knee, ending his promising sophomore season after three games. The Bears struggle the rest of the way, finishing 4-8 for a second consecutive season.
Oct. 30, 2010: With a healthy Griffin, Baylor clinches its first winning season since 1995 with a 30-22 road win at Texas, improving to 7-2. Another feat: Baylor enters the AP Top 25 for the first time since 1993. The Bears would go on to lose their final four games but ended the season with another milestone: their first bowl game in 16 years.
Nov. 19, 2011: The night that put Baylor football on the national radar. Griffin connects with Williams for a 34-yard game-winning touchdown with 8 seconds left to pull off a stunning 45-38 upset of No. 5 Oklahoma. It’s the signature victory for both Briles and Griffin. The Bears finish off the 2011 season on a six-game winning streak, including a wild 67-56 Alamo Bowl victory over Washington.
Dec. 11, 2011: Griffin becomes the first Heisman Trophy winner in Baylor history. He’d leave Baylor after his junior season and become the No. 2 pick in the 2012 NFL draft.
Sept. 15, 2012: Baylor breaks ground on McLane Stadium, its new 45,000-seat, on-campus stadium. The long-overdue upgrade would replace dilapidated Floyd Casey Stadium, Baylor football’s home since 1950.
Nov. 14, 2013: Briles agrees to a new 10-year contract through 2023. Financial terms aren’t released, since Baylor is a private university. USA Today later reveals Briles made more than $5.3 million in base pay — and nearly $6 million in total compensation — in 2014, according the university’s federal tax return.
Dec. 7, 2013: In their final game at Floyd Casey Stadium, the Bears defeat Texas 30-10 to clinch their first conference championship since 1980. Though they would lose to UCF in the Fiesta Bowl, the 11-2 season still goes down as arguably the greatest in Baylor history.
Jan. 3, 2014: Despite the contract extension, Briles is still a candidate for Texas’ head-coaching vacancy after Mack Brown resigns. Briles ultimately declines to interview for the job and announces he’s staying at Baylor.
Aug. 31, 2014: Baylor opens McLane Stadium with a 45-0 victory over SMU. Final price tag for the palatial new digs: $266 million.
Dec. 6, 2014: Baylor completes its chase for back-to-back Big 12 championships with a 38-27 win over Kansas State. Though Baylor beat TCU 61-58 on Oct. 11, the 11-1 teams are deemed co-champions, and neither team makes the College Football Playoff. Baylor is ranked No. 5 by the playoff committee, TCU is 6th and the Bears earn a trip to the Cotton Bowl, where they suffer a last-second 42-41 defeat against Michigan State.
August 20, 2015: Former Baylor defensive end Sam Ukwuachu is found guilty of sexually assaulting a former Baylor soccer player. He’s sentenced to 180 days in county jail and 10 years’ probation. He served more than two months before being released on Oct. 29 on a $100,000 appeal bond.
Aug. 21, 2015: Art Briles and Chris Petersen both issue statements regarding their conversations with each other during Ukwuachu’s transfer from Boise State to Baylor. During sentencing, an ex-girlfriend of Ukwuachu testifies that Ukwuachu assaulted her while he was at Boise State. Briles and Petersen both insist they were unaware of that allegation. Records obtained by ESPN indicate Boise State had serious concerns about Ukwuachu’s mental health at the time he was dismissed.
Sept. 2, 2015: Baylor retains Pepper Hamilton LLP to conduct a “thorough and independent external investigation into the university’s handling of cases of alleged sexual violence.” Baylor president and chancellor Ken Starr releases a letter to the Baylor community a day later. “Some have concluded that we could have done more,” Starr wrote. “Perhaps so. Our independent investigation will soon reveal if opportunities exist for improvements in the way we respond to allegations of sexual violence.”
In the letter, he also defends Briles’ account of the Ukwuachu transfer.
Sept. 3, 2015: Defensive end Shawn Oakman is suspended for Baylor’s season opener at SMU due to an undisclosed violation of team rules.
Sept. 12, 2015: Oakman returns from suspension, recording six tackles against Lamar.
Sept. 18, 2015: All-Big 12 tight end Tre’Von Armstead is dismissed from the program for a team rules violation.
Dec. 29, 2015: Despite not having two quarterbacks, top running back Shock Linwood, or Biletnikoff Award-winning receiver Corey Coleman on offense, Baylor rolls to a 49-38 win over North Carolina in the Orlando Citrus Bowl. The Bears rack up a bowl-record 645 rushing yards to complete a 10-3 season. They’ve now won 50 games over their last four seasons.
Dec. 31, 2015: The former Baylor student-athlete who was sexually assaulted by Ukwuachu reportedly reaches a settlement with the school.
Feb. 2, 2016: Outside The Lines reports that Baylor school officials either failed to investigate, or adequately investigate, allegations of sexual violence made by two women against former Baylor player Tevin Elliott. Both said they were informed that as many as six women had reported being assaulted by Elliott, who was convicted on two counts of sexual assault in 2014. He’s currently serving a 20-year prison sentence. The report also reveals Baylor University took nearly three years to comply with a federal directive to hire a Title IX coordinator.
Feb. 7: Starr responds to the OTL report with a public letter entitled “Safeguarding Baylor’s Students” that details the efforts the university is making to better protect its students. “No one should have to endure the trauma of these terrible acts of wrongdoing,” Starr wrote. “We must never lose sight of the long-term, deeply personal effects such contemptible conduct has on the lives of survivors. Let me be clear: Sexual violence emphatically has no place whatsoever at Baylor University.” Baylor students hold a candlelight vigil outside Starr’s campus home the following day.
March 30: Jasmin Hernandez, a former Baylor student who reported she had been raped by Elliott, files a Title IX lawsuit against the school and officials including Briles. She claims the school knew Elliott had a history of assaults, failed to protect her and other women and ignored her when she sought help.
April 13: Oakman is arrested on a sexual assault charge. A Baylor graduate student alleges Oakman forced her to have sex with him after they met at a Waco nightclub on April 3. Oakman told police the sex was consensual.
April 14: Outside The Line reports that Baylor did not investigate sexual assault allegations made against Armstead and teammate Myke Chatman for more than two years. A Waco police report indicates it had informed Baylor officials of the off-campus incident when it occurred in April 2013. BU didn’t begin looking into the allegations until September 2015.
April 19: Briles’ last public comments on Baylor’s issues. He is asked on a Big 12 coaches’ teleconference whether he’s concerned about the number of sexual assault allegations against his players.
“Yeah, I’m always concerned anytime that something of that nature transpires,” he says. “It’s been a process to where we’re really doing all we can do to make sure our guys are at the awareness level they need to be at by giving them all the proper training with professionals in those fields to help them to know how to handle themselves at all times. It’s a situation where it’s a concern. It’s something that we’re doing with on a daily basis.”
April 25: A Waco police report obtained by a Rivals.com reporter reveals that Oakman was accused of assaulting an ex-girlfriend in January 2013. The accuser, a former Baylor student, declined to press charges. It’s unclear whether Baylor officials were notified of the incident at the time.
May 13: Baylor’s board of regents announces it has received a comprehensive briefing of Pepper Hamilton’s investigation and promises “significant decisions” will be made after carefully determining how to act upon the report’s findings and recommendations. In a statement, chairman Richard Willis says the board of regents will seek to “preserve and reinforce trust in Baylor University.”
May 26: Briles informs his players via text message of his dismissal after the board of regents made its decision to fire him.