Football, Fame and Misfortune

Can a 'fallen' coach be 'born again' on the playing fields of a small Texas high school?

By Longhorn Putt

AUGUST 19, 2019—I'd been thinking about putting on a page a few words about former Baylor Head Football Coach Art Briles for some time, but kept putting it off until this morning, when I awoke to read of the untimely death of former UT Longhorn star running back Cedric Benson in West Austin, the victim of a motorcycle accident.

How tragic, at such a young age (36), for any human being, regardless, fame or no fame—were my first thoughts.

Pressing those reflections in my mind, I realized that misfortune seems to me to follow famous athletes more than it does ordinary folks, like myself.  Maybe not.  Maybe it just seems that way.  Anyway, I decided to do a little research and see if I might come up with some observations worth sharing.

First off, I needed to re-inform myself about when and why Art Briles lost his job with Baylor.  As is widely known in Texas. he was hired by the Waco university after his having had an illustrious high school coaching career, particularly in Stephenville, which he coached to 4A state titles in 93, 94, 98 and 99.  He was dismissed by Baylor in 2015 following a sexual assault scandal, concerning which it was alleged he helped to cover up.

Since 2015, Briles has authored a book and in 2018 was hired to coach the Estra Guelfi, a Frenzie American football team located in Florence Italy. In May of 2019 he was hired by the Mount Vernon ISD (Texas) to be the high school head football coach.  And in June he started work in his new position. (Population of Mount Vernon: 2,890; its location, a few miles off I-30 about 100 miles east of Dallas.)

So it was that until three months ago the best known sports name in Mount Vernon was that of Don Meredith, a native son, who starred for both SMU and the Dallas Cowboys before moving on to become a popular sports announcer on ABC's Monday Night Football.

Meredith died suddenly on December 5, 2010, in Santa Fe, NM, from the consequences of a brain hemorrhage.  The football field on which Briles will coach his first 2019 home game for his 3A Division 1 Tigers on September 13, against Canton—is , yes indeed, appropriately named the Don Meredith Stadium. The first two games of the 2019 season will be at Bonham and Farmersville.

Somewhere along the line, Meredith was given the nickname of "Dandy Don," which seemed to fit him to a T.

Whether Art Briles can become "Born Again" Briles, that is the question his friends and allies are asking now.  Does he have a chance to regain a measure of the "grace" that has so unceremoniously gone from him?

Texas tradition tells me that he does, definitely.  For around the Lone Star we sports nuts love nothing more than a "comeback" or having our "underdog" team pull of the big upset, not to mention that beautiful sight we glory in when a "lesser" star, perhaps of smaller size or possessing only modest ability, pulls off an amazing athletic feat.

Whatever the Briles comeback might be, it'll not be easy.

O.J. Simpson's sins, known or unknown to the larger public, were so gross,  almost forgotten entirely is the fact that he once was regarded by many as the greatest running back in the history of the sport.  Gambler Pete Rose's chances of being selected to the Baseball Hall of Fame are next to none, despite his having the stats and credentials far better than many already n the Hall.

For her involvement in the BALCO steroids scandals, after becoming the first woman to win five Olympic medals, Marian Jones was stripped of her medals in 2007, banned from competing in the Beijing Olympics and sentenced to six months in prison and two years of probation.

There are many other "fallen" sports idols I could name.

But my point here is:  Maybe Briles is lucky.  He has a job.  He has a chance to regain a measure of both self-respect and of deserved admiration from around the sporting world.

Does his team have to win 90% of its games or a state title or two?  Would that do the trick?

It might help, but would certainly not be the "proof in the pudding."

The proof will be in the impact Art Briles will have upon the lives of the Mount Vernon youth he will be coaching and teaching, for however long that may be.

Will they know he has done his job honestly, truthfully, responsibly and to the very best of his ability? And will he have taught them, by precept and example, how to relate to their peers and others, older and younger, male and female, with decency and respect?

Excepting perhaps his family members and friends who know and love him dearly, I don't believe anybody wants Art Briles to succeed more than I do.

Go, Art!  Go!









First Practice

Dandy Don and The coach

Don Meredith Stadium
Don Meredith Stadium

Happier times?

McLane Stadium Baylor