This article was published in the Winter 2008 issue of The Baylor Line and written by Jerry Hill.
Former University of Houston football coach Art Briles takes over
While new Baylor football coach Art Briles is trying to put the recent history of Baylor football to rest, he’s embracing the tradition created by former coach Grant Teaff. “Coach Teaff, if I say something wrong, you let me know,” the fifty-two-year-old Briles said at his opening press conference on November 28, where Teaff was in attendance.
After Guy Morriss was fired at the end of a 3-9 season, it took athletic director Ian McCaw just ten days to pick Briles as the successor over a field that included former Baylor all-American Mike Singletary and Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Larry Fedora.
While Morriss failed to produce a winning season in five years and compiled an 18-40 record at Baylor, Briles led the University of Houston to a 34-28 record and four bowl bids in the same tenure. Briles turned around a Houston program that was 0-11 just two years before he arrived.
“Football has a storied tradition at Bay-lor, and we think Art can bring that tradition back and build upon it,” Baylor president Dr. John Lilley said at a press conference that attracted statewide media and an estimated crowd of two hundred crammed into the Galloway Suite at Floyd Casey Stadium. “And what I love about him is that he’s never satisfied. Because if you are, you’re starting down a slippery slope.”
Briles inherits a program that has suffered through twelve consecutive losing seasons under four different head coaches. Baylor is the only Big 12 team without a bowl appearance since the league’s inception in 1996, winning just eleven conference games in the last twelve years.
“I realize what has happened, but I can’t concern myself with that,” Braes said. “What I can concern myself with is getting together with these guys, starting in a new direction, and making something good happen.”
A native Texan who played at the University of Houston before graduating from Texas Tech, Briles has a penchant for turning programs around. In 1988, he took over a Stephenville High School program that had not been to the playoffs in thirty-seven years. Briles won 136 games and four state championships in twelve years there.
Briles sees some of the same things at Baylor that he walked into at Stephenville and the University of Houston. “That’s one of the things that attracted me, because the people here are hungry, and they’re committed,” he said. “Now, wanting to win and under-standing how to win are two different things. I can want to grow hair, but it’s not going to happen. So I find something else I can do.”
Including stints at Class 2A Hamlin and 5A Georgetown High School, Briles has an overall head coaching record of 201-69. He started his career as an assistant at Class A Sun-down High School and took his first head coaching job in 1984 at Hamlin, where he won twenty-seven games in two seasons and went to the state semifinals in 1985.
Leaving the high school ranks after back-to-back state champi-onships at Stephenville in 1998-99, Briles was the running backs coach for three seasons at Texas Tech under Mike Leach before taking the job at Houston.
Although he was given a reported seven-year contract for up to $1.8 million annually (including incentives), Briles said he’s not working on a seven-year plan. “We’re working on a five-minute plan,” he said.
Although Briles had not completed his staff by the Line‘s deadline, he did hire Penn State safeties coach Brian Norwood as defensive coordinator. And he was expected to bring in Houston co-offensive coordinators Randy Clements and Philip Montgomery. They also were with Briles at Stephenville and led an offense that ranked fourth in the nation this year, averaging 513.2 yards per game.