Jenni: Art Briles won’t stay away from OU football? Joe Castiglione must make him

Jenni: Art Briles won’t stay away from OU football? Joe Castiglione must make him

It sure sounds as if Castiglione thought it the issue of Briles' presence around the program had been addressed. Yet, there he was Saturday, on the field in OU gear, talking to his son-in-law and Sooner offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby.

Jenni Carlson

By Jenni Carlson

| Sep 11, 2023, 5:00am CDT

Jenni Carlson

By Jenni Carlson

Sep 11, 2023, 5:00am CDT

NORMAN — Joe Castiglione normally sits in the back of the auditorium when Brent Venables does his post-game press conferences.

Not Saturday night.

Presumably, the OU athletic director had more pressing issues on his plate — disgraced Baylor football coach Art Briles was seen and photographed on the Owen Field turf at the end of the Sooners’ victory over SMU.

Late Saturday night, Castiglione issued a tersely worded statement that left little doubt about his anger about what had happened.

“I was just as disappointed as many of our fans when I learned of the postgame situation tonight,” his statement said. “It shouldn’t have happened, and it was my expectation it never would, based on boundaries we previously set. I’ve addressed it with the appropriate staff.”

Thing is, it sure sounds as if Castiglione thought it had been addressed with the appropriate staff before, and yet, there was Briles in crimson OU gear, talking to his son-in-law and Sooner offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby.

So, Castiglione must do more.

He must ban Briles from the stadium and football facilities.

Briles, you remember, was fired in 2016 after an investigation by Baylor uncovered he and other coaches mishandled sexual assault accusations brought against football players. Accusations went unreported, sometimes intentionally. The investigation determined Baylor fostered “a cultural perception that football was above the rules.”

Dozens of women stepped forward to say they were victims.

Briles has apologized but never really taken responsibility for the harm and damage he enabled.

Banning him from OU games wouldn’t be about punishment; I assume Castiglione may well dole out some form of penalty to Lebby, perhaps a monetary fine or a loss of some contractual perk. No, banning Briles is about looking out for the best interest of the football program, the athletic department and the university.

The reputation of all of them has been sullied by Briles’ presence on the field Saturday night.

A consensus of Sooner fans who took to social media since Saturday night seemed to recognize as much. They expressed disgust that he would be on Sooner soil and disdain that he would be linked to OU in any way.

Clearly, Briles doesn’t understand any of that. Or if he understands, he doesn’t care. If he cared about the Sooners, the athletic department or the university, he wouldn’t have stepped foot on that field.

Frankly, I’m not sure Lebby gets it either. According to the OU Daily, he posted a photo to his Instagram story of Briles and his family together on the field before the game. Lebby even made it his profile picture before making his account private.

Now, I’m not naive enough to believe Saturday was the first time Briles was at the stadium during a game. I’m sure he’s been in Norman plenty of times over the past couple of years to visit his daughter, his son-in-law and his grandkids.

I’m not suggesting Briles shouldn’t be allowed to come to Norman and see his grandkids.

But there’s a big difference between being at their house and being on the field after a game.

Truth be told, he might’ve been at all sorts of games last season. Might’ve even been at OU’s opener a week ago. But if he was, he stayed in the shadows and out of sight. That’s where he needed to stay.

Such a thing is possible, by the way. 

When Bob Stoops was coaching the Sooners, his mom, Dee, would make regular trips from Ohio to Oklahoma for games. She was always such a lovely person, a pleasure to talk with, but oftentimes, she came and went without anyone other than football-program types crossing her path.

I don’t think she actively avoided the spotlight, but she easily stayed out of it.

Briles could’ve done the same. Arrive after kickoff. Sit in a suite. Take the back halls. Leave before the end of the game. Stay out of the spotlight. There are a million things he could’ve done that would’ve been better.

Heck, when I was headed to the field late in the game Saturday, I crossed paths with Thunder sensation Jalen Williams. The emerging star from Santa Clara looked to be on his way out of the stadium, and while he had at least one police officer acting escort, I guarantee the number of folks who saw Williams or even realized he was at the game was minimal.

Briles could have done something similar. Should have done it, actually. Him deciding not to do so leaves Castiglione no choice but to take that decision away from Briles in the future, just as schools or teams occasionally do with fans. Run onto the field during the game? Direct a racial slur at a player? You aren’t allowed to come back.

The same should hold for Briles.

No more going to OU games.

No more access to Sooner football facilities.

No doubt this is a tough position for Castiglione as well as Venables, but they are the ones who signed off on Lebby’s hiring, even though they knew full well he was an assistant at Baylor during the sexual assault cover-up and has shown little contrition over the years for what happened. Castiglione and Venables knew Lebby’s hiring came with risk but decided to bring him on anyway.

Now, the bosses have to deal with the consequences of that decision.

Because neither Lebby nor Briles had the good sense to keep Briles off the field, Castiglione must make such a thing mandatory.

Briles carries the stain of what he was involved with at Baylor, and Saturday night, it sullied the crimson and cream. Castiglione must protect OU and make sure that never happens again.

Ban Briles.

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Jenni Carlson is a columnist with the Sellout Crowd network. Follow her on Twitter at @JenniCarlson_OK. Email [email protected].

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