Former Baylor football coach Art Briles -- fired last year after the university's investigation of its handling of allegations of sexual assaults by students, including football players -- was hired Monday by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League.
Former Hawai'i and SMU coach June Jones, who was named the Tiger-Cats' head coach on Thursday, hired Briles as the team's assistant head coach for offense. The Tiger-Cats were 0-8 when former coach Kent Austin stepped down and Jones was promoted last week.
"He's excited to be back in the coaching game, I believe he belongs in college football, but his skills translate to any level," Briles' attorney, Mark Lanier, told The Associated Press. "He's excited to be looking at X's and O's. He's with a great staff. He's just really thrilled about it. I think they'll find him so incredible that they'll want to keep him."
The Tiger-Cats have quarterback Robert Griffin III on their negotiation list, meaning they have exclusive rights to sign him if he wants to play in the CFL. Griffin, an NFL free agent, won the Heisman Trophy while playing for Briles at Baylor.
Briles, 61, has been out of coaching since May 2016, when Baylor officials suspended him with intent to terminate for his role in the school's sexual assault scandal. He later reached an undisclosed financial settlement with Baylor, where he coached from 2008 to 2015, posting a 65-37 record and winning a share of back-to-back Big 12 titles in 2013 and 2014.
Briles' hiring has drawn criticism from Canadian news outlets and on social media among people who have identified themselves as Tiger-Cats fans. Calls and emails seeking comment from the Tiger-Cats' executive and media communications offices have not been returned.
"The Commissioner [Randy Ambrosie] is in continuing discussions with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats regarding the hiring of Art Briles as a coach," the CFL said in a statement. "We will have no further comment until those discussions have concluded."
Tiger-Cats CEO Scott Mitchell defended the decision to hire Briles in an interview with the Hamilton Spectator.
"We just thought it was a very serious situation, but we also felt that after talking to dozens of people, people we trust, people we admire, that Art Briles is a good man that was caught in a very bad situation," Mitchell said. "Clearly, some serious mistakes were made along the way, but we feel strongly that people deserve second chances and that's what we've decided to do with Art Briles."
Mitchell added that there was no consideration to reversing the team's decision based on the backlash.
Barry's Jewelers, one of the team's sponsors, denounced the hiring of Briles.
"We strongly condemn and urge the team's management and ownership to immediately sever any ties they may have," the company said in a statement. "Mr. Briles may or may not have a valid coaching track record, but to choose the chance of winning football over the importance of values goes beyond our core values and is absolutely not acceptable."
The hiring was announced the same day the team was scheduled to host a women's football clinic.
The Tiger-Cats also made a controversial move in March 2016 by promoting Eric Tillman to general manager. Tillman, who has been with the team since 2013, pleaded guilty in January 2010 to sexually assaulting a teenage babysitter. The charge was a summary offense, which is roughly akin to a misdemeanor in the United States.
The incident happened in August 2008, when Tillman approached the babysitter as she was bent over and "put his hands on her hips with his fingers in her belt loops and pulled her toward him," according to a CBC News report and information ESPN obtained from a Saskatchewan court. The CBC report indicated that he was under the influence of a "double dose of sleeping pills and muscle relaxants" when the incident occurred.
Tillman was the general manager for the Saskatchewan Roughriders at the time.
Although he pleaded guilty, he received an absolute discharge, which in Canadian courts means there was never a conviction entered, and the court had no record of any sentencing. According to the CBC, prosecutors and the girl's parents were "not opposed to Tillman continuing his employment with the football club." But Tillman resigned as general manager just days after entering his plea.
Baylor's investigation into its handling of sexual violence complaints, amid publicity of several sexual assault and domestic violence allegations involving football players, culminated in May 2016 with the firing of Briles, the demotion of president Ken Starr and the suspension of athletic director Ian McCaw. Starr and McCaw left Baylor soon after.
Philadelphia law firm Pepper Hamilton -- which was hired by the school's board of regents to investigate whether the school properly handled allegations of sexual assault by students, including football players -- was critical of the culture within the football program and Briles' discipline of players. Pepper Hamilton's findings described Baylor's football players as being "above the rules" with "no culture of accountability for misconduct."
According to Pepper Hamilton, its findings "reflect significant concerns about the tone and culture within Baylor's football program as it relates to accountability for all forms of athlete misconduct." It also faulted the football team for not adequately vetting transfer students, including former Boise State defensive end Sam Ukwuachu and Penn State defensive end Shawn Oakman, who were accused of sexual assault at Baylor.
Ukwuachu was convicted of sexually assaulting a former Baylor women's soccer player in October 2013. An appeals court overturned his conviction in March, and the Texas criminal court of appeals is deciding whether to grant him a new trial. Ukwuachu transferred to Baylor after being dismissed by then-Boise State coach Chris Petersen in 2013. Boise State never gave details as to why Ukwuachu was kicked off the team.
Oakman, who transferred to Baylor after he was kicked off the team at Penn State, is accused of sexually assaulting a graduate student in April 2016. He has yet to go on trial to face second-degree felony sexual assault charges.
Two other former Baylor players, tight end Tre'Von Armstead and running back Myke Chatman, were indicted and arrested in March for allegedly sexually assaulting a Baylor student in 2013. Each is charged with three counts of second-degree felony sexual assault for an alleged incident that occurred when they were still playing for the Bears.
In January 2014, former Baylor player Tevin Elliott was convicted of raping student Jasmin Hernandez at an off-campus party in 2012. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Elliott also was accused of physically assaulting or sexually assaulting four other women while he was enrolled at the school.
Earlier this month, Baylor settled a federal Title IX lawsuit filed by Hernandez, who was the first student to file a lawsuit against the school. Women who say they were sexually or physically assaulted while enrolled at Baylor filed four other Title IX lawsuits; the school has settled one other case.
Baylor officials also reached financial settlements with three other women who said they were sexually assaulted while students there, including the former soccer player who said Ukwuachu assaulted her.
In an interview with ESPN's Tom Rinaldi in September 2016, Briles said he accepted responsibility for the football program's poor handling of sexual assault allegations involving players.
"There were some bad things that happened under my watch," Briles said. "And for that, I'm sorry. ... I was wrong. I'm sorry. I'm going to learn. I'm going to get better."
Briles said he understood why victims of players on his team would be upset with him.
"I'd tell them I'm extremely sorry. It just appalls me that somebody could victimize another human being. And there's no place in society for it. And I've never condoned it and never will and never put up with it," he said.
"These players are part of our program and representatives of our program. And when they do wrong, then it reflects on me and the university. So I do feel responsibility."
ESPN's Paula Lavigne and The Associated Press contributed to this report.