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Tiger-Cats CEO cites 'tsunami of negativity' for CFL team's reversal on Art Briles hiring

College Football, CFL, Baylor Bears

Hamilton Tiger-Cats CEO Scott Mitchell cited a "tsunami of negativity" from fans and media in the United States as one of the main reasons why the Canadian Football League team reversed its decision to hire former Baylor coach Art Briles.

Mitchell addressed the controversial decision during a radio interview Tuesday with SN590 The Fan in Toronto, reiterating that he thought Briles deserved a second chance to coach. Mitchell acknowledged, however, that the Tiger-Cats underestimated the negative reaction that would follow the announcement of Briles' hiring.

"Most of the tsunami of negativity started in the [United] States," Mitchell said. "I think most of the social media activity was generated out of the States, where Art Briles and Baylor is still a very, very fresh issue. I think we clearly underestimated that. ...

"We underestimated the tsunami of negativity that was going to happen, and we made a mistake in trying to contemplate a second chance versus the impact of what had happened at Baylor. ... I think as the day went on, it just became very clear that despite the fact that most people in life believe in second chances, it just became very clear that this was just not acceptable to people."

Baylor fired Briles last year after the university's investigation of its handling of allegations of sexual assaults by students, including football players. The Tiger-Cats hired him Monday as an assistant under head coach June Jones, but announced later in the day that Briles would no longer be joining the team.

Tiger-Cats owner Bob Young released a statement Tuesday, saying that the organization was wrong in its initial decision to hire Briles.

"We made a large and serious mistake," Young said in the statement. "We want to apologize to our fans, corporate partners and the Canadian Football League. It has been a difficult season and we are searching for answers. This is clearly not one of them. We have listened, we are reviewing our decision-making processes and we will learn. We will go on. We want to thank our fans, partners and the CFL for their help and support."

Mitchell was far less contrite in his radio interview Tuesday, saying on multiple occasions that society and the media have refused to let Briles continue his coaching career.

"There is the truth about what went on [at Baylor] and then there is what is out there in the media," Mitchell said. "I think probably we got far too wrapped up in what we understand happened. ... We felt he deserved a second opportunity. Clearly that's unacceptable to society today. It's unacceptable to the media that have taken on the issue.

"I think anything related to domestic violence is -- for good reason -- so toxic that regardless of what limited or extreme level someone may have had in it, it's just totally unacceptable to the public that somebody is going to be allowed to work, based on that experience right now."

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.

Jones, the former Hawai'i and SMU coach, was named the Tiger-Cats' head coach on Thursday. Hamilton was 0-8 when former coach Kent Austin stepped down and Jones was promoted last week.

Mitchell said nobody within the organization will be fired for the initial decision to hire Briles. He also mentioned "vitriol" on social media, where "people have the ability to chime in."

"It gets to a point of negativity where you can't defend a mistake like that, where the general public has said it's not acceptable," he said. "There is no moral high ground on an issue like this, second chance or otherwise."

Mitchell also said he hopes Briles coaches again "at some point," but doubted that it will happen because "clearly right now society is not going to accept that."

ESPN's Mark Schlabach and Paula Lavigne and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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