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Arizona State DC Phil Bennett on Baylor past: 'Trying to move to the future'

TEMPE, Ariz. -- New Arizona State defensive coordinator Phil Bennett said he wants to move on from the ongoing controversies at Baylor, where he held the same coaching position from 2011 to 2016.

Though once a vigorous defender of former Bears coach Art Briles during investigations of the school's and football program's handling of sexual-assault cases, Bennett was measured and circumspect Wednesday in advance of his first spring practices with the Sun Devils.

"I just know what I experienced there -- that's all I can talk about," Bennett said. "I'm trying to move to the future. Right now, anything you say stirs it up."

A federal lawsuit filed in late January alleged that at least 52 rapes by more than 30 Baylor football players occurred over a four-year period. Less than a week after that, documents filed in Dallas County court in response to a lawsuit alleged that Briles and his assistant coaches actively intervened in the discipline of football players and worked to keep their cases out of the public eye.

Bennett has not been named in any of the lawsuits nor in the report from Philadelphia law firm Pepper Hamilton, which was hired by Baylor to assess the school's handling of sexual violence complaints. The firm found systemic failures in the way Baylor responded to allegations of sexual assault and other violence by students, including football players.

Bennett again denied any knowledge of reports of sexual assaults or cover-ups during his Baylor tenure.

"Never," Bennett said. "The reason I've stayed in this business for 40 years is I've never compromised my integrity ... and I've learned every place I've been."

Arizona State previously released a statement saying that Bennett had been "fully vetted through ASU's human resources department on campus."

The school also provided a Dec. 21 letter from Baylor athletic director Mack Rhoades to Bennett that stated, "I have been given no information which would disqualify you from working at Baylor University."

Sun Devils coach Todd Graham reiterated Wednesday that the vetting process was thorough and that he had full confidence in Bennett, whom he has known since 1995.

"We vet every single person who comes in in the same manner," Graham said. "Obviously, he wouldn't be employed here if he didn't go through the vetting process and we didn't get approval."

Bennett, 61, who was the head coach at SMU from 2002 to 2007, was hired by Arizona State on Jan. 11.