Art Briles Defense
Case Study 4
Although legendary Texas trial lawyer Ernest Cannon is renowned for his work representing plaintiffs in individual and class action lawsuits, he has also participated in high-profile cases as a defense attorney. The case of former Baylor University football coach Art Briles offers a prime example of Cannon’s diligence, attention to detail, aggressive representation style, and passion for bringing the truth to light under difficult and controversial circumstances.
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In 2016, Baylor University suspended Briles with intent to terminate in connection with sexual assault allegations against a member of the football team. The university alleged at the time that Briles failed to report or pay proper attention to the allegations. However, the school’s then athletic director, Ian McCaw, expressed disgust over what appeared a diversionary move by Baylor to distract from a campus-wide sexual assault problem by scapegoating both Briles and the Black football players on the team. McCaw resigned from the university in protest over the university’s actions.
Briles, who had formerly coached at Stephenville High School, turned to Stephenville Ernest Cannon for his defense. Cannon agreed wholeheartedly with McCaw’s point of view, noting:
“Baylor had a campus-wide problem. It was not unique to the athletic department. They hired a law firm, told them what they wanted to conclude, and put it off on Coach Briles…. Unfortunately for Coach, Baylor needed two things: A bus and someone to throw under it.”
Cannon immediately went to work, demanding that Baylor’s attorneys produce any and all evidence or documentation relevant to his client. His letter to the legal team stated, “The conclusion is inescapable that the motive of Baylor and the Board of Regents was to use its head football coach and the Baylor athletic department as a camouflage to disguise and distract from its own institutional failure to comply with federal civil rights protections.” Baylor ended up paying a settlement to Briles.