TCU fan base split on potential hire of Kendal Briles as offensive coordinator

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The 65-7 loss in the College Football Playoff finale against Georgia failed to dilute the excitement building in the TCU fan base following a dream season that started 12-0 and included a Fiesta Bowl win over Michigan. Even rain streaming in from a mostly closed So-Fi Stadium in Los Angeles couldn’t dampen the promise of the future. 

The purple-clad nation of Horned Frogs was all-in. Together. Hopeful and rowing in the same direction. If this was year one, imagine what Sonny Dykes and his staff can pull off with some time. That’s all I heard in the Los Angeles airport, and from a few fans waiting next to baggage claim when we arrived back to DFW. 

And then something changed. News leaked out that offensive coordinator Garrett Riley was headed to Clemson for the same job. After a 13-2 season and a trip to the national championship game, Sonny Dykes & Co. could seemingly get the pick of the litter for its next OC. After all, the one before Riley – Rhett Lashlee – is now the head coach at SMU. Call plays for Dykes, and your career is off to the next step. 

The names that circulated were familiar. Dykes is an Air-Raid coach, after all, a descendent of Hal Mumme and Mike Leach. Possible replacements for Riley figured to be Graham Harrell or Seth Littrell or Jake Spavital or Jeff Lebby. But one name stuck out like a sore thumb – Kendal Briles. And now, the fan base is at odds with each other over the possibility of adding a Briles to the staff, at least on social media. Sources tell DCTF that Briles is the leading candidate for the gig. 

“Hiring Kendal Briles would be a slap in the face to TCU fans and an affront to common decency,” said Grant McGalliard, the co-host of the popular Purple Theory podcast that covers TCU football. “It would negatively affect the way I view the entire program. And I can confirm that I have dozens of friends who are TCU alumni that feel the same way that I do.” 

To understand the issue more, let’s look backwards. Kendal’s father, Art, was the head coach at rival Baylor from 2008 to 2015. He and then TCU head coach Gary Patterson were in what resembled a blood feud at the time. TCU and Baylor hated each other as the two long-time rivals battled for Big 12 supremacy and national respect. 

The feud ended after the 2015 season when Art was fired after the Baylor University sexual assault scandal. An independent investigation stated that the 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.” Baylor president Ken Starr and Athletic Director Ian McCaw also left Baylor amid the sandal. Kendal was the offensive coordinator at the time of the allegations. 

Art has never coached college football again. He spent some time in the Canadian and Italian Football Leagues, as well as some time as the head coach of Mount Vernon High School. He was hired early in 2022 to be the offensive coordinator for Grambling State, however, he resigned four days later after backlash related to those prior scandals. 

Kendal continued to work in college athletics. He was the OC at FAU in 2017, Houston in 2018, Florida State in 2019, and has been at Arkansas since 2020. He coaches quarterbacks, which is important because so did the departing Riley, and has been the play caller of teams that have won around 50 games in the last five seasons. He’s an excellent coach. A great play caller. And is known in the college world as a quality recruiter. But so was Art. 

“I would just think TCU’s program could easily find someone comparable in experience and success that didn’t carry the baggage, pain, and hatred that Kendall Briles does,” said one female reporter that covers the team. “It feels so unnecessary. All the good will built up over the last season – they’re putting a pin in the balloon for some people.” 

There is another side to this. Kendal Briles was never charged with a crime, and he hasn’t had any issues at his previous four stops. These events happened happened nearly a decade ago, and the misgivings of a father shouldn’t overshadow the redemption of his son. TCU added Kaz Kazadi and Carlton Buckels to the staff in Dykes’ first year – both of which were on those same Baylor staffs. TCU fans voiced some displeasure at the time, but those quickly faded as the Horned Frogs marched perfectly into the Big 12 title game and then into the College Football Playoff. Lebby, who was also on that Baylor staff, is also at the top of Dykes' list, according to a source. 

“I think a lot of people need to ask themselves why this move would cause more hurt to the program than Kaz or Buckels,” another reporter for the team said. “On the field, yes, it is worth it. He runs top 25 offenses and coaches quarterbacks at a high level. Look at what he did with KJ Jefferson. He has a great relationship with the existing staff at TCU.” 

The answer is simple, of course. It is because Kendall’s last name is Briles. If he was Kendall Smith who happened to be the OC at Baylor during that time, the volume of discontent wouldn’t be turned up to 11. And Kendal was the offensive coordinator. Not the strength coach like Kaz or a cornerbacks coach like Buckels or a running backs coach like Lebby. 

Morality is hard to hold onto in college football. Kyle Field will remain full if the Aggies are winning despite employing DJ Durkin and Bobby Petrino. Questionable character exists in most professions, including mine. Most of us understand that second chances are a necessary part of life and that a few bad decisions shouldn’t cloud your reputation to the grave. But does TCU need to do this? Do they need to hire a man with the last name of the biggest heel to the fan base in recent memory? One with plenty of baggage? That’s only for Dykes and the administration to decide. 

As for the fan base, it also has a decision. To support a program gearing up to be a true power in the new-look Big 12 or to jump ship based on a hire they don’t agree with. Those are conversations for everyone to make on their own. But a division is forming in the fan base over this possibility, and it’ll be interesting to see how the TCU brass handle the pushback when or if this hire is officially announced.  

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