Briles' coaching return attracts crowd, no drama

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BONHAM, Texas -- Former Baylor coach Art Briles, who was fired in 2016 in the wake of a sexual assault scandal at the school, made his return to the high school sideline in Texas on Friday, saying, "I just want to coach football."

It was Briles' first game coaching in the United States since his firing more than three years ago. His Mount Vernon (Texas) High team defeated Bonham High 44-16.

Briles, 63, said he hasn't paid attention to criticism over his return to coaching football stateside.

"You know, honestly, I haven't looked or noticed," said Briles, who coached the Guelfi Firenze American football team in Florence, Italy, for one season before accepting the Mount Vernon job in May. "Y'all don't wanna believe it, but I just like to coach football. That's all I pay attention to, and that's all I've ever done. People can think and say whatever they want to think and say. I have no control over that."

Friday night marked Briles' first time coaching at the high school level since 1999. He coached high school football in Texas for 20 years before entering the college ranks as an assistant at Texas Tech, including an 11-year run at Stephenville (Texas) High that included four state championships.

Though Bonham administrators prepared for unusual circumstances with much attention around Briles, it was a mostly normal Friday night high school football game. There were no protesters. Signs weren't allowed, but administrators said nobody attempted to bring one. The estimated crowd of 4,000 came and went without incident.

The primary differences were the presence of numerous media outlets and extra security. Briles had an officer escort him to and from the locker room, and Bonham set up small metal barricades to allow the team to get to and from the field without incident.

District administrators had an earlier call time for the game and opened up the gates earlier than normal, but otherwise there was nothing out of the ordinary. Briles stopped and shook hands with numerous people as he went to and from the field pregame and postgame.

Besides the extra reporters, Bonham athletic director Ryan Prock said, "It was a normal Friday night."

Briles, who accepted the job at Mount Vernon on Memorial Day weekend but didn't arrive in town until a week before August training camp started, said he had a lot of emotions and was grateful for the chance to return.

"You know, I've got so many [emotions]," he said. "A lot of mine are personal, and nothing to do with anything that's happened other than through my father, because he coached all his life and he never got to see me coach, never got to see me get married, never got to be around me. That's the emotion I go with, because I want to share that with other people. I want them to understand how precious each day is and how you should always be grateful if you're given an opportunity.

"I've been given an opportunity at Mount Vernon High School in Mount Vernon, Texas, because of some people that believe in me, so I'm extremely grateful and thankful for them."