Sorry it took me so long to get to this tonight, everyone. I've been on the road for the last few hours.
Earlier this evening, Craig Smoak of ESPN1660 in Waco finally asked Baylor Head Coach Art Briles directly about the rumors swirling about that job a hundred miles to the south. Briles' reaction is contained in the tweets below, and rather than embed each individually, I've pulled Smoak's entire twitter feed. If the pertinent tweets are not the latest at the time you're reading this, they start here.
If tone of voice matters to you, you can listen to the entire interview here.
As I said above, reactions to this statement, which, depending on your outlook qualifies as either encouraging or discouraging, have been decidedly mixed. Some responded immediately with repeated demands for an explicit public refutation of any interest in the job. Anything less is an indication that he is merely dancing around the issue and is actually interested. Several people even told me that his failure to say he's not leaving means that he really is and we should start talking about replacements. Others seemed somewhat placated by having the issue addressed at all. Regardless, emotions run high on this issue.
If you follow me on twitter, you probably know based on my follow-up tweets and the discussions spawning therefrom where I am: I neither expect nor think it necessary for Art Briles to deny anything at this point. After all, he probably hasn't been offered the Texas job at this point, and a preemptive denial would seem presumptive, at best. Briles' repeated positive statements about this job, this university, and the focus on Baylor's future match or exceed anything I've seen from other candidates like Malzahn, Saban, or Fisher.
Furthermore, I fail to see what Briles actually gains from coming out strongly against the idea, anyway. It is, in my opinion, a no-win situation. Those who believe that Baylor is a stepping-stool job not in the same stratosphere as Texas will continue to do so, refusing to believe anything contrary to that opinion until such time as they hire someone else. At that point, they'll say they didn't want Briles, anyway. Those who don't trust coaches in any event will continue to do that and say he's just doing it for recruiting or to deflect attention away from a job he might still take. They've seen coaches commit themselves to programs and promptly leave before. It will happen again (Todd Graham could change jobs 4-5 more times, minimum). To some, coaches are little more than mercenaries caught between lies that you love when they're wearing the right laundry. With these people in mind, I don't see the benefit to Briles of doing anything other than exactly what he's done: talking about this team, this game, and his love for Baylor University. It's the pragmatic play if you've been through this situation before and know that nothing you say will actually change any minds. Sure, we as fans would like something emphatic to help us sleep at night, but if Briles' statement that he cannot envision a scenario in which he listens to other programs in the offseason doesn't do it for you, what would?
Listen, I don't know if Art Briles is going to be the coach at Baylor University after the first day of 2014 or not. I don't know the exact amount of his buyout or whether he thinks he looks good in burnt orange. I doubt anyone outside of Briles or his immediate circle knows, if even he/they do. I wouldn't be at all surprised if he was interested in the job at Texas (making any statement to the contrary a lie), and I could formulate a pretty good argument that he should be, if he isn't. Were I to bet, based on what I know, I'd say that the chances he does coach for us are better than those that he does not for a lot of reasons, not least of which is the opening of the stadium he built to house the program he built. I also believe him when he says he is "honored and privileged" to coach at Baylor and that he wants to reach his goals here. It seems strange to me that we take his word as basically Gospel in everything except how much he loves being here. Honestly, I simply fail to see a rationale whereby he personally negotiates and signs an extension based on conditions that have been promptly met (the BANC, raises for him and his staff, etc.) only to court another school mere weeks later when, if he was truly interested, he need do neither in the first place. Is another school going to pay him more money now, with the extension signed, versus having it sitting on his desk waiting for the pen? Had he not wished to commit himself in November, he could have simply tabled discussions until the offseason, gotten Baylor's best/highest offer then, and used it to negotiate with Texas at that point, the end result being exactly the same. Call me naive if you want, a homer because I'll own it, but that he didn't do that says something to me.
And it's not just that we need some football right now.