On the one hand, it was just one sentence taken from a 20-minute press conference. Just one bullet in a multi-faceted answer. And, really, what else is he going to say?
On the other: really?
When asked about why Art Briles’s staff remained intact in the wake of his firing despite the Pepper Hamilton report implicating an unnamed number of assistants in assisting Briles cover-up the sexual assault issues in Baylor’s football program, interim head coach Jim Grobe said Tuesday:
“Well, I have to push back, again, and tell you that is not a culture at Baylor University. We don’t have a culture of bad behavior at Baylor University.”
First, the entire reason Grobe has the job he does right now is precisely because of the culture at Baylor University. Briles would still be there if there wasn’t a culture problem within Baylor’s football program.
Second, how would he know? Grobe has been in Waco less than two months.
Third, in the soundbyte, retweet world we live in, how was it not drilled into his brain to not make sweeping, defensive statements on live television?
But, okay, that was just one answer. Perhaps it gets better from there.
When asked about the daunting task ahead of him this season, this was the second paragraph of his answer:
“So from our standpoint, what I want to do is let people know that the majority of our kids are fantastic kids and their programs, the problems that we’re dealing with at Baylor or have dealt with at Baylor to this point are probably problems at every university in the country. I hate to say every one, but I’m guessing most universities are having some of the same issues we’ve had at Baylor. You can make a call as to whether you think Baylor was too strong in the way they dealt with it.”
Grobe was hired to move the program forward. That’s why he’s there. He’s the one person in the Baylor football program that doesn’t have to answer for what occurred under Briles because he wasn’t there. Every question about what happened before he arrived on May 30 should have been greeted with some variation of, “I’m excited to be at Baylor. I can’t answer for what happened before I got here. I was hired to put the past behind us and prepare this team and these players for a very challenging 2016 season.”
But to wade into the waters of moral equivalency and then suggest the school may have been too strong in its response? How was that supposed to play?
Grobe did give one insightful answer during his time at the podium, and unfortunately it doesn’t bode well for Baylor.
“I think one of our biggest challenges playing this season and going forward is numbers,” he said. “I think we are at about 70 full-scholarship kids right now. We’re allowed 85, so our numbers are down.”
Included in that 15-scholarship deficit are the top half of the Bears’ freshman class and backup quarterback Jarrett Stidham, who carried the team through November last season after starter Seth Russell was lost for the year to a neck injury.
The back half of Baylor’s schedule is tougher than most observers realize — at Texas (look at the Bears’ offensive numbers from their last trip to Austin if you think that will be a walk-over for Baylor), vs. TCU, at Oklahoma, home and neutral site dates against what should be improved Kansas State and Texas Tech teams and then a road trip to West Virginia in December to close the season. That would’ve been a bed full of rattlesnakes even for a fully healthy Art Briles team, let alone a team that starts the season down 15 scholarships and a head coach.
The first half of Baylor’s schedule — Northwestern State, SMU, Rice, Iowa State and Kansas, sandwiched around a visit from Oklahoma State — should prevent a full-on 2011 Ohio State/2013 Arkansas-style bottom-out, but this season will prove to be more, to use his word, “daunting” than Grobe likely realized when he took the job two months ago.