May 26, 2024

WACO, Texas — Former Baylor football coach Art Briles testified Thursday that he had no knowledge of the domestic violence allegations made by a former student against one of his players in 2014 until she filed a lawsuit two years later, although members of his staff knew about those allegations — and reports of other issues — involving the former player.

Briles is a defendant in a Title IX and negligence trial in which Baylor alumna Dolores Lozano alleges being physically assaulted by then-Bears player Devin Chafin in 2014. Baylor University and ex-athletic director Ian McCaw are also defendants in the federal case.

Lozano, now an elected justice of the peace in Harris County, Texas, reported that Chafin physically assaulted her three times in March and April 2014, after the two, who had been dating, argued over an abortion Lozano had earlier that year.

Lozano alleges that the university’s overall failure to implement Title IX and address sexual violence put her at risk for assault and that the university, Briles and McCaw failed to properly respond to her report and caused her to be subjected to further abuse by Chafin.

Briles and McCaw first appeared in court Thursday — the fourth day of testimony — and did not answer questions about Lozano’s claims as they walked into the federal courthouse.

Multiple Baylor students have filed complaints and lawsuits against Baylor stemming from the school’s overall failures to address reports of sexual violence and the 2016 findings by law firm Pepper Hamilton that found problems in multiple university departments. The findings highlighted specific issues with the football program and led to the firing of Briles, suspension and eventual resignation of McCaw and demotion of former president Ken Starr, who died in 2022. Lozano’s is the only lawsuit from that time to make it to trial, and it is unique in that it names McCaw and Briles as individual defendants.

During testimony, when it came to football facts, Briles rattled off details with precision, even checking an attorney when he said Baylor won the Big 12 championship in 2014 by noting the Bears had actually shared that title with TCU.

But for much of his testimony, Briles pleaded ignorance. He said he had “no awareness” of Title IX when he started at Baylor in 2007 and didn’t receive any Title IX training until fall 2014. When Lozano’s attorney started to question him on something in his 2014 book, “Beating Goliath,” which is written in first-person, Briles said he didn’t know because he hadn’t read the book.

He also said he wasn’t familiar with his 2017 defamation lawsuit against three members of the board of regents, saying he “had a lawyer” and at one point he asked an attorney for Lozano, Zeke Fortenberry, “Did the suit go through?” to which Fortenberry responded, “You dismissed it.”

As for Chafin, Briles said he hadn’t been aware of Chafin’s driving under the influence arrest in Wichita Falls, Texas, in 2012, for which strength and conditioning coach Kaz Kazadi had Chafin do extra workouts. Fortenberry also presented him with a letter — with Briles’ signature — to the NCAA appealing an eligibility decision for Chafin.

“I think this is about some academic issues,” Briles said. “I would assume one of the academic advisors wrote this on Devin’s behalf and had me sign it. It’s way too in depth for something I would write.”

Briles said he might not be very aware of minor infractions by his players but that he would have been aware of any felony-level incident or major allegations. He said much of the responsibility for discipline fell to Kazadi, who would subject the players to extra workouts, hold them out of some activities, and make them show up early, but he was unaware of any written policy.

Fortenberry named four people in the football program who he said knew about Lozano’s reported assaults in 2014, including Kazadi, McCaw, assistant coach Jeff Lebby, and chaplain Wes Yeary. Briles said not one of them informed him. When questioned by his own attorney, Briles said he first heard of Lozano when she filed her lawsuit, which was in October 2016.

“If all four of your staff members knew about it, should you have known about it?” Fortenberry asked.

“Yes, sir,” Briles said.

One of the findings from the Pepper Hamilton sexual assault investigations was that football had its own disciplinary system and acted “above the rules” of the school’s judicial affairs office.

Briles said there was “a little bit of a misunderstanding” between the football program and judicial affairs, being concerned about players getting expelled for first-offense marijuana violations or getting kicked out of student housing for other infractions. But he said the football program didn’t have a disciplinary system separate from the university.

Briles said he did “give a few student athletes” the name of Waco attorney Jonathan Sibley, who Briles had said offered his services up to the program for any athletes who might need help.

Fortenberry also presented Briles with text messages he had exchanged with coaches and other Baylor employees, most of which had been made public in the 2017 defamation lawsuit, in which he was responding to other football players who were involved in criminal incidents.

The various text messages were presented as proof that Briles and others in the department tried to keep athletes away from judicial affairs, arrange attorneys for them and keep their alleged crimes under wraps.

In one April 2011 message, Briles texted with an assistant coach about a player who had received a ticket for underage drinking and he responded, “Hopefully he’s under the radar” so no one will recognize his name, and later, “just trying to keep him away from our judicial affairs folks.”

Briles testified that the player was a 19-year-old from “very minimal means” and he was worried that a sanction from judicial affairs would cause him to lose his on-campus housing.

At one point, Briles got emotional and paused for a long time before attempting to answer a question, needing to pull out a tissue to dab at his eyes. He was being asked about earlier testimony from McCaw, who said that in the days before Briles was fired in May 2016, the ex-chairman of the Baylor board of regents said that Briles was “going to take the fall” when the investigation findings were released.

Throughout the trial, Briles’ attorneys have repeatedly asked Baylor regents and others if Briles violated any policy or actively tried to discourage anyone from reporting an assault or covering up an assault, and every answer has been no.

In testimony earlier in the week, former regent J. Carey Gray said Briles was not fired because of any specific incident or action but because the board did not feel he was the right person to make the necessary culture changes to lead the board forward.

An attorney for Baylor, while questioning Briles about a presentation used to teach athletes about how to be respectful for women, asked him, “Is this something you were trying to instill in your players?” Briles said it was. “Do you recognize sometimes that fell short?”

Briles responded: “Yes.”

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