1. Florida State Seminoles

FSU football fans' emails on Kendal Briles hire: ’We are — or should be — better than this’

Two sexual assault victims were among those who emailed FSU officials to discourage hiring the former Baylor assistant.
Baylor offensive coordinator Kendal Briles, left, stands with acting head coach Jim Grobe during the second half of an NCAA college football game against SMU Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016, in Waco, Texas. Baylor won 40-13. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
Published Jan. 31
Updated Jan. 31

As rumors swirled that Florida State was planning to hire Kendal Briles as its new offensive coordinator, one female student saw university president John Thrasher on campus and asked to meet with him.

She had been sexually battered on campus, not far from where their paths crossed. And she had concerns about Briles, who was an assistant during Baylor’s sexual assault scandal.

“Ever since the day you became president of our university, you pledged to change the culture on our campus for the better,” the student wrote in a follow-up email to Thrasher. “For this reason, I am calling into question how the hiring of Kendal Briles will fit into your pledge.”

She wasn’t alone.

Emails obtained by the Tampa Bay Times through a public-records request show unease and even disgust among fans and alumni as FSU considered adding the former Baylor assistant. While the notes to Thrasher and interim athletic director David Coburn don’t speak for the entire fan base, they provide a window into how some Seminoles supporters viewed the move before his $1 million-a-year contract was finalized on Dec. 23.

“Since 2013, I have defended my school against those that say FSU doesn’t care about sexual assault, and was willing to look the other way when winning mattered,” one woman wrote to Thrasher.

“As a survivor of sexual assault on FSU’s campus, it makes me ill that such a hire is even rumored. I cannot and will not defend it. I refuse to support a program that would allow this kind of association on its campus and again with its football team. Please don’t break my heart by making me give up rooting for my school, and the young men striving so hard to make their better way while wearing the garnet and gold.”

The Times does not generally name victims of sexual assault.

Briles coached at Baylor under his father, Art Briles, when at least 19 players were accused of sexual or domestic assault. One of the Title IX lawsuits against the school alleged that the younger Briles asked a recruit: “Do you like white women? Because we have a lot of them at Baylor, and they love football players."

Baylor, a private university, hasn’t revealed details of what Briles or any other assistants did during the scandal. That lack of transparency concerned FSU alumni Paul and Leah Einboden, who endowed a nursing scholarship at FSU.

“He may or may not have known about … the horrific actions that took place at Baylor, but as a private institution, there isn’t enough transparency to know,” they wrote to Thrasher. “We feel that the vetting that FSU does cannot provide enough information to justify the potential downside.”

Others were more forceful with their displeasure, even though Briles had no reported transgressions during his 2017 season at Florida Atlantic or last year as Houston’s offensive coordinator.

Tara Lehan, a season ticket holder and former Richmond (Va.) Seminole Club president, told Coburn she would boycott the team. FSU fan Steven Cohen wrote that he was “disgusted” by the idea and hoped the ’Noles would not hire someone who will “once again tarnish the image of our university.”

“Simply put, we are — or should be — better than this…” FSU alumnus Steve Muscatello wrote to Thrasher. “I get that we play big time football and it's a big business — and I love watching the team every Saturday in the fall. But, in my opinion, I'd rather go 5-7 again next year without Briles than (maybe) win an extra game or two with him and take all the baggage that comes with him.”

Only two of the emails obtained by the Times had positive feedback. Both were sent by members of the board of trustees.

“Thank you for your efforts to get our program back on track,” trustee Jim W. Henderson wrote to Thrasher.

Chair Edward E. Burr chimed in a few hours later: “Optimistic this guy can help.”


  1. BYU linebacker Max Tooley (31) tackles USF running back Jordan Cronkrite (2) during the second half of last week's game at Raymond James Stadium. OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times
    Game-day guide: And Will Muschamp’s South Carolina tenure looks almost exactly like his time with the Florida Gators.
  2. Florida quarterback Emory Jones (5) throws a pass against Auburn on Oct. 5 in Gainesville. JOHN RAOUX  |  AP
    Kyle Trask and Emory Jones are thriving at Florida, while Willie Taggart is being tight-lipped at Florida State.
  3. Florida wide receiver Van Jefferson (12) celebrates his touchdown reception with wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland (89) and tight end Kyle Pitts (84) in the first half of an NCAA college football game against LSU in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) GERALD HERBERT  |  AP
    Sports Day Tampa Bay: Times college football writer Matt Baker discusses Florida-South Carolina, USF-Navy, FSU-Wake Forest and the conference already out of the College Football Playoff picture.
  4. Florida head coach Dan Mullen prepares to take the field with his players during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Auburn, Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019, in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux) JOHN RAOUX  |  AP
    Some mid-year thoughts on the Florida Gators, FSU Seminoles, USF Bulls, plus some predictions for what happens next.
  5. Clemson's Isaiah Simmons tackles Florida State quarterback Alex Hornibrook, causing a fumble during the first half of Saturday's game in Clemson, S.C. RICHARD SHIRO  |  AP
    The Tigers beat the Seminoles for the fifth straight year, this time in a 45-14 romp.
  6. Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher walks the sideline against Arkansas on Sept. 28 in Arlington, Texas. Texas A&M won 31-27. RON JENKINS  |  AP
    Plus more national nuggets, including a bright spot for Lovie Smith’s Illini.
  7. Florida Gators defensive back CJ Henderson (1) wags his finger after breaking up a pass intended for Miami Hurricanes wide receiver Jeff Thomas during the season opener. MONICA HERNDON  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Matt Baker: A running back duel at Clemson and why Jordan Cronkrite could be in for another big day for USF. Plus, Tampa Bay Times staff picks for week 7.
  8. There's nothing quite like playing at LSU's Tiger Stadium at night. JONATHAN BACHMAN  |  AP
    How does Clemson’s Death Valley compare to the one at LSU?
  9. Virginia running back Deshawn McClease (33) scores the winning touchdown during the second half against Miami on Saturday in Miami Gardens. LYNNE SLADKY  |  AP
    The Hurricanes, who trailed by 28 at one point, score three touchdowns in less then four minutes to tie.
  10. Florida State Seminoles coach Willie Taggart hugs wide receiver Keyshawn Helton as they celebrate after a beating N.C. State on Saturday. MARK WALLHEISER  |  AP
    “If they can profit from their likeness, I think that’s fair," FSU football coach Willie Taggart said last week.