The last place Kendal Briles thought he would be 10 years ago was here, behind a desk in an office with a window looking out at the field of his then-employer’s most despised rival.
“That’s laughable,” he said. “I would never have thought this would have happened. That was 2013, when the rivalry between (TCU and Baylor) was incredibly strong.”
Ten years ago, the rivalry between TCU and Baylor was “the best” in Texas, to the point where it was nearly toxic.
Ten years ago, Kendal Briles was the wide receivers coach at Baylor, which was entering a season that would turn out to be the best in school history.
Ten years ago, Kendal Briles was an assistant with the hope that one day he would succeed his father, Art, as the head coach.
“I think God has a plan for everybody, and I can’t sit here and say my nine years at Baylor that I didn’t think I was going to be the next head football coach at Baylor, and I was going to live in Waco for the next 30 years. That’s how I saw the situation with how it was building,” he said. “I thought we were going to win a national championship very soon, whether it was 2015 or 2016, with the trajectory of the program.”
Of the hires made by second-year TCU head coach Sonny Dykes, none created the reaction like bringing Kendal Briles to Fort Worth.
TCU fans, both casual and influential, were furious that their football team would include a Briles on staff.
In May of 2016, Art Briles was fired as head coach at Baylor after a series of sexual assault allegations were made against members of the football team. He was paid nearly $17 million to leave; that agreement includes a non disclosure clause, which, much to the dismay of his friends, he faithfully observes.
Kendal and the rest of the coaching staff remained at Baylor for a contentious 2016 season, and they all left after the season ended. The only member of that coaching staff who was not hired to be a college coach again was Art himself.
In the months and years after Art Briles was fired, more information came out that how Baylor handled this ordeal was deeply flawed.
How Baylor handled Title IX issues, and specifically sexual assault complaints, at the time was a university-wide issue that was in desperate need of updating.
From a public relations standpoint, firing Briles and the staff was logical.
The most bizarre development was a small number of the board of regents who leaked edited portions of text and conversations to the media that basically made this school-wide issue appear like a football-only problem.
This included passages of conversations allegedly made by Kendal Briles to a recruit, which he has denied in previous interviews. The problem for Kendal, and a lot of members of that staff, is that these allegations and other parts of that ordeal live forever on the Internet.
In May of 2017, the school issued a letter, signed by its chief counsel, that effectively exonerates Art Briles.
Kendal has since coached at Florida Atlantic, Houston, Florida State, and Arkansas before he was recruited by Dykes to join the staff as associate head coach overseeing the offense and quarterbacks.
Like all of his former colleagues at Baylor, they were all vetted exhaustively before accepting jobs elsewhere; no AD was going to hire a member of that staff without making a lot of phone calls.
Today, Kendal Briles is married with three young children.
Having grownup in nearby Stephenville, when his dad was the head coach at Stephenville high school, he is well versed in Fort Worth, and TCU.
“For us, coming to Fort Worth was a big deal,” he said. “We used to go to the Chilis and Olive Garden there on Hulen.”
As TCU prepares to play its first game of the 2023 regular season, on Saturday at home against Colorado, its new offensive coordinator discussed his goals, and what he wants you to know about him.
Star-Telegram: Do you want to be a head coach?
Kendal Briles: Yes. Absolutely. Any time you get into any profession, whatever that is, you want to make sure that you achieve the highest status you can just to prove yourself and everybody else that you’re capable of doing it.
I’ve been in positions to lead my entire life as a player and a coach; that’s a responsibility I am ready to have, and I look forward to the day I have that opportunity.
S-T: Do you think you will get that chance?
KB: I hope so. I think I will. I’ve been close on some opportunities. These things are hard to get, not just for me, they are hard to get for anybody. I’d like to be selective with one that I could get. There are so many factors involved, and hopefully I have the opportunity to get one.
S-T: If your name is ‘Kendal Smith,’ are you a college head football coach by now?
KB: You know, I don’t know. Am I Kendal Smith who never went to Baylor University to coach? Or am I Kendal Smith that was at Auburn University? That’s different.
Any coach that came out of Baylor, whenever you are going through the hiring process and the media looks into it, they look at your lineage, they are going to see you are there during that time, I wonder if he had anything to do with it?
There is always going to be questions, anybody that was at Baylor University during that time. I’d say probably yes, with as good as we had been offensively (he would be a head coach by now).
S-T: Did you ever consider high school or pro football?
KB: No. College football to me is just different. The pageantry. The history. Saturday afternoons. I grew up watching it.
That to me has always been really cool. And my dad getting into college in that part of his career. I was fortunate to get involved, and a lot times you have to know someone to get in this business. It’s really competitive to get into it, and I was able to get into it at a young age.
There is a lot of great football out there from seventh grade to the NFL, but to me college football is the most competitive.
S-T: First memories of being around Sonny Dykes when you all were at Texas Tech?
KB: My dad was hired on coach (Mike Leach’s) staff in 2000, and I would watch the quarterbacks. Sonny Cumbie, Kliff Kingsbury. Maybe B.J. Symons. I started working out with them, and Sonny was just always around.
My dad always spoke so highly of (Sonny’s father, Spike Dykes). When we talked about Tech, it was Spike. I knew Sonny was his son. I was around the office, and as a senior in high school and talked to all of those coaches.
S-T: Everyone has a Mike Leach story. What is yours?
KB: He recruited me when I was the quarterback at (Wolfforth Frenship high school), and so any time I went to the (Tech football offices), he would corner me up and take me to his office. The biggest thing that I recall, which is not flattering story for Leach, is that he always had the biggest dip in his mouth.
I remember being a young kid, and he’d always try to spit it in his cup, and half of it would get on his shirt. I remember thinking that was not impressive, but he was funny as hell.
S-T: Every time you have taken a new job, there is an immediate, loud backlash to the announcement. You’re used to it, but how do you prepare your family for it?
KB: The people I care about it, and my family, that (reaction) really doesn’t matter. The same few that are really loud in a negative way, there are going to be some that are loud in a positive way. That’s not going to affect me either.
S-T: Have you made peace with all of it, good and bad?
KB: As you are young and try to figure out things that, me being from Stephenville, Texas, and someone shakes my hand and tells me what it is, then that’s what it is. So you really don’t know how the world works in a lot of ways.
When things like (the situation at Baylor) happen, it takes a long time to try to figure out what just happened. You are trying to figure out what’s next, and you’ve got three healthy children that are born in Waco.
That’s one of the greatest gifts God gave us was three kids born in Waco. You try to make sense with all of it; coming to peace with it, I honestly have.
I’m a Christian man, and I’m not perfect. I’m trying to do everything I can on a daily basis to be right for me and my family.
S-T: Was it your intention to return to Texas to coach?
KB: Yes. After I left Baylor I went to Florida Atlantic and coached with Lane (Kiffin). I was incredibly green the first time I went to a different university and coached with him. I learned so much from him. Same thing when I went to Houston with Major (Applewhite).
It was a big deal for me to come back, but I had an incredible opportunity to go to Florida State. That was a rough year, and then I had two options: Miami with Manny Diaz, or Arkansas for the same contract.
I loved Arkansas. Did not want to leave it. My kids still talk about it every day. It was really, really hard to leave.
I wanted to come back towards Texas, and be closer to my parents.
To have this job, with Sonny being here and his trajectory both at SMU and here. To have this opportunity, to come back to Texas, my sister is in Dallas, my parents are 2 1/2 hours down the road, it was a no-brainer.
The ‘winnability’ of this program moving forward, especially with expansion of the playoff, you have an opportunity to be in it every year. With Sonny being here and the way we should be able to win games was a huge determining factor to come here.
S-T: What do you want people to know about you as a person?
KB: A lot of times words don’t carry much weight as actions. For me, the people I care about are the people that know me. Theirs are the opinions that matters.
Everyone is going to have an opinion, good or bad, but really that opinion, unless they spend time with the person, has no value.
I’m a loving person to my family, my players and coaches I am associated with, I’m a guy that anybody you can ask is going to handle his business day in and day out.
I preach that to my players at all time. That’s what you are going to get from me.