WACO, Texas (AP) — Working for dad can be tricky, no matter the profession. At Baylor, where the Briles’ family business is scoring touchdowns and winning Big 12 titles, just how difficult that could become is about to be tested.
Bears coach Art Briles is putting his son in charge of the most productive offense in the nation. Kendal Briles, 32, will be the one of youngest offensive coordinators in major college football. It is as if he is getting the keys to pop’s car — and the car is a Maserati. If it wrecks, don’t be surprised if Baylor fans are looking for the head coach to ground his kid.
“There’s obviously added pressure there,” said Kendal Briles, who will also be quarterbacks coach in his eighth season working for his father.
Similar moves have caused headaches for some of the most accomplished coaches in college football, including Bobby Bowden and Joe Paterno. That has not gone unnoticed by Art Briles.
“It certainly intensifies the situation, which I am acutely aware of,” he said. “I understand that. But at the end of the day it’s all about acquired opportunity. He’s earned this position.
“I wanted energetic. I wanted creativeness. I wanted fearlessness. And then I wanted somebody who understood our tempo. He brings it all to the table.”
Football has always been a father-son production for the Briles family. Art Briles played quarterback for his father in high school and vowed he would never coach his own son. And then he did — at Stephenville High School and in college at Houston.
Kendal Briles said playing for his father prepared him to work for him, especially when as a sophomore in high school he started at safety and returned kicks on the varsity. He knew there were some who wondered if he earned it.
“I mean, I didn’t feel it. I heard it,” Kendal said. “It was hard on me. It was hard on, I’m sure, my dad. When you’re in a one-horse town like Stephenville, where the town’s kind of centered around Stephenville football, you’ve got the head football coach and his son’s coming up, now if this guy’s going to be the starter, well he better be dang good if Coach Briles is going to make that decision.”
A clear separation between home and football has been a necessity.
“You call me coach. You don’t call me dad. I’m your coach,” Art Briles said, describing the first rule they put in place.
Kendal moved to quarterback his junior season at Stephenville. Briles & Briles led the school to a state title and nobody complained.
“If you do hire a family member you better be successful, because if you don’t people are going to find a reason (to say), ‘Well, hired his own child. Should have hired somebody else,'” former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden said.
Bowden, who won 377 games at West Virginia and Florida State, had three sons work for him at different points.
Bowden’s youngest son, Jeff, spent the longest time on his father’s staff. Like Kendal Briles, Jeff Bowden started as receivers coach and moved up to offensive coordinator.
Jeff Bowden’s ascension coincided with Florida State’s demise in the early 2000s after years of national title contention. Jeff Bowden drew the ire of fans and his father was accused of nepotism. Jeff Bowden resigned under pressure during the 2006 season.
“I doubt if I’d have ever fired him. Ever,” Bobby Bowden said. “Lot of stuff he got blamed for that wasn’t his fault.”
Jay Paterno faced a similar situation at Penn State. Joe Paterno hired his son as an assistant in 1995 and eventually promoted him to quarterbacks coach. Soon after, Penn State began a string of four losing seasons in five years during which the offense was often the chief culprit.
And when the father is a living legend, the son gets the grief.
“My dad was realistic,” Jay Paterno said. “He said, ‘Look you’ve got to understand this comes with the territory. And if they can’t criticize me or go after me, they’re going to go after you because you’re the next easiest target.'”
Baylor’s hurry up, no-huddle spread offense has led the nation in yards per game and points per game the last two seasons while winning back-to-back Big 12 titles with Philip Montgomery as offensive coordinator, quarterbacks coach and primary play-caller.
After Montgomery left to become head coach at Tulsa, Art Briles quickly promoted Kendal, who called plays in a 42-41 loss in the Cotton Bowl to Michigan State in which offense was not a problem.
“If I didn’t hire him somebody else was going to,” Art said of Kendal, who has already built a reputation as one of the best recruiters in the Big 12.
Jan Briles said her husband and son’s shared competitiveness makes the professional relationship work.
“They’ve got one goal: They want to be successful. They want to win. And I think that trumps everything because they’re both very driven,” she said. “If (Kendal) doesn’t perform well and things go badly, he’s going to get the same treatment as anybody else.”
That doesn’t mean she wants to be in the middle of it. Art Briles understands this could get uncomfortable.
“It’s a concern. I’ll be honest,” he said, joking that the last place he’ll find support is with Jan if something goes wrong.
“She’s on his side. She’s not on my side. I’m not finishing first on that,” Art Briles said. “That’s OK, too, because the dog’s in front of me and the grandchildren.”
Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP
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