WACO -- Jim Grobe made no questions of his primary concern when he took the stand for the first time as Baylor acting head coach on Friday.
“Baylor athletic department’s priorities are being realigned to ensure they are in order,” Grobe said. “The No. 1 priority is making sure the students on campus can live in a safe environment.”
Grobe takes over a program in turmoil after the firing of Art Briles following questions of misconduct surrounding instances of sexual assault. The former Wake Forest leader is a renowned football coach, compiling a 100-105-1 record at two of the worst football institutions in the nation (Wake Forest and Ohio). More importantly, he provides a steadying presence.
“It feels somewhat a calling to be honest with you,” Grobe said of taking over the Baylor job.
After hearing of how he get here, that should come as no surprise. Grobe served as chair of the AFCA ethics committee for seven seasons under legendary Baylor coach Grant Teaff. The night Briles was fired, Grobe was entering a Publix back home. Teaff was on the phone, and asked to come interview for the job in Dallas.
“There’s an uncomfortable side to Coach Teaff,” Grobe said. “I agreed to chair his ethics committee for three years. Every year after that, it was ‘coach, can you just stay on one more year’ over and over again for seven years.
“There’s not a man I respect more in college football than Grant Teaff. I can’t say no to him.”
Now, Grobe’s focus moves to the 2016 signing class, where Baylor has seven kids who want out of their national letters of intent. Baylor has emphasized that it wants to meet with the players before that happens. However, some do not seem to want to wait.
Collis Cobb, the father of four-star cornerback Parrish Cobb, was waiting outside McLane Stadium and stopped every media member that came out.
“Next time you’re in a press conference with Coach Grobe, please ask when he is going to release my son, Parrish Cobb,” Collis asked me, and every other media member who walked out.
It was a bizarre move for a signee who is in a bizarre situation. Parrish, like Kameron Martin and a few others, have made clear that they have no interest in being in Waco. Grobe has his work cut out to keep these players on campus. He must also try to salvage the 2017 class, which dropped from six commitments to one after the Briles news broke.
Interim athletic director Todd Patulski, the former deputy for Ian McCaw before his resignation, said that Baylor cannot give conditional releases from NLIs. Any player released would be free to enroll anywhere.
Grobe’s contract is only through January 2017, so he is expected to be released after his season as an interim coach. However, he did express openness to being in Waco long-term.
“We’re fully focused on 2016 at this point,” Grobe said. “If things go well, I like coaching. Beyond 2016, I Would be blessed to have an opportunity to keep coaching here.”
Baylor returns elite skill players and has the talent to be much improved defensively. The 2016 season could still be special if Baylor stays consistent under Grobe and the assistant coaching staff, who are all expected to return. Grobe also said that he does not expect to touch the offense or defense – rather, he hopes to act as a CEO.
However, Grobe made clear that winning is not how he wants his football tenure at Baylor to be judged.
“Winning is a very, very important thing,” Grobe said. “But not at the expense of character and integrity.”