Did Baylor Look Other Way at Athlete's Violent Past?

August 24, 2015

Baylor University is facing questions and criticism about its handling of sexual assault accusations against a football player, following the publication of an article in Texas Monthly alleging that the university may have known that the player had previously been suspended from another team over violent behavior toward women. On Friday, the university announced an investigation of the situation.

Furthering the criticism, the player, Samuel Ukwuachu, was found guilty of the Baylor sexual assault Thursday, but the university -- with its lower burden of proof -- had never taken action against the player and was expected to add the rusher to its football team's rotation this season.

In May 2013, Ukwuachu was dismissed from the football team of Boise State University for "violating team rules" after a drunken dispute with his then girlfriend ended with the player putting his fist through a window. Marc Paul, the assistant athletic director at Boise State, was so concerned about Ukwuachu's behavior, Texas Monthly reports, that he urged the player's girlfriend and another housemate to stay away from him. Paul also made plans to get police protection for the housemate after the housemate received threatening text messages.

Just weeks after he was dismissed, Ukwuachu transferred to Baylor to play football there, though Boise State declined to support any waivers that would help the player get back on the field. That October, Waco, Texas, police received a call saying that Ukwuachu had sexually assaulted a female Baylor student.

In June 2014, Ukwuachu -- who still had not played a game at Baylor but was on the roster -- was indicted by a grand jury on two counts of sexually assaulting the female student. Last month, Phil Bennett, Baylor's defensive coordinator, said that the football player was still "expected" to play with the team this season. On Thursday, Ukwuachu was found guilty.

Now Baylor and Boise State coaches are involved in a very public blame game over why Ukwuachu was able to transfer. On Friday, Art Briles, head coach at Baylor, denied he was aware of Ukwuachu's history, saying there was "no mention" of any violent incidents in conversations he had with Boise State officials. Chris Peterson, the head coach at Boise State at the time, responded, saying in a statement that he "thoroughly apprised Coach Briles of the circumstances surrounding [Ukwuachu's] disciplinary record and dismissal."

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