Recap of the Ukwuachu Drama, And Next Steps
If you happened to be relaxing under a rock for the last few weeks, you probably missed the saga of Baylor and Sam Ukwuachu, a defensive end and transfer from Boise State. Now that the story has mostly unfolded, it seems time to summarize what we know, what we probably won't ever find out, and discuss some good future steps. (For a timeline, I also recommend reading this article by Jason Kirk.)
Around May of 2013, Sam Ukwuachu was involved in a dispute that resulted in police involvement but no charges. Around this same time, he was let go from the football team, though it's not clear how much of that decision stemmed from this incident. He also did not participate in the spring game earlier that year because of personal issues.
What Boise State's coaches knew, exactly, and which of Boise State's coaches knew what, is in doubt. Federal privacy laws mean that we will continue to not know the full extent of Ukwuachu's departure; however, Petersen has said Ukwuachu was not dismissed because of a sexual assault or "accusations" of any other kind of assault. He also said in a statement that he and his staff knew nothing about any accusations at any time regarding sexual assault.
Later, more information would come out about Ukwuachu's time on Boise State's campus, thanks to prosecutors in Waco investigating the matter. A Boise police officer testified during Ukwuachu's sexual assault trial that Sam's roommate, who had received threatening text messages from Ukwuachu, was scared of him. Ukwuachu's girlfriend testified that at one point he choked her and "punched her in the head several times." This led to Ukwuachu attending anger management. Documents from the trial also showed that Marc Paul, the assistant athletics director at Boise, advised her to stay away from him for several nights. There was also an unknown "Boise State source" that said Sam's girlfriend would "probably not" admit if she was being abused. Many details, though, are not public, so it's hard to create a perfect timeline.
Once Sam Ukwuachu was dismissed, there is further confusion about what information was exchanged between which coaches. Florida reportedly turned down a chance on the player, possibly because two of Florida's assistants under Will Muschamp had close connections to Boise State's program and may have been able to gather more information about him than anyone at Baylor. But who Florida's coaches talked to, and about what, is also unknown and is likely to remain that way.
Baylor, however, took a chance on Ukwuachu, who had completed a freshman All-America season in 2013. Once the sophomore got to Baylor's campus, he committed a sexual assault in October of 2013, while he sat out a season due to transfer rules. The investigation that followed was "shameful," and is the most damning part of this story.
Title IX rules are understandably open-ended given the subtle and complicated nature of these kinds of investigations, but they specifically encourage using interim measures during an investigation, like separating the victim and the accused, to manage the situation. Baylor was negligent in this area, and the soccer player who was assaulted developed PTSD and eventually transferred out of the university.
They were negligent in other areas, as well, it seems. Baylor's associate dean for student conduct administration, Bethany McCraw, said that she conducted an investigation that cleared Ukwuachu based on "a preponderance of evidence." This included interviewing the woman and Ukwuachu, looking at text messages, interviewing Ukwuachu's roommate, and Ukwuachu passing a polygraph test.
McCraw did not, however, succeed in getting a report from the nurse who performed the sexual assault exam on the victim, because the nurse "didn't have one at the moment." She did not interview the university's psychologist who diagnosed the victim with PTSD, and she did not get any records at all from Boise State, despite this happening shortly after his dismissal. According to her, mental health concerns aren't something she wanted to "pry into," and "records from other schools are hard to get." The coaches, meanwhile, were apparently ready to play Ukwuachu as soon as he was cleared by the courts, and would have been satisfied with playing him sooner if Waco's prosecution team had not indicted him.
What's most concerning about that failure of an investigation is that the former Baylor student and victim did everything right in bringing this to the authorities' attention. She, within 24 hours, went to a hospital, had a sexual assault exam performed, and reported the incident to police and Baylor University.
Sam Ukwuachu was found guilty of second-degree sexual assault in a Texas court on August 20th, 2015, about a year and a half after McCraw said the investigation should not move forward.
What do we take from this? For that matter, how does one fix a system that could work, but too often does not? Well, first you must identify why the system is not working, and to do that, you have to delve into some of the complexities surrounding assault, college football, and the education system.
Primarily, there's this: in a football game, there are rules about how far a player can go before their physical play is deemed dangerous. Coaches live in a similarly high-pressure world of success and failure, but there is no similar system of accountability in place. There are no referees hanging around in the offices where coaches work, and, as a result, this mixture of pressure and inattention produces many unanswered questions.
Just this week, Kyle Flood was accused of 'encouraging' a professor to help fix Nadir Barnwell's grades so he could be eligible. This past year, a former player under Urban Meyer, Jamel Dean, faced some shady circumstances as he handled a recovery from a knee injury. Earlier this off-season, an Illinois player claimed that there was a series of systemic failures under Tim Beckman, something that was corroborated by teammates and is under 'independent investigation.' Another Big Ten school, Penn State, suffered one of the game's darkest scandals in history because of questions about what people knew behind closed doors, and what they were willing to sacrifice in the ongoing balance between winning and fair conduct. Parsing these situations becomes very difficult later on.
Moreover, coaches should not be in a position to decide 'the right balance.' Coaches, like players, need to be free to do their job and try their hardest without having to determine the borders of fair play at every turn. And more obviously, university staff, police officers, public servants, and medical professionals cannot - under any circumstances - be influenced by a football coach who is trying to keep his job and win games. There must be accountability above the football program - something that is aware of the unique challenges of college football.
A system needs to be in place where players like Jamel Dean can appeal medical decisions, where players can report physical abuse from coaches or other players, and where professors can inquire about handling a football player's extra obligations in a way that's consistent across the board and cognizant of the challenge of being a student-athlete.
There needs to be an entity that can fairly determine whether a university is putting too much strain on someone - enough to endanger their mental health, or severely affect their grades or life goals - or is not challenging them academically. There needs to be something available to players who have concerns about their health or are experiencing suicidal thoughts, whether they are a starter or a walk-on like Kosta Karageorge.
Again, this has to be something that is unique to college football, because the contexts caused by college football are unique. Entities exist in college spheres to tackle student depression, general health, and Title IX violations, but these systems are designed for the general student body. Players do get special accommodations for tutors and doctors' visits, but even those could be done better.
It is for all other parties, also, to do their jobs well. University officials who conduct investigations need to know how to do so in a competent manner. If they don't know how (and they are not detectives, obviously), there must be something they can consult. Police and prosecution officials must be ready to investigate and try people consistently and fairly. Medical officials have to look out for their patients.
And, there is something that we, as a public, can do. We must listen. The use of 'pitchforks,' smear campaigns built on little evidence - even the ones with good intentions - can be unbelievably damaging. Crimes can also be handled more quickly and even prevented if we collectively know how to handle sensitive topics and ambiguous situations. These things take a strong ability to listen, and to do so with an open mind. We can all do a better job, and we can be vigilant to help each other, to help other Americans, be safe. Black or white, male or female, we're in it together.
It is on us.
Hitting the Links Is A Woman
Brown, who played as a true freshman in 2014, is a 6'2", 222-pound wideout. This is secretly a transition year for Ohio State with that group, as plenty of their young talent gets comfortable while Michael Thomas, Braxton Miller, Nick Vannett, and Corey Smith catch passes. Potentially, all of those names will be gone after 2015. So, Brown's name will definitely come up again later.
Very few differences between the two, other than SI using a 3-4 defense. Disagreements on offense: Tyler Boyd vs. Laquon Treadwell at wide receiver, Hunter Henry vs. Evan Engram at tight end, and Baylor's Spencer Drango vs. Notre Dame's Ronnie Stanley at tackle. On defense, ESPN has Robert Nkemdiche and Su'a Cravens instead of Reggie Ragland and Myles Jack, and Kendall Fuller instead of Jalen Ramsey.
Zero arguments from me. (A first! Ah, I kid.)
HarBus update: yesterday, Yankee Stadium. Today, on the track of the Charlotte Motor Speedway.
A potpourri of updates from some notable rookies in the NFL: Devin Funchess, if you hadn't heard, has a chance at a big year as a #1 receiver because Kelvin Benjamin's knee got injured last week. Jeremy Langford has a pretty good shot at contributing right away for Chicago, though he'll be backing up Matt Forte.
Chicago teammate Kevin White, the former West Virginia receiver, injured his shin in the off-season and the team may have mismanaged it by putting off surgery. As a result, he could miss the year. A couple other Round 1 wide receivers have also been sidelined: Ravens wideout Breshad Perriman, and Dolphins star DeVante Parker. Amari Cooper, though, has been fantastic for the Oakland Raiders, and former USC star Nelson Agholor has been great for Chip Kelly and Philadelphia.
Brandon Scherff has struggled with the Washington Redskins as he adjusts to the necessary pad level and physical pass rush at guard. Leonard Williams has impressed mightily for the Jets. Here's what teammate Willie Colon said about Leonard: "It's crazy, but he doesn't know how good he can be. He's just playing football. When he gets his bearings, he's going to be scary."
Finally, a favorite player of mine, Clemson's stud linebacker Stephone Anthony, has earned a starting middle 'backer spot for New Orleans, while Tevin Coleman and Atlanta's other lead back, Devonta Freeman, both suffered hamstring injuries and are coming along slowly.
Jimbo Fisher and Dalvin Cook now have a different, interesting challenge: working with an offensive line that replaces 174 starts.
This is good news for UCLA; Rosen, a true freshman, was competing with a solid but limited veteran in Jerry Neuheisel.
Wisconsin's front three are probably going to have a hard time forcing Alabama's offense to throw, so I'm not sure Bama's uncertainty at quarterback and wide receiver will be much of an issue.
London has received almost no talk during the off-season, but this kid could be amazing right away.
Just a short time ago (and even before Jordan Stevenson left), people were concerned about running back depth. It should be fine. Meanwhile, good news for Wisconsin that the safety position might not need Tanner McEvoy.
An important note - Hayden Rettig has been named the starting quarterback for the first week. He brings plenty of arm strength, prototypical size, and good maneuverability. We'll see how his decision-making is after sitting out for two years.
Good luck, kiddo. I'm sure Jim Harbaugh will impress you pretty soon.
Slowly, Indiana's getting some talent on defense.
Northwestern's superback was a player on my radar as a potential breakout, third-string or no. He has also been a leader in the locker room.
No mention of a crane buried underneath Michigan Stadium.
I wound it so you can go from #1 on down. You're welcome. Also, nice choice for Gary Patterson at #5, but otherwise SEC-heavy and no Jerry Kill.
This is a 10-minute clip from NFL's A Football Life - at times somber, but also absorbing. It covers the early years of a guy who would end up winning the Heisman Trophy in 1977. "Tyler Rose" played for Texas at a time when their Wishbone offense was revolutionizing the game.
The first video is a little sped up, unfortunately, but it does help highlight his elusiveness.
For Tuesday: Twenty-five-and-a-half crazy predictions, some comedic therapy, and a closer look at the Pac-12.