Rss

My alma mater, Baylor University, just broke my heart in the handling of a sexual assault.

I honestly don’t have too many words, here.

All that I can say is that I am thoroughly disappointed in Baylor University as a whole, and the football program.

Sam Ukwuachu, a “star” player, was accused, charged, and indicted for sexual assault on a female Baylor student athlete. There was NO mention AT ALL of this from Baylor. The ONLY words spoken about this, according to Texas Monthly, is the recent announcement that Ukwuachu was expected to play this upcoming season.

In early June, Baylor defensive coordinator Phil Bennett was a guest speaker at a luncheon in Fort Worth for the Baylor Sports Network. During his speech, he dropped a bit of long-anticipated information about the team’s plans: He expected defensive end Sam Ukwuachu—a Freshman All-American who transferred in 2013 from Boise State to Baylor only to miss 2014, his first eligible season with the Bears, for unspecified reasons—to finally take the field. It was a significant announcement for a program that’s a favorite pick to clinch one of four College Football Playoff spots, and it was reported by a breathless sports media eager to talk up head coach Art Briles’ program. No one questioned Bennett’s assertion that Ukwuachu was expected to play—even though Ukwuachu was due to stand trial in Waco for sexual assault in just a few weeks, and if convicted, could spend up to twenty years in prison.

No one questioned it because no one outside of Baylor knew. Ukwuachu was indicted on June 25, 2014, on two counts of sexual assault against a female Baylor student athlete, and for the next year, the legal process played out without mention of Ukwuachu’s felony charge by the press or from school officials, even though it was all in the public record.

As I’ve said before, I….don’t really have the words. I’m hoping there’s been some kind of mistake…especially since…

So were the following facts: That Ukwuachu transferred to Baylor in May 2013 because he had been kicked off the Boise State team for a previous incident of violence involving a female student; that Ukwuachu claimed after the transfer was announced that Baylor’s coaches “knew everything” about what happened in Idaho; and, as indicated by court documents obtained by Texas Monthly, the two programs had some communication regarding Ukwuachu in which Boise State officials expressed reticence about supporting the player’s efforts to get back on the field.

As I was reading the article that I’m referencing, I was hoping, PRAYING, that there was some type of in-house disciplinary situation that happened? ANYTHING to not make me feel as sick to my stomach as I do?

Well…

As a player, Ukwuachu has been cast as a star in the making. As recently as August 4, CBS Sports’ BearsTruth Baylor fan blog listed the role of the DE as their top defensive storyline for the team. But the circumstances surrounding the school’s treatment of the allegations—from the nature of its disciplinary investigation and the fact that it characterized his indictment for sexual assault as “some issues” when explaining that he wouldn’t be on the active roster to start the 2014 season, to allowing him to continue doing conditioning work with the team after his indictment last June—suggest a school and a program that were, at best, very much in denial about the seriousness of the criminal charges he now faces.

Jury selection in Ukwuachu’s trial began Monday, and during in limine motions to determine what evidence would be admissible, assistant district attorney Hilary Laborde, who is prosecuting the case, told 54th District Judge Matt Johnson that Baylor’s own investigation into the accusations against Ukwuachu involved interviewing just Ukwuachu, his accuser, and one friend of each, and that the school never saw the rape kit collected by the sexual assault nurse examiner. The woman Ukwuachu is accused of sexually assaulting went to the hospital and talked to the police on October 20, 2013, the day after the encounter. But after the school’s investigation (so insufficient, according to the court, that the judge sustained a motion from the prosecution to restrict the defense from referencing it during the trial), Baylor took no action to discipline Ukwuachu, even while charges were still pending. From Baylor’s brief investigation, to its failure to consider disciplinary action, to its defensive coordinator’s statements this summer about the player’s expected return, the school’s idea of how to respond to serious rape allegations is seriously out of step with that of the courts.

Guys. Do y’all see this? Do y’all see how the university basically made this a non-issue? A sexual assault on ONE OF YOUR STUDENTS is categorized as “some issues!?”

Somebody, help me. Please.

You can go read the entire record of what happened here, but here’s an excerpt:

The two were friendly, and shortly before two in the morning, Ukwuachu texted Doe, who replied to his message by saying that she would call him. During her testimony Tuesday, she said that she had called him moments later and agreed to go with him to get something to eat or to go to another party—but after he picked her up that night, he turned the wrong way out of her apartment complex and drove her to his apartment instead. Doe’s testimony regarding what happened in his apartment is disturbing. She described Ukwuachu as extremely agitated, getting angry with his dog and with a friend on the phone, who was in from out of town. After she resisted his initial advances, Doe testified, he began to grab her. “He was using all of his strength to pull up my dress and do stuff to me,” she said. “He had me on my stomach on the bed, and he was on top of me.” Doe testified that he pulled her dress up, pulled her underwear to the side, and forced her legs open with his toes, her head pressed between his bed and his desk, then forced himself inside of her. Doe was a virgin at the time.

Texts between Ukwuachu and Doe from earlier in the week, before the encounter, were also revealed to the jury during trial. In those messages, Doe is unambiguous that she is not interested in a physical or romantic relationship with Ukwuachu; he sent her messages like “we have unfinished business,” in reference to a previous encounter, which she characterized as Ukwuachu trying to put “moves” on her. She replied “I don’t think we need finish any business” and “let’s just chill.”

The night at his apartment, she testified, “I was screaming stop and no.” According to her testimony, after he finished, he told her “This isn’t rape,” asked her if she was going to call the police, and left her to find a ride. Two of Doe’s friends arrived in the middle of the night to pick her up, at which point she told them that Ukwuachu had raped her. The next day, Doe went to the hospital and was subject to a sexual assault nurse examination, which found vaginal injuries including redness, bleeding, and friction injuries.

More about the issue at Boise State:

In documents from May 2013 obtained by Texas Monthly, Marc Paul, the assistant athletics director at Boise State University, recounts advising to Ukwuachu’s then-girlfriend in Boise that she stay away from the house the two shared for several nights, after he put his fist through a window while drunk. Paul also makes plans for how to get police protection for the couple’s other housemate, who received threatening text messages from Ukwuachu. Handwritten notes in a document from a Boise State source also refer to times that Ukwuachu would get verbally abusive over “small irritants” like a spilled drink, and note that the woman he lived with acknowledged that she would “probably not” admit it if the abuse were physical. It ends with the words “NOT healthy relationship!” underlined.

Following the incident with the window, Ukwuachu—just a year removed from his Freshman All-American season—was kicked off the team by Boise State head coach Chris Petersen for repeated violations of team rules.

The same month, in an interview with football recruiting website Rivals.com after he announced his transfer to Baylor, Ukwuachu talked about returning home to his native Texas. He said he had gone through “some personal problems” and that the coaching staff at Baylor “knew everything and were really supportive.” It’s impossible to know what Ukwuachu means by “everything,” but six-foot-four pass rushers who are voted Freshman All-American and win starting jobs on programs the quality of Boise State’s don’t often find themselves suddenly without a team. Regardless of whether Ukwuachu’s statement that Baylor’s coaches “knew everything” is accurate, when the program sought a waiver that would have allowed Ukwuachu to play for the Bears without waiting the mandatory one-year period required of most transfer students, Boise State informed the school that they would not be providing a letter of support.

I don’t have much to offer, here. Other than the fact that I’m sad. This is extremely disturbing to me and makes me feel as if the football program was more important than a violent act against a woman.

I’m REALLY hoping there is more to this. And yes, it’s because of my bias and desire to not have to come to grips with the fact that Baylor University is like these other schools who don’t take a strong stand against violence against women even if it’s a star player on your highly ranked football team.

I cannot imagine what the woman is going through. Knowing what happened to her, and having to see this announcement made ONLY regarding him returning to play…

Like I said, I’m disappointed.

I’ll be looking out for the statement that is sure to come from Baylor University.

UPDATED: 8:00pm

WHEW. Baylor has a clusterfawk on their hands with this one.

SO happy that this woman got justice. Word.

 

 

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.