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Government Baylor says it will investigate handling of Ukwuachu case

Baylor says it will investigate handling of Ukwuachu case

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Baylor University will conduct an investigation into the school’s handling of sexual assault allegations against a football player who was allowed to transfer into coach Art Briles’ program despite a history of disciplinary problems at Boise State.

Following the conviction of defensive end Sam Ukwuachu on sexual assault charges, Baylor President Ken Starr on Friday called for a “comprehensive internal inquiry into the circumstances associated with the case and the conduct of the offices involved.”

The review will be led by law professor Jeremy Counseller, who is a faculty athletic representative to the Big 12 and NCAA and former assistant criminal district attorney.

The 22-year-old Ukwuachu was sentenced to six months in jail and put on 10 years of probation Friday in Texas district court for sexually assaulting a former Baylor women’s soccer player last year.

Ukwuachu’s former girlfriend testified during the trial that he had struck and choked her when he attended Boise State.

The case has brought scrutiny to Baylor campus police for their investigation of the allegations against Ukwuachu and to Briles for allowing Ukwuachu to enroll at the Waco, Texas, school.

A Baylor official testified the school investigated the woman’s complaint but didn’t find enough evidence “to move forward.”

Briles said in a statement Friday that he spoke with then-Boise State coach Chris Petersen about Ukwuachu when the player was looking to transfer, but was never told of incidents of violence toward women. Petersen is now the coach at Washington.

“I know and respect Coach Petersen and he would never recommend a student-athlete to Baylor that he didn’t believe in. In our discussion, he did not disclose that there had been violence toward women, but he did tell me of a rocky relationship with his girlfriend which contributed to (Ukwuachu’s) depression,” Briles said. “The only disciplinary action I was aware of were team-related issues, insubordination of coaches and missing practice.”

Briles also said he spoke with Ukwuachu’s high school coach.

“As required with any transfer to Baylor, Boise State acknowledged that he was not suspended due to any institutional disciplinary reasons and further that he was eligible for competition if he chose to return to Boise State,” Briles said.

After Briles spoke to reporters earlier in the day about his conversation with Petersen, the Washington coach released a statement.

“After Sam Ukwuachu was dismissed from the Boise State football program and expressed an interest in transferring to Baylor, I initiated a call with coach Art Briles,” Petersen said. “In that conversation, I thoroughly apprised Coach Briles of the circumstances surrounding Sam’s disciplinary record and dismissal.”

Ukwuachu, from Pearland, Texas, started 12 games for Boise State as a freshman, but was dismissed from the team and left the school in the spring of 2013. Boise State never gave details as to why Ukwuachu was kicked off the team.

He transferred to Baylor but never played for the Bears. He was ineligible in 2013 because of NCAA transfer rules and suspended in 2014, though Baylor never gave a reason.

Briles has turned Baylor from perennial Big 12 doormats into a national power during his eight years in Waco. Briles’ up-tempo spread offense has produced record-breaking numbers and helped the Bears have their first Heisman Trophy winner in Robert Griffin III in 2011. Baylor has won consecutive Big 12 titles and is expected to contend for a spot in the College Football Playoff this season.

Briles has found some success at Baylor welcoming players who have had problems at other programs, most notably star defensive end Shawn Oakman, who was dismissed at Penn State for a violation of team rules and transferred to the Bears.

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