Baylor football coach Art Briles told reporters Friday morning that he had no prior knowledge of improprieties in Boise regarding defensive end Sam Ukwuachu, a transfer from Boise State who was found guilty Thursday night in Waco of sexual assaulting a Baylor women’s soccer player in 2013, shortly after Ukwuachu joined the Bears’ football program.
In an audiotape posted Friday by KRZI 1660 AM, Briles said he spoke with former Boise State coach Chris Petersen about Ukwuachu, who played in high school at Pearland and earned freshman All-America honors at Boise State in 2012, before the player enrolled at Baylor.
Asked what he knew before the transfer about accusations that Ukwuachu was abusive toward a former girlfriend before being dismissed from the Boise State roster, Briles said: “Zero. I talked to Chris Petersen personally. There was no mention of anything beyond Sam being depressed and needing to come home. So that’s our information. That’s what you go by.”
Petersen, the former Boise State coach, is now the football coach at Washington. Briles called the situation “unfortunate for everybody concerned” and stressed that he was not directly involved in the school’s investigation into allegations against Ukwuachu that led to Thursday’s conviction in McLennan County.
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“I didn’t investigate it. Nobody ever approached me from either side and gave me any information. Ever,” Briles said. “When we found out something happened (in 2013), we removed him from the roster. That was how I was involved. He never participated for Baylor.”
Petersen responded Friday with a statement that contradicted Briles’ characterization of their conversation about Ukwuachu. In his statement, Petersen said: “After Sam Ukwuachu was dismissed from the Boise State football program and expressed interest in transferring to Baylor, I initiated a call with coach Art Briles. In that conversation, I thoroughly apprised coach Briles of the circumstances surrounding Sam’s disciplinary record and dismissal.”
By the end of the day, Briles responded with a statement of his own and Baylor officials released a signed transfer information request they received from Boise State officials regarding Ukwuachu on May 29, 2013. On the form, Boise State’s director of compliance responded “no” when asked if the student had been “suspended or disqualified from your institution for disciplinary reasons.” The compliance director responded “yes” to a question asking if the student would have been eligible if he had returned to Boise State.
There was no question on the form asking if the player had been suspended from the football program. Briles addressed that in his statement, saying Petersen “did not disclose that there had been violence toward women” during their discussion about Ukwuachu.
In his statement, Briles said: “I was contacted by coach Petersen at Boise State in spring 2013 and he told me he had a player from Texas who needed to get closer to home and that he thought our program would be a good spot for him. 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 his depression. The only disciplinary action that I was aware of were team-related issues, insubordination of coaches and missing practice. In addition, I talked with Tony Heath, his high school coach, who gave us a great recommendation.”