Over the past 24 hours, rumors have been swirling about whether or not Baylor Bears head coach Art Briles knew about the violent past of defensive lineman and former Boise State Broncos player Sam Ukwuachu. If he did, he simply needs to resign now to avoid a complete and utter PR nightmare for both himself and the Bears program.
Earlier this week, Ukwuachu was convicted of sexual assault of a former Baylor soccer player in 2013 and a judge sentenced him Friday to 180 days in jail, plus 10 years’ felony probation along with community service. He was dismissed from BSU back in 2013 for undisclosed reasons, and it was learned during his trial that it was because he had assaulted and choked his then-girlfriend.
Despite that, Briles brought Ukwuachu aboard after the school investigated the matter, but apparently didn’t find enough evidence “to move forward,” and the house fell down from there.
Though Briles has been playing the denial game, former Broncos head coach Chris Petersen, now at Washington, claims that he called Briles and gave him the full story of Ukwuachu’s violent past prior to the defensive lineman’s enrollment in Waco.
This alone is the biggest red flag of them all.
Petersen has no reason to lie about what happened, except to maybe cover himself, whereas Briles has plenty since Ukwuachu still has not been dismissed from the program, let alone suspended, and Baylor could use some help on its defensive line in the future.
Kevin Sherrington of the Dallas Morning News penned an editorial on the saga and to be perfectly honest, he hits the nail right on the head.
“A coach must go through a vetting process with any player he recruits, because he has a duty to the campus and community he represents. Even Barry Switzer conceded in the days before he was run off at Oklahoma that he was responsible for the players who ultimately cost him his job,” Sherrington wrote.
“For the record, this isn’t even the first Baylor player convicted of sexual assault under Briles. In January, 2014, Tevin Elliott, a defensive end out of Mount Pleasant, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for twice assaulting a former Baylor student in 2012. During that trial, two other women testified that Elliott assaulted them. A fourth alleged victim was not called to testify.
“If nothing else, Briles’ conscience should have been raised considerably by Elliott’s arrest and conviction. He should have been more sensitive to the risks involved. Because if he really didn’t have a clue about Ukwuachu’s history, he was certainly aware of the charges from the Baylor student in 2013.”
And despite all that, both Briles and Baylor University shrugged their shoulders and let Ukuwachu be part of the team. Moreover, let us not forget that we are just over a decade removed from the Baylor basketball scandal that involved the murder of player Patrick Dennehy by teammate Carlton Dotson.
During the NCAA’s investigation into that and the university’s knowledge of it, it was uncovered that coach Dave Bliss was paying portions of both men’s tuition and had told players to paint Dennehy black by making up a story about him selling drugs to pay his tuition.
Though Baylor basketball has resurrected in the years since, the scandal is a hard mark to erase.
And now the football program is headed down a similar road, unless Briles comes forward and admits that he made a mistake.
Baylor stated that an investigation into the handling of the allegations would be launched, but the long and short of this story is that a majority of it is on Briles and his decision to keep Ukwuachu on the team despite his checkered past.
By coming forward and admitting that he was wrong about Ukwuachu, Briles would save himself and the program a lot of face and likely be allowed to keep his job in the process. Otherwise, this situation is going to become a long and drawn out soap opera whose coda can only spell bad things not only for Briles, but for Baylor football as a whole.
*Featured Photo (above) credit to USA TODAY Sports