The national media are focused on one question: What did Baylor coach Art Briles know about Sam Ukwuachu when he transferred in from Boise State?
To put it more bluntly: Did he know enough to anticipate that Ukwuachu might rape a freshman soccer player after being allowed on campus?
Briles first said he only believed Ukwuachu left Boise State because he was depressed and homesick. These issues were made worse by “a rocky relationship with his girlfriend.”
Later, he added that he’d also heard that Ukwuachu was insubordinate with Boise State coaches and missed practices.
It might be naive to think that the Broncos would part with a freshman All-American for those reasons, but let’s give Briles the benefit of the doubt.
Because, even in that scenario, there are still more questions that need to be answered.
If Briles believed Ukwuachu suffered from depression, what did he do about it?
Ukwuachu has admitted to battling suicidal thoughts. His high school coach said he’d been warned by the Boise staff that his former player might hurt himself. Maybe, you argue, Briles didn’t realize the defensive end was more than just sad. But Ukwuachu had cut his wrist. In fact, Boise State e-mails indicate he re-cut the wrist when punching a window. Surely that scar would have told Briles a story.
What was Briles response to this? Depression doesn’t cause someone to rape another person, but were there other issues that could have contributed to the attack that would have been addressed if Briles had insisted on therapy?
Why was Ukwuachu allowed to remain with the team after he was accused of rape?
At the point the accusation was leveled, there should have been two options for Baylor: Monitor Ukwuachu even more closely or dismiss him.
Why? Because Ukwuachu was either an innocent, depressed man going through a traumatic event; or a rapist.
The Bears chose neither. Instead, they kept him at arm’s length, not listing him as part of the roster, but–at the same time–keeping him just close enough that he could rejoin the team if he was cleared of the charges.
Ukwuachu’s supporters might have argued it’s not fair to release an athlete just because they are charged. I’d have responded that it’s not fair to give someone like Ukwuachu, already on their second chance, the same leeway you give someone who’s still on their first shot.
Why wasn’t it obvious to someone that Ukwuachu was guilty?
All the debate so far has centered on why coach Briles seemed so dangerously incurious about Ukwuachu’s circumstances before he allowed him to transfer in. What about after? Was there really nobody associated with Baylor football who was close enough to Ukwuachu to realize what he was capable of?
Reading his testimony, it’s hard to believe Ukwuachu could fool anybody who spent much time with him. He couldn’t answer why it took him six weeks to inform Baylor his roommate Peni Tagive was supposedly home the night of the assault. Ukwuachu claimed not to know what “oral” meant. At one point, he had to clarify that he didn’t think rape was funny.
Think about that for a minute. He had to clarify that he didn’t think rape was funny.
And don’t forget the fact that Briles admitted to knowing of a troubled relationship Ukwuachu had with another woman. That’s not an overly disturbing detail on its own, but in the shadow of a rape accusation, it’s a definite red flag.
What’s become of Peni Tagive?
Remember the Baylor investigation that was so shoddy, the judge wouldn’t allow it to be brought up in court by Ukwuachu’s lawyers? The school admitted to only interviewing four people–Ukwuachu, the victim and a friend of each.
The friend of Ukwuachu was roommate Peni Tagive. Tagive claimed to be home at the time and heard no sign of a struggle.
After he spoke to Baylor’s investigators, a grand jury wanted to hear from him. But he failed to respond to the subpoena and spent a couple nights in jail as a result. Eventually he told the grand jury something similar to what he told Baylor.
Then at the trial, Tagive threatened to invoke his right against self-incrimination. Why? Because the victim testified Tagive was not at home that night, and prosecutors produced phone records that seemed to prove that.
Tagive is a former Baylor running back who started helping out the Bears strength staff when injuries cut short his playing career. Is he still working with the strength staff? It’s not entirely clear. The Bears may have done the right thing here, but they haven’t said so.
As you probably know by now, Ukwuachu was sentenced to 180 days in jail. And it will almost certainly take us longer to get all the answers then it will for Ukwuachu to serve his sentence.