Baylor president defends Art Briles’s handling of Sam Ukwuachu case

Baylor University president Ken Starr defended head coach Art Briles's handling of former player Sam Ukwuachu in a statement on Thursday.
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Baylor University president Ken Starr defended head coach Art Briles’s handling of former player Sam Ukwuachu in a lengthy statement on Thursday.

Ukwuachu was sentenced last month to six months’ jail time and 10 years of felony probation after he was found guilty of sexually assaulting a former Baylor women’s soccer player nearly two years ago.

In his statement, Starr first expressed sympathy for the victim before addressing Briles’ involvement in the situation. On Wednesday, Baylor hired a Philadelphia law firm to independently investigate the university’s handling of sexual assault complaints. 

“Let me also speak to allegations that coach Art Briles knowingly recruited to his team someone with a history of criminal violence,” Starr said in his statement. “Our coach vehemently denied these allegations, and the sports media eventually got the story right. The player’s former coach at Boise State initiated contact with us. At no time did any Boise State official ever disclose any record of physical violence toward women. A variety of news sources ultimately corroborated the accuracy of coach Briles’ account. In addition, in recent days, coach Briles has made it absolutely clear that he is fully supportive of the independent investigation which will—among other things—ensure the thoroughness of the transfer admission of student-athletes, as well as of policies and procedures designed to safeguard the character and well-being of our entire student body.”

Ukwuachu previously played at Boise State, under current Washington head coach Chris Petersen. After Ukwuachu’s trial, Briles said Petersen did not tell him about Ukwuachu’s “violence toward women.” While at Boise State, Ukwuachu was accused of being abusive toward a former girlfriend; Briles said the only disciplinary actions he was aware of were “team-related issues, insubordination of coaches and missing practice.”

Ukwuachu transferred to Baylor in fall 2013 after being dismissed from Boise State that May due to an unspecified violation of team rules.

Petersen said in a statement that he “thoroughly” informed Briles of the circumstances surrounding Ukwuachu’s “disciplinary record and dismissal.”

- Mike Fiammetta