Boise State on Tuesday issued a statement denying that violence against women was a factor in Sam Ukwuachu’s dismissal from the football team in 2013.
Ukwuachu, who transferred to Baylor but never played for the Bears, was convicted of sexual assault in Texas last week. The incident occurred less than six months after then-coach Chris Petersen dismissed the defensive end from his team.
Here’s a timeline of events, gathered through Idaho Statesman reporting, Texas Monthly reporting, coverage of Ukwuachu’s trial by the Waco Tribune-Herald and court records obtained by ESPN:
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Ukwuachu recorded 35 tackles, seven tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks and three fumble recoveries to earn Freshman All-America honors. He joined Boise State in 2011 out of Pearland, Texas.
•April 13, 2013:
Ukwuachu was absent from the Spring Game.He testified at trial that around that time he was hospitalized for three days. He was depressed and suicidal, he said.
“He’s got some personal things he’s taking care of,” Petersen said at the time, indicating Ukwuachu would return to the team.ESPN reported Wednesday
that, according to court records, Ukwuachu checked himself into Intermountain Hospital on April 12 because of suicidal thoughts. The story also says Ukwuachu met with Petersen on April 8 about a failed drug test and mental health issues. He was smoking synthetic marijuana to deal with anxiety, the report says.
•May 3, 2013:
Ukwuachu participated in the Broncos’ pro timing day event. That same day, he was diagnosed with a "major depressive disorder,” according to the court records obtained by ESPN.
•May 4, 2013: According to Boise State athletic trainer Marc Paul’s notes, obtained by Texas Monthly
, Ukwuachu’s male roommate informed Boise State staff members that Ukwuachu was drunk and belligerent. The roommate prevented Ukwuachu’s then-girlfriend, who was on the Broncos’ track team in 2012-13, from entering the home to protect her. Police were called. Ukwuachu punched out a window. Ukwuachu wasn’t charged, according to court records. On April 25, according to ESPN, Paul had asked the girlfriend whether she would tell the truth if she was being physically abused. She said “probably not,” according to handwritten notes obtained by Texas Monthly. She also said she wanted Ukwuachu to retake his anger management classes. Paul instructed Ukwuachu to do that.
•May 4-6, 2013:
According to Paul’s notes in Texas Monthly, derogatory text messages sent to Ukwuachu’s roommate were provided to police and arrangements were made to help the roommate if necessary. The girlfriend was instructed to stay away from home until arrangements could be made for her to visit without Ukwuachu there but she didn’t respond to the message. Petersen was informed of events. According to ESPN, Ukwuachu told a police officer he was probably going to be kicked off the team and texted Petersen to say he wanted to transfer closer to home.
•May 7, 2013:
Boise State announced via email that Ukwuachu “has been dismissed for violation of team rules.”
Ukwuachu announced his transfer to Baylor. Petersen released a statement last week saying he called Baylor coach Art Briles to discuss Ukwuachu.
“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. In that conversation, I thoroughly apprised Coach Briles of the circumstances surrounding Sam’s disciplinary record and dismissal,” Petersen said.
Exactly what Petersen told Briles remains a mystery. Petersen declined comment Tuesday. Briles said the issues described to him involved depression, homesickness and insubordination.
“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 depression. The only disciplinary action I was aware of were team-related issues, insubordination of coaches and missing practice,” Briles said.
Media and fans have widely reported those two statements as contradictory. But if Boise State was unaware of any physical abuse, both could be true.
Ukwuachu was accused of sexual assault by a Baylor women’s soccer player. He was ineligible to play that season under NCAA transfer rules.
•June 25, 2014:
Ukwuachu was indicted on sexual-assault charges. He didn’t play during the 2014 season but the school never revealed why.
•Aug. 20, 2015:
Ukwuachu was convicted of sexual assault. During the trial, his former Boise girlfriend testified that Ukwuachu hit her, choked her and would prevent her from leaving when they were in Boise. She also testified that she hadn’t reported the abuse to police or Boise State officials. Ukwuachu denied the allegation.
“In widely reported testimony from the Aug. 20 Texas trial, the girlfriend stated Ukwuachu hit and choked her while they were students at Boise State. This information about their relationship was not reported to Boise State when the two were students here,” the school said in a statement.
The Statesman has requested the Boise State documents subpoenaed for the trial, including Paul’s notes. The school said it provided documents under subpoena but can’t release the documents publicly because of privacy laws.
Here’s the full Boise State statement issued Tuesday:
“The incidents and factors that contributed to Sam Ukwuachu’s dismissal from the Boise State football team had nothing to do with accusations of any sexual assaults or with accusations that he physically assaulted any women. However, federal laws protecting privacy prohibit Boise State from releasing information about what did result in his dismissal from the Boise State University football team.
“Boise State University never received any reports nor had any knowledge of Sam Ukwuachu being involved in any accusations of sexual assault before or during his time at Boise State.
“In widely reported testimony from the Aug. 20 Texas trial, Ukwuachu’s former girlfriend stated Ukwuachu hit and choked her while they were students at Boise State. This information about their relationship was not reported to Boise State when the two were students here. While neither student is currently enrolled at Boise State, the University has requested a transcript of the testimony and will begin a Title IX inquiry immediately based on this testimony about a potential physically abusive relationship between the two former students. That inquiry, like all such inquiries, will not be subject to public records requests for privacy reasons.
“The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA) is a federal law restricting the ability of an institution of higher education to release student information without their specific written permission. Nevertheless, an exception exists for the release of information where a validly issued subpoena is produced. University officials coordinated with McLennan County prosecuting attorneys, releasing records to them pursuant to a valid subpoena, as required by FERPA. Those records, despite having been released pursuant to subpoena, remain protected, and FERPA prohibits Boise State from releasing even those that have become part of the public record in the trial. In addition to FERPA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act restricts Boise State from releasing certain information about students as well.”