Former Boise State defensive end Sam Ukwuachu was convicted of sexual assault of a former Baylor soccer player last week. Ukwuachu transferred to Baylor following his 2013 dismissal from the Boise State program. The circumstances surrounding his exit from Boise State have come under scrutiny lately, as many have questioned whether he should have been allowed to enter Baylor in the first place.
During Ukwuachu's sexual assault trial, a former girlfriend and Boise State track and field athlete testified that he had been violent with her — punching her in the head several times, choking her and physically restraining her from leaving during their relationship. However, she also testified that she never told police or Boise State officials about this behavior.
What Boise State and Baylor officials knew about Ukwuachu at the time of his transfer is a major sticking point.
ESPN reports that in a statement released on Tuesday, Boise State officials indicated Ukwuachu’s dismissal from the program and eventual exit from the school were unrelated to allegations of violence against his then-girlfriend.
“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,” the statement read. “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.”
On Friday, Baylor football coach Art Briles said that former Boise State coach Chris Petersen recommended Ukwuachu to him as a potential transfer, and made no mention of the player’s past apart from “a rocky relationship with his girlfriend which contributed to his depression.”
Petersen, now the football coach at Washington, said in a statement Friday that he “thoroughly apprised Coach Briles of the circumstances surrounding Sam’s disciplinary record and dismissal.”
During his time at Boise State, Ukwuachu met with assistant athletics director for sports medicine Marc Paul regarding failed drug tests, his relationship with his then-girlfriend, depression and suicidal thoughts.
Paul also met with Ukwuachu’s girlfriend on April 25, 2013. Paul’s notes from that meeting indicate that there were some issues with verbal abuse, but the girlfriend “refused to elaborate further.”
“When asked if [she] would admit if physical violence occurs, stated [probably] not & quickly added ‘but he’s much better now & has it under control,’” Paul said in his notes.
If Baylor was truly unaware of Ukwuachu’s issues with his girlfriend at Boise State, at least one other school was aware.
A report released on Tuesday indicates that Florida considered taking Ukwuachu after his dismissal from Boise State, but backed off after a former Boise State athletic department employee detailed his issues with violence to two former Florida athletic department employees.
Then-Gators coach Will Muschamp decided against taking Ukwuachu after learning about his alleged physical abuse of his girlfriend.
“There was no way,” one of the former Florida staffers said. “[Muschamp] wouldn’t touch him.”