Art Briles, Chris Petersen continue finger pointing over Sam Ukwuachu

ByMark Schlabach ESPN logo
Saturday, August 22, 2015

Baylor coach Art Briles said in a statement Friday that former Boise State coach Chris Petersen recommended defensive end Sam Ukwuachu to the Bears as a potential transfer student but made no mention of the player's past, which contradicts what Petersen said of their conversation earlier in the day.

The finger pointing between two of college football's most successful coaches continued throughout the day Friday, as both men tried to distance themselves from Ukwuachu, who was sentenced to 180 days in jail and 10 years' probation Friday, a day after he was convicted of sexually assaulting an ex-Baylor soccer player in 2013.

"I was contacted by Coach Petersen at Boise State in spring 2013 and he told me he had a player from Texas who needed to get closer to home and that he thought our program would be a good spot for him," Briles said in a statement released by Baylor. "I know and respect Coach Petersen and he would never recommend a student-athlete to Baylor that he didn't believe in. In our discussion, he did not disclose that there had been violence toward women [by Ukwuachu], but he did tell me of a rocky relationship with his girlfriend which contributed to his depression. The only disciplinary action I was aware of were team-related issues, insubordination of coaches and missing practice."

Briles said he also spoke with Tony Heath, Ukwuachu's high school coach, "who gave us a great recommendation."

Briles' comments differed from how Peterson described their communication about Ukwuachu earlier Friday.

In a statement first given to, Petersen said he initiated a telephone call with Briles after Ukwuachu was dismissed from Boise State's team. Petersen was the Broncos' coach from 2006 to 2013 and is about to begin his second season atWashington.

"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," Petersen said in the statement. "In that conversation, I thoroughly apprised Coach Briles of the circumstances surrounding Sam's disciplinary record and dismissal."

Ukwuachu had faced up to 20 years in prison after he was convicted Thursday of the sexual assault.

The woman, who has since transferred, testified that Ukwuachu assaulted her at his apartment and that she yelled "no" and screamed during the assault, according to reports. She also testified that Ukwuachu told her, "This is not rape," and asked her whether she was going to call the police.

During the trial, a former girlfriend at Boise State also testified that Ukwuachu punched her in the head several times, choked her, physically restrained her from leaving and had a reputation for having a violent temper.

Ukwuachu, who was dismissed from Boise State in May 2013, denied those allegations.

Earlier Friday, when asked specifically whether Boise State had informed Baylor of Ukwuachu's disciplinary record, Briles was emphatic in his denial.

"No. No. That's not true," said Briles, who spoke with reporters for four minutes before Baylor practiced Friday morning. "Lord, no. No, there's no truth. Find out who informed us and talk to them, please."

Boise State's decision to deny a waiver that would have allowed Ukwuachu to play in 2013 was not a red flag, Briles said, because schools rarely grant permission for immediate eligibility during typical transfer processes. Ukwuachu was ineligible to play for Baylor in the fall of 2013 because of NCAA transfer rules and suspended for the 2014 season, although the school never gave a reason for the suspension.

Baylor officials released a copy of its transfer information request Friday, which was completed by Boise State director of compliance Jenny Bellomy. On the form, Bellomy indicated that Ukwauachu hadn't been "suspended or disqualified" from Boise State because of disciplinary issues and indicated he would have been eligible to return to the Broncos.

Briles called Ukwuachu's conviction "unfortunate for everybody concerned," and he reiterated that Ukwuachu had been taken off the roster before he ever played or practiced with the team.

"Our timeline was followed by what the standards were here," Briles told reporters. "When the incident happened, he's off the roster. Never played a down for us. So it's a very unfortunate situation for all concerned. That's all I've got to say about it."

Baylor initially investigated the sexual assault but determined there was not enough evidence to proceed and was going to allow Ukwuachu to play before the district attorney indicted him, according to the Waco Tribune. The school also was prepared to let Ukwuachu return to the team if he had been found not guilty, his attorney told the Tribune before the trial.

Following Ukwuachu's conviction Friday, Baylor said it would conduct a "comprehensive internal inquiry into the circumstances associated with the case [and] the conduct of the offices involved.''

Information from's Max Olson and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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