And if they aren’t lying, somebody’s isn’t being as forthcoming as they should be.
And if they aren’t lying, or being as forthcoming as they should be, then somebody’s stretching the truth.
This little back-and-forth, finger-pointing episode between Baylor football coach Art Briles and former Boise State/current Washington coach Chris Petersen is rather sad.
Because as two high-profile coaches from high-profile schools duke it out in the media, a young woman is off to the side, left to pick up the pieces of a shattered life. That’s the disgusting part of all this.
The woman in question, a former Baylor soccer player, was sexually assaulted in October of 2013, by Baylor defensive end Sam Ukwuachu, who was convicted of the crime on Thursday and sentenced to six months in jail and 10 years probation – a shame in and of itself – on Friday.
And that’s when the war of words broke out between Briles and Petersen and created this Richard Nixon-like “what did Baylor know and when did they know it” situation. When Petersen was coaching at Boise State, Ukwuachu was dismissed from the team after a spectacular freshman season for violation of team rules. Nothing was specified at the time but Ukwuachu’s former girlfriend at Boise testified in his trial that he punched her in the head several times and had previously physically restrained her from leaving her apartment.
Ukwuachu wanted to transfer back closer to his home in Texas and here’s where things get murky, and disgusting. In a statement first given to ESPN, Petersen said he apprised Briles of the situation and of Ukwuachu’s past history.
“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.”
So Baylor knew what it was taking on when it accepted Ukwuachu as a transfer, right? No, says Briles.
Briles originally said he had a phone conversation with Petersen two years ago and there was “no mention of anything except Sam being depressed and needing to come home.”
Facing mounting criticism, Briles amended that by releasing another statement that said: “In our discussion, (Petersen) 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 his depression. The only disciplinary action I was aware of were team-related issues, insubordination of coaches and missing practice.”
He said/he said, but this is the yin and the yang of college football. We love the sport for its passion and beauty; we hate it for instances like this, the apparent win-at-all-costs pressure facing major college coaches. And, if true, if Briles knew what he was getting, it certainly wouldn’t be the first time a coach made a “he deserves a second chance” case for an athlete. College football history is littered with those instances, and we simply do not have the bandwidth to list all of them.
That doesn’t make it right, of course.
In the meantime, tens of thousands of words of copy will be written about this spat between Art Briles and Chris Petersen. It will be dissected and deconstructed. Maybe even an investigation by Baylor.
And over there sits yet another woman, another victim of domestic violence, another young life interrupted and changed forever. Where is her second chance?