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Exactly what Chris Petersen told Art Briles about Sam Ukwuachu is critical

We might never know what specific information the schools exchanged when a troubling Boise State athlete transferred to Baylor, but it still makes all the difference.

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Former Boise State defensive end Sam Ukwuachu transferred to Baylor University after being dismissed from the Broncos, all following an impressive freshman season. At Baylor, where he never ended up playing but did graduate, he was found guilty of sexual assault against a fellow student and athlete.

That's the gist of all this.

Baylor head coach Art Briles is far from the only person with questions to answer here. But since it was ultimately his decision to accept a player who'd been booted by another prominent program and his decision to briefly praise the university's handling of the player's "situation" when asked weeks ago about the player, he's got a lot to explain.

Briles spoke the morning after the conviction about what he learned from Boise State's head coach, Chris Petersen, who's now at Washington.


That set off every reaction from "Briles is lying!" to "Briles is passing the blame to Petersen" to "Wait, did Petersen know everything about what Ukwuachu was accused of at Boise?"

Petersen responded later Friday in a statement:

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.

[Update: Briles has since responded. See below.]

Likewise, you can either take that as damning evidence that Briles is lying or you can assume Petersen is just protecting himself as well, or anything in between. It's one coach's word against another's, and the disputed portion is vague.

How thoroughly is Chris Petersen's "thoroughly?" And do those "circumstances" include Ukwuachu's alleged violent outburst, drug use, and abusive relationship at BSU, none of which was public until recently? Ukwuachu was dismissed from the Broncos for violating team rules; did Petersen walk through those rules with Briles?

Texas Monthly reported a Boise State official "did not support any waivers to get the player back on the field," but how graphic was the explanation to Baylor for that lack of support? How much more information did Baylor seek?

The specifics of that phone conversation between Briles and Petersen matter, whether we're ever able to find out more or not.

1. If Petersen didn't know the worst details, but gave Briles a "thorough" summary of some team rule violation and what Briles described as Ukwuachu's depression and homesickness, then ... you'd wish Petersen had known more.

2. But if Petersen knew it all, that Ukwuachu's girlfriend "acknowledged that she would 'probably not' admit it if the abuse were physical" and that a Boise State athletic department official arranged police protection for a housemate of Ukwuachu's, as Texas Monthly reported, [Update: a 2013 document from a 2015 Boise State email shows Petersen likely knew about Ukwuachu frightening a housemate by drunkenly punching out a window, but not necessarily about an abusive domestic relationship] either he relayed that to Briles or he didn't.

From there ...

2a. If he told Briles everything that we now know, then the Baylor coach would bear responsibility for putting Baylor's women students in danger and then lying about it.

2b. But if he didn't, he's dumped all of his own responsibility on top of Briles'.

I can't think of many other feasible scenarios.


Briles, in a Friday evening statement:

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. 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, but he did tell me of a rocky relationship [Ukwuachu had] 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.

In addition, I talked with Tony Heath, his high school coach, who gave us a great recommendation.

As required with any transfer to Baylor, Boise State acknowledged that he was not suspended due to any institutional disciplinary reasons and further that he was eligible for competition if he chose to return to Boise State.

And a released document allegedly shows that if Boise State disapproved of Ukwuachu getting onto the field quickly for the Bears, it did not register that concern on a form of Baylor's. (The one-time transfer exception allows a player to avoid having to sit out a year. It doesn't apply to FBS-to-FBS transfers, so it could be speculated that BSU didn't bother checking otherwise.)