Details About Sam Ukwuachu’s Final Days at Boise State Based on Notes From the School’s Assistant Athletic Director
When trying to determine what exactly Chris Petersen told Art Briles, assistant Boise State Athletic Director Marc Paul’s vivid description of Sam Ukwuachu’s troubled final days at the university fills in some gaps.
On Friday, the story of Samuel Ukwuachu, the Baylor defensive end who was convicted of felony sexual assault on Thursday evening, continued to unfold. In the morning, Baylor head coach Art Briles told ESPN that he “talked with Chris Petersen personally,” and heard “no mention of anything beyond Sam being depressed, needing to come home.” Petersen—who is now the current head coach at Washington—was Boise State’s head coach when Ukwuachu transferred and dismissed the player in May 2013.
A few hours after Briles’ statement to the press, Petersen made a statement of his own, in which he claimed, “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.”
The thoroughness of Petersen’s appraisal remains a question. On Friday evening, Briles released another statement about the conversation he and Petersen had in May 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. 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 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.”
At press time, Petersen hasn’t responded to Texas Monthly’s request for an interview to clarify exactly what he apprised Briles of. But documents obtained by Texas Monthly during the course of reporting our original story on Ukwuachu indicate that Petersen knew more than merely that Ukwuachu had “a rocky relationship with his girlfriend.” An email sent from assistant Boise State athletic director Marc Paul to himself on June 22, 2015, outlines in exacting detail what occurred between May 2 and May 5 2013, the final days of Ukwuachu’s time at the university. It also lists exactly who Paul communicated those details to—including the player himself, Coach Petersen, Ukwuachu’s girlfriend and roommate, and other members of the school’s athletic department.
We’ve redacted the document to protect the identities of his roommate and girlfriend, and to protect Ukwuachu’s own private medical information.
Spoke with S.Uk and informed him would be calling parents. Athlete understood and ok’d call to parents.
Felix thanked me for the call and was going to call S.Uk when got off the phone.
Rec’d call from [assistant coach] A. Avalos re: S.Uk. Got call from roommate (EH) that S.Uk had been drinking. […]
Talked to EH and was not letting his girlfriend into house due to drunken belligerent state of S.Uk. EH has been trying to keep him in the house while protecting his girlfriend.
Called Tony Platt to have officers respond and take into protective custody. Following call, texted EH to tell him officers were on way. EH responded with need them immediately because he has punched a window and cut his wrist. Explained later that S.Uk’s wrist was bandaged when EH came home earlier in the evening and re-cut wrist when punched window.
Spoke with [girlfriend]. They got into argument today re: spring fling at school. [girlfriend] was not at home at time of conversation and informed her NOT to go home. She assured me would not go home and go to friend’s house tonight.”
Have spoken with C. Petersen, [assistant coach] A. Avalos, [then-Boise State Athletic Director] M. Coyle, CVP, and [then-Boise State assistant Athletic Director] C. Apsey. Left message to attempt to speak to officer Jermaine Galloway.”
“Spoke with C. Petersen @ 8 AM. Got copy of text messages that S.Uk sent to EH at some point last night using derogatory names. Forwarded to Tony Platt so BPD [Boise Police Department] can assist with helping look after EH if necessary.
Spoke with S.Uk’s father and mother and informed them of previous night’s incident. Father became agitated when informed that S.Uk had been drinking and became violent. Suggested to them that they need to come to Boise and get S.Uk and take him home for further help. Mother informed that has plane ticket for May 15th, but told her he needs to go home sooner and that would attempt to help with withdrawal from school. Mother seemed to understand and they will speak with C. Petersen this morning.
Spoke with Tony Platt 8:30 AM re: S.Uk. Reviewed tips to help with situation, most of which we are already doing. Gave OK to call for help again or for officer to go to house with staff member if need to in future.
Was obvious he was still agitated from previous night’s events, so called [girlfriend] at 8:53 and left message to NOT go back to house. Wanted her to wait until she knew S.Uk was not at home and to go get some clothes and items with plans on staying somewhere else for a few days. Also left instructions to call or text back that she got the message. Did not hear back from her.
S.Uk spoke with C. Petersen. Will meet tomorrow with them at 8 AM at school in CP’s office.
This correspondence indicates that Petersen was aware of Ukwuachu’s behavior in his final week at Boise State—as does the fact that at the end of that week, Petersen dismissed Ukwuachu from the team. It doesn’t tell us what the content of the conversation between Briles and Petersen was, though.
In addition to Briles’ second statement, the press release Baylor sent to the media included a copy of Baylor’s transfer information request, which was filled out by Jenny Bellomy, Boise State’s director of compliance. The press release asked the media to note “items 14 and 17,” which deal with Ukwuachu’s eligibility to return to Boise State. However, in an October 23, 2013, email sent to Boise State by Baylor’s Bethany McCraw, the Dean of Student Conduct responsible for the school’s investigation into the incident, asks, “Can you confirm that Mr. Ukwuachu was not suspended or expelled from Boise State University for any reason and is thus eligible to immediately return?” In other words, the form doesn’t suggest that Ukwuachu hadn’t been suspended or disciplined by the Boise State football team—just that he hadn’t formally been expelled from the university following his dismissal from the Broncos.
While we don’t know exactly what was said between Briles and Petersen, there is evidence that Petersen knew the extent of Ukwuachu’s actions in May 2013 and that he took it seriously enough at the time to immediately dismiss Ukwuachu from the team. We also know that the discipline enforced by Petersen wasn’t a question asked by Baylor on the form distributed to media on Friday evening. There are a number of questions remaining, but the nature of Sam Ukwuachu’s final days at Boise State—and who knew the details—is not among them.