Scandal is nothing new in the world of collegiate athletics. It seems like every time you turn the TV to ESPN they’re reporting on another academic scandal at a well-known school. Every other day it seems like some coach is getting busted for minor infractions, and with the amount of asinine rules there are in the NCAA handbook it’s really easy to see why.
I, myself, have even written articles in the past outlining scandals as they popped up at various schools. No, these things are nothing new to the NCAA, but sometimes they cross the line from being minor violations to being major, and sometimes in extreme cases even outright criminal. As is the case with the current scandal the Baylor Bears find themselves involved with.
Baylor is a program that, sadly, has seen their fair share of scandals in the past, as well. In this culture of “if it didn’t happen yesterday, it didn’t happen,” it’s easy to forget that just a few short years ago, the Baylor basketball team found itself involved in a murder investigation.
In 2003 Baylor basketball player Patrick Dennehy was shot and killed by his teammate, Carlton Dotson, following an argument in Waco, TX. Dotson was tried, and eventually pleaded guilty to the murder.
Dotson was eventually sentenced to 35 years in prison. He will be eligible for parole after serving half his sentence. If you would like to read more about the case, as well as the numerous other violations by the Baylor basketball team during that period, this Wikipedia article does a really good job of outlining the infractions, as well as the punishment received by the university.
Fast forward to earlier this week, when the Baylor football program had its turn to be embroiled in a controversy. This case centers on transfer student Sam Ukwuachu. Ukwuachu is a transfer student from the Boise State program. He was booted from the Broncos football program in 2013 by Coach Chris Petersen, and no reason was ever given.
Friday, it was revealed that Ukwauchu had been found guilty by a Texas jury on one count of sexual assault, and a judge had sentenced him to 180 days in county jail and 10 years of probation.
Where the case takes a particularly interesting turn is just who was accusing Ukwuachu of this crime. He was accused by his former girlfriend, who just happened to be a member of the Baylor Bears Women’s Soccer team. She testified that Ukwauchu had struck and choked her during an argument the then-couple had.
All of this begs the question “How was a person accused of assaulting a student of the school allowed to transfer to this school?”
The answer to this question lies, sadly, with the importance that we place upon athletics in our society. We’ve become so enamored with sports, be it basketball or football, that we have gotten to a point where universities are forgoing their duties to the majority of their students in favor of acquiescing to the students who participate in athletics.
Baylor University, and any other school for that matter, has a responsibility to ensure the safety of EVERY student at their university, and they have failed horrendously in that respect.
As a university, Baylor had an obligation to be aware of the charges levied against Ukwuachu prior to allowing him to transfer to Baylor. Coach Peterson has stated that he contacted Coach Briles, the head coach of the Baylor football squad, and informed him of the charges against Ukwuachu. If this is true and Briles ignored the charges it shows, at best, a severe lapse in judgement and at worst, a lack of moral character by Briles. As an employee of Baylor University, his obligation isn’t only to the football team, but to Baylor as a whole.
In accepting a player that poses a risk to students on campus, he has shown that winning football games is more of a priority than it is to have morally sound individuals. Briles, if the reports are accurate and he did have prior knowledge of the charges, has demonstrated that winning comes before all else.
While that stance might be morally questionable, we’re the ones to blame for it. We, as a nation, have placed such importance on sports that we have put universities in a position where they have to choose between doing what’s in the best interests of their community as a whole, or what’s in the best monetary interests of the school. More often than not, money is going to win that battle.
If the reports are false, however, and Coach Briles did not have prior knowledge of the charges, then the responsibility falls solely upon the administrators at Baylor. Given the nature of the allegations against Ukwauchu, and the fact that the alleged incident happened with a student at the very university that Ukwauchu was attempting to transfer to, there is no way he should have been accepted as a transfer student.
Everyone makes mistakes, and everyone deserves second chances, but there are limits, and allowing an individual to transfer to a school where he assaulted a student is unacceptable. No matter how this situation ultimately plays out, Baylor University, the NCAA, and athletics as a whole has a bear of a problem on its hands.
Welcome! My name is Chris Spooner. I am an overly-passionate Dolphins fan who has many opinions about his team, and the sports landscape as a whole. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy voicing them.