Last week, former Baylor defensive lineman Sam Ukwuachu was convicted of sexual assaulting a fellow Baylor student-athlete in 2013. He was sentenced to 6 months in prison and a decade of probation . This was not Ukwuachu’s first violent incident. Ukwuachu was dismissed from the Boise State University football team for physically assaulting an ex-girlfriend.
To make matters more appalling, while felony sexual assault charges were pending against Ukwuachu, he was permitted to participate in team activities, continue his academic studies, and was not disciplined in any capacity by the university. Prior to his conviction, the university did not even bother to acknowledge that an investigation into the allegations had occurred. The universities callous actions by allowing an accused rapist who was awaiting trial to remain on its campus is simply put, despicable.In addition to the fact that head coach Art Briles allowed Ukwuachu to join their roster after being informed of the specifics that led to his dismissal from Boise State. Unfortunately, the opportunity to return to the field has been afforded to many student athletes at Division I college football programs in spite of a players violent criminal background .
Major Division college I football is a lucrative business which brings the most successful universities revenues in excess of a hundred million dollars. Consequently, many institutions place higher value on gridiron victories while overlooking student-athletes violent off field activities. As the following examples illuminate, there have been a plethora of players who have been allowed to return to the field after being charged with serious crimes.
- While enrolled at the University of Georgia, quarterback Zach Mettenberger pled guilty to sexual battery, he was dismissed from the university. He later transferred to LSU where he was the Tigers starting quarterback for two seasons.
- University of Missouri star wide-out Dorial Green-Beckham transferred to Oklahoma after he was removed from the team after an incident in which he broke into his ex-girlfriend’s house and subsequently threw a woman down a flight of stairs.
- Former LSU leading rusher Jeremy Hill was allowed to enroll at the university after being arrested for the sexual assault of a 14 year old girl during his senior year of high school. While on probation for sexual misconduct charges, Hill pleaded guilty to battery charges after assaulting a man outside a Baton Rouge bar. He was allowed to remain on the team.
- Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon remained on the team after punching a woman in the face, the blow broke several facial bones. He was allowed to return to the active roster after serving a one year suspension.
- Former Oklahoma State standout running back Tyreek Hill pleaded guilty to charges of domestic assault and battery by strangulation during an assault on his pregnant girlfriend. Hill transferred to the University of Akron and has since joined their football and track teams.
As the above cases illustrate, universities have eagerly provided star athletes second chances desipe prior episodes of violent behavior.
In the end it is repulsive that these institutions of higher education continue to allow these young men to see action on the gridiron after committing despicable acts of violence .The powers that be at these universities must cease providing these players chance after chance as society will not be nearly as forgiving. Sam Ukwuachu can certainly attest to this fact. While I am a firm believer in forgiveness and second chances, at some juncture it is imperative that these young men learn that their athletic prowess will not shield them from the serious consequences of their unlawful behavior.
© Manhood, Race and Culture, 2015.