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The Baylor Lesson

It's not that you can't give second chances. It's that you have to own the consequences when it goes wrong.

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Sam Ukwuachu is a former Baylor football player. You may not remember him, because he never played a down for the Bears. He was convicted yesterday on two counts of felony sexual assault in McLennan County, Texas.

This post isn't about the details of what happened. You can read about them here or here or here or here. But there are universal lessons from what happened that we should all grapple with.

Other writers have condemned Baylor for bringing Ukwuachu to Waco in the first place. I'll pass. Ukwuachu had documented problems at Boise State. He was accused of violent behavior. He was kicked off the football team, which doesn't happen to a freshman All-American without good cause. He was also never charged with and never convicted of any crimes.

Should another school bring this person to their campus? Maybe. Maybe not. Schools admit students every day who present a threat to other students. Schools admit students with criminal records and accusations of criminal conduct and who have hidden proclivities that could morph into violent or deviant behavior. It's no more possible to make campuses completely safe than it is to make any place completely safe.

So did Art Briles and Baylor err in admitting Ukwuachu to their program? That's a value judgment you have to make on your own. But you have to make it prospectively, not retrospectively. That Ukwuachu raped a student at Baylor does not, by itself, mean Baylor was wrong to recruit him.

Whether you think Briles and Baylor should've given Ukwuachu a second chance, there's no serious argument that Baylor's handling of the rape allegations wasn't an unmitigated disaster. They reviewed texts that, according to Texas Monthly, showed the woman was uninterested in sex or a relationship with Ukwuachu. They considered a polygraph commissioned by Ukwuachu's lawyer, which is usually inadmissible in court proceedings. They spoke to a roommate who wasn't home at the time.

After this perfunctory investigation, Baylor cleared Ukwuachu of wrongdoing on a preponderance-of-the-evidence standard. Yesterday, a jury found him guilty on a beyond-reasonable-doubt standard.

And it was more than the investigation. The victim was diagnosed with PTSD, but had to change her own class schedule to avoid Ukwuachu. Her scholarship was reduced. She eventually transferred.

Today, Briles told reporters that he wasn't aware Ukwuachu had any issues other than depression.  Believe this if you wish. I don't, and consider it pathetic dissembling by Baylor. They recruited a player with a documented violent behavior who was kicked off Boise State's football team. That's their prerogative.

But once they made that decision, they bought the consequences, too. Giving him a second chance wasn't Baylor's problem. Everything that happened afterward was.