Kansas caught some flak when it announced a one-game suspension for running back Pooka Williams, who was arrested in December for domestic battery.
After the arrest, Williams was suspended from the program, leaving his status with the team unclear. That changed last week, when KU announced Williams would be reinstated after a seven-month suspension and would be held out of the Jayhawks’ Week 1 matchup against Indiana State.
During his press conference at Big 12 Media Days on Monday morning, new Kansas head coach Les Miles supported the school’s decision to reinstate Williams, arguably the team’s best player, and suspend him for just one game — a game against an FCS opponent.
“No violence against a woman is OK,” Miles said. “I did not make this decision but I stand by it and see it as a right one.”
Williams investigated by local police and university
Williams was subjected to both a legal investigation and a university investigation. In March, Williams signed a 12-month diversion agreement in an effort to have his misdemeanor battery charge dropped. As part of the agreement, Williams was mandated to undergo a domestic violence offender assessment, attend an anger management course, complete community service, refrain from using drugs and alcohol and stay away from the victim, who said Williams pushed her, punched her and grabbed her by the throat.
Kansas’ Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards also looked into the incident and said Williams will be subject to probation until he graduates, required to attend monthly meetings with a conduct officer and also take a sexual violence accountability course.
Miles said that Williams did everything asked of him during his suspension from the football team.
“Violence will not be accepted with women, period. Action was taken immediately,” Miles said. “Pooka went through a legal investigation with the legal community. Pooka also had proceedings that went through the conduct board at the university and he understood very much that if he did not meet the criteria that the board asked that this would not last long. He really met every criteria that he could. He’s taken responsibility. He’s been remorseful. He’s learned from this experience, as has our team. We’re thankful to have him back.”
Big 12 commish: KU followed serious misconduct policy
Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby was asked about Kansas’ handling of Williams’ situation and said the school followed the conference’s “serious misconduct” policy, which calls for schools to make decisions outside the athletic department.
“The Kansas process followed what our misconduct policy describes and that is that the decision is made outside of the athletics department and within university higher administration,” Bowlsby said. “That's the level at which that decision was made.”
When his reinstatement was announced, Williams released a statement that included an apology and called his behavior “unacceptable.”
"I am disappointed in myself, not just as a man, but as a student-athlete looked up to by younger kids. My suspension from football has been hard, but I have learned from it. I'm thankful I can continue with my education at KU,” Williams said.
“Looking ahead, the most important thing to me is to regain the trust and respect of my classmates, teammates, and fans. I am humbled to return to football and to prepare for the season."
Williams was the Big 12’s offensive freshman of the year in 2018. He finished third in the conference with 1,125 rushing yards while adding seven touchdowns. He also caught 33 passes for 289 yards and two scores.
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