Content warning: This story contains depictions of alleged sexual assault.
An independent conduct investigation by San Diego State University found no wrongdoing by former punter Matt Araiza for an alleged rape at a 2021 off-campus house party.
“There are no findings against Matt Araiza,” SDSU said in a statement to Yahoo Sports on Thursday evening.
The school further noted Araiza is “not a named respondent in the university’s investigation” and he is no longer the “subject of an active investigation.”
The school continues to investigate the party, where a then-17-year-old girl alleges she was gang raped by Araiza and at least two other former SDSU football players. The girl filed a civil lawsuit last August against the players. It included graphic details of the alleged attack that led to the Buffalo Bills cutting Araiza on the eve of the 2022-23 NFL season.
The school said it retains the right to “reinstate” the investigation should new information emerge.
Araiza has maintained his innocence throughout.
In December, the San Diego District Attorney’s Office, following separate investigations by both the police and its own office, announced there would be no criminal charges filed against Araiza or the other men for the alleged rape.
In a recently released audio recording of a meeting between prosecutors and the girl, deputy district attorney Trisha Amador explained why Araiza wouldn’t face charges. She cited conflicting testimony, videos and other evidence from an investigation that included 35 witness statements.
Most notably, Amador said she concluded, based on a witness statement, that Araiza “wasn’t even at the party anymore” when the alleged gang rape could have occurred.
“All I know is that at that point, suspect Araiza is gone from the party,” Amador said to the girl.
The civil lawsuit remains active and also alleges the girl was unable to consent to any sexual activity because she was just 17 and visibly intoxicated.
Araiza acknowledges a sexual encounter with the girl earlier in the party, but says she didn’t appear drunk and told him she was 18.
The girl’s attorney, Dan Gilleon, cautions that the opinion of the prosecutor about Araiza's whereabouts at the time of the alleged rape was, he says, based on a single witness. Regardless, the conclusions of SDSU and the district attorney's office are not relevant in the civil lawsuit.
"SDSU's investigation has this garbage-in-garbage-out dilemma: SDSU did not investigate anything for nearly a year, and when it allegedly started, SDSU never spoke to my client," Gilleon said.
SDSU has previously stated it was asked by law enforcement to wait until after the police investigation to begin its own inquiry.
“I will prove Matt Araiza did not act as a person with reasonable prudence should have,” Gilleon said.
The SDSU investigation did not carry criminal weight. Araiza’s attorney said they consider the conclusions from another investigative process to be a step toward clearing his name and getting another chance with an NFL team.
“Matt is very pleased with the finality of this determination and that it is official that he has now been officially exonerated of any wrongdoing or charges related to the SDSU internal investigation,” his civil defense attorney, Dick Semerdjian, said. “He knew all along that serious false allegations were made against him.”
Gilleon, the girl's attorney, countered that the SDSU investigation was "meaningless."
“What’s happening here is the media is being manipulated by Team Araiza’s publicity stunts as a tool to find an NFL team who might hire him,” Gilleon said. “Whether a team ever does is hardly our concern. Remember this: The guilty always attack the victim.”
The two sides have discussed a settlement, with the figure as low as $50,000. Araiza, however, said he won’t settle if he has to admit any wrongdoing.
A record-setting college punter at SDSU, Araiza had a four-year, $3.9 million contract with the Bills before being cut.
A trial is scheduled for the fall.