San Diego State head soccer coach Brady Hoke and athletic director JD Wicker met with the media on Monday and issued statements regarding the gang rape allegation that led the Buffalo Tickets will release former Aztecs punter Matt Araiza on Saturday.
Both men then left the press conference amid repeated questions about the allegations after asking the media to limit inquiries to matters on the ground. Wicker later returned to answer questions about the Hoke-less allegations.
Hoke and Wicker opened the press conference with their statements. Wicker said players Zavier Leonard and Nowlin “Pa’a” Ewaliko – who were charged last week in a civil lawsuit alongside Araiza with raping a minor in 2021 – are no longer part of the squad . According to the lawsuit, the three players allegedly sexually assaulted a 17-year-old who attended an off-campus party in October 2021 at the Araiza residence.
Araiza, an All-American punter, was drafted by the Buffalo Bills before being released on Saturday after the civil lawsuit was filed. Wicker declined to provide details about the status of Ewaliko and Leonard and said he would not answer questions about them.
“To be absolutely clear, we take allegations of sexual assault seriously and do not support any action or behavior that causes harm to others,” Wicker said. … “Under no circumstances would we support an environment that fosters abusive behavior.”
Hoke then continued with his statement.
“What happened should never happen,” Hoke said. “Never. This shouldn’t happen to anyone. What was important to us was that anyone who breaks or violates the law or university policies be held accountable.”
Hoke and Wicker declined to discuss specifics about liability or discipline while citing ongoing police and academic investigations. Both men then opened the press conference to questions while asking reporters to limit their questions to football as the Aztecs prepare for Saturday’s season opener against Arizona.
By video offered by 97.3 The Fan, Wicker directed questions about disciplinary policy to a university’s Title IX webpage while reading a prepared statement. He continued to deflect inquiries about the subject, including a question about why the program invited gang rape survivor and activist Brenda Tracy to speak to the team in 2021.
“Once again, we will be answering game-related questions this weekend,” Wicker said. “If there isn’t, we’ll end the press conference.”
Hoke answered a question about football but remained mostly silent throughout questioning about the alleged gang rape. Wicker continued to cite privacy rights and refer media to the Title IX webpage as questions continued. After more than five minutes, Wicker ended the press conference. Wicker and Hoke then left the room.
Wicker returned later to answer questions, including why the program invited Tracy to speak with the team.
“We brought in Brenda Tracy in connection with an incident reported to us that the SDPD was investigating,” Wicker said. “We brought him in to improve the education of our student-athletes.”
Wicker said the names of the alleged gang rapists were not released to the program at that time. Wicker then responded to a question about reports that the SDSU was previously aware of Araiza’s alleged involvement in the assault.
“Anonymous reports, hearsay, gossip, whatever,” Wicker said. “We did not receive any confirmation from anyone who was a party to the event until the civil suit was dropped.
“Obviously, we were very concerned about the alleged report. And again, we felt the San Diego Police Department had the best opportunity to successfully adjudicate this, and that’s what we got. It was also a matter of jurisdiction because it was an off-campus party.”
He also said the SDSU initially declined to investigate the allegations at the request of the SDPD.
“The SDPD asked us not to investigate,” Wicker continued. “If we start asking questions, you can let someone know.”
Wicker described a Los Angeles Times report that an anonymous student-athlete called in a tip as the program attempted to sweep the story under the rug as “absolutely untrue.”
“It’s absolutely not true that we swept this under the rug because it was football – because we had a successful season,” Wicker said. “It’s not who we are. It’s not who I am.”
Hoke did not return to the press conference to answer questions about the alleged assault. Wicker said it was his decision to come back to the press conference alone.
Statement on Araiza’s family issues
On Monday, Araiza’s parents said in a statement that their son was innocent of sexual assault charges and that their family had been under threat since the story was widely reported.
From KUSIthe statement said:
“He has been extorted, discriminated against, harassed and is subject to multiple and continuous threats of violence and death. He has been fired from his job and our whole family continues to receive horrific threats of violence and death.”
After being cut from the Bills on Saturday, Araiza maintained his innocence.