SAN DIEGO (AP) — San Diego State football coach Brady Hoke said Monday he was unaware that star bettor Matt Araiza had been charged with participating in the gang rape of a 17-year-old girl at an off-campus party in October until a civil lawsuit was filed last week.
Hoke boss, athletic director John David Wicker, has defended the school administration’s decision to obey the San Diego Police Department’s request to delay a campus-led investigation into the alleged gang rape until authorities complete their criminal investigation. The incident happened on October 17 during a Halloween party at a house where Araiza lived.
Araiza, dubbed the “Punt God” and honored as a consensus All-American for his booming kicks that helped SDSU to a best 12-2 school season, was cut by the Buffalo Bills on Saturday, two days after the civil lawsuit containing graphic details were filed against him and his former teammates Zaver Leonard and Nowlin “Pa’a” Ewaliko. Leonard and Ewaliko are no longer on the team, Wicker said.
The school’s decision to join SDPD was criticized by rape survivor and lecturer Brenda Tracy, who was brought in by SDSU to speak to the football team and other male athletes nearly three weeks after the alleged assault. Tracy said in a statement posted to Twitter on Sunday evening that an SDSU staff member told her “an incident has occurred.”
Tracy added that as she learns more details, “it’s becoming increasingly clear that SDSU didn’t do the right thing. Institutions shouldn’t rely on police investigations. The headline IX and criminal cases can be run simultaneously…. Even without the victim reporting directly to the school, his father did, and the school could have reached out to him. one included a name, should have been followed immediately.
Wicker confirmed that Tracy was brought to campus.
“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 and it’s not who I am. It challenges my morals and my ethics and it’s not true.
Wicker and Hoke tried to dodge questions about the alleged gang rape at a news conference on Monday. They read short statements and offered to answer questions about Saturday’s game against Arizona that will open SDSU’s new Snapdragon Stadium. When reporters continued to ask questions about the case, Wicker and Hoke walked out.
However, Wicker returned a few minutes later and began answering questions.
“I still strongly believe that allowing the SDPD to handle the investigation into this was the right way to go,” Wicker said. “The SDPD asked us not to investigate because they felt it would hinder or negatively impact their investigation, so we chose to do so.”
Wicker said it even included informal inquiry such as a coach asking a player if he heard anything.
“The SDPD asked us not to investigate. If we start asking questions, you can tell someone and we’re not going to investigate,” Wicker said.
No arrests have been made and police have not publicly identified any suspects. The results of the police investigation are in the hands of the district attorney, although there is no time limit to decide whether charges will be brought. SDSU said it was authorized by the SDPD on July 22 to begin an investigation on campus.
The plaintiff in the lawsuit is now 18 years old. She is identified in the complaint as “Jane Doe” because she was underage at the time.
Attorney Kerry Armstrong, who is representing Araiza in the criminal investigation, called the allegations false based on the findings of an investigator he hired.
The Los Angeles Times reported that Araiza’s name surfaced in connection with the rape allegation days after the party in at least one report made by student-athletes to San Diego state officials via a anonymous reporting system.
When asked if he was aware of this anonymous report, Hoke replied, “I was unaware.”
When asked when he first heard Araiza’s name mentioned, Wicker said: “We haven’t received any confirmation from anyone who was a party to the event until the trial. civilian be abandoned.”
Meanwhile, the Bills say they’ve moved on from Araiza.
“We have already passed it. It’s over,” offensive lineman Dion Dawkins said after the Bills returned to practice on Monday. two days after the team announced the release of Araiza. “He’s not here. It’s not our problem. Done.”
Dawkins acknowledged that he was troubled by the allegations made against Araiza in the trial.
“Thoughts always come, but you just have to try to keep your mind straight and not think about things you can’t really control,” Dawkins said. “Because if you think about all the other messed up stuff going on in the world, you’re literally going to malfunction.”
Ahead of practice, coach Sean McDermott spoke to the players about Araiza’s release, which was announced more than two hours after the team’s practice ended on Saturday. Team officials, including McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane, first learned of the allegations when they learned in late July that Araiza was one of several San Diego State players targeted in a police investigation.
Araiza was set to become Buffalo’s punter when the team released Matt Haack last week, but the Bills then reversed course. Center Mitch Morse defended the team’s handling of the situation.
“I think they handled it admirably because I don’t envy those situations,” he said. “In the end, I think they made the right decision.”
Wawrow reported from Orchard Park, New York.
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