San Diego State football coach Brady Hoke said Monday he didn’t know star tight end Matt Araiza was accused of 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 time. a week
Hoke’s boss, athletic director John David Wicker, defended the school administration’s decision to comply with 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 at a Halloween party at a home where Araiza lived.
Araiza, nicknamed the “Punt God” and honored as a consensus All-American for his thunderous kicks that helped SDSU to a school-best 12-2 season, was cut by the Buffalo Bills on Saturday, two days after the civil lawsuit containing the graphic. details were filed against him and former teammates Zaver Leonard and Nowlin “Pa’a” Ewaliko. Leonard and Ewaliko are no longer with the team, Wicker said.
The school’s decision to acquiesce to the SDPD was criticized by rape survivor and public speaker 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 on Twitter Sunday night that she was told by an SDSU staff member “that there was an incident.”
Tracy added that as she learns more details, “it’s becoming more obvious that SDSU did not do the right thing. Institutions should not defer to law enforcement investigations. Title IX and criminal prosecutions can run concurrently. … Even without the victim reporting directly to the school , her father did, and the school could have contacted him. Anonymous tips, one of which included a name, should have been followed up immediately.”
Wicker confirmed that Tracy was brought to campus.
“It’s not true at all that we swept this under the rug because it was football, because we had a successful season,” Wicker said. “That’s not who we are and that’s not who I am. That calls into question my morals and my ethics and that’s not true.”
Wicker and Hoke tried to avoid questions about the alleged gang rape at a press conference on Monday. They read brief statements and offered to answer questions about Saturday’s game against Arizona, which will open SDSU’s new Snapdragon Stadium. When reporters continued to ask about the case, Wicker and Hoke walked out.
However, Wicker returned several minutes later and began answering questions.
“I still firmly believe that allowing SDPD to handle the investigation of this was the right course of action,” Wicker said. “SDPD asked us not to investigate because they felt it would hinder or potentially negatively impact their investigation, so we chose to do so.”
Wicker said that included even an informal inquiry such as a coach asking a player if he heard anything.
“SDPD asked us not to investigate. If we start asking questions, you can tip someone off, 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 timeline for a decision on whether charges will be filed. SDSU said it was cleared by the SDPD on July 22 to begin a campus investigation.
The plaintiff in the lawsuit is now 18. She is identified in the complaint as “Jane Doe” because she was a minor 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 within days of the party in at least one report made by student-athletes to San Diego State officials through an anonymous reporting system.
Asked if he knew about that anonymous report, Hoke said: “I wasn’t aware.”
Asked at what point he first heard Araiza’s name mentioned, Wicker said: “We did not receive confirmation from anyone who attended the event until the civil trial was over.”
Meanwhile, the Bills say they’ve moved on from Araiza.
“We’re already past it. It’s over,” offensive lineman Dion Dawkins said after the Bills returned to practice Monday, two days after the team announced Araiza’s release. “He’s not here. It’s not our problem. Done.”
Dawkins acknowledged that he was troubled by the allegations made against Araiza in the lawsuit.
“The thoughts are always coming, but you just have to try to keep your mind right and not think about things you can’t really control,” Dawkins said. “Because if you think about all the other messed up things that are going on in the world, you’re literally going to screw up.”
Before practice, coach Sean McDermott addressed the players about Araiza’s release, which was announced more than two hours after the team completed practice on Saturday. Team officials, including McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane, were first made aware of the allegations when they were told in late July that Araiza was one of a number of San Diego State players targeted in a police investigation.
Araiza was poised to become Buffalo’s starting pitcher 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.”