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Originally published July 8, 2019 at 02:08p.m., updated July 8, 2019 at 04:17p.m.

Pooka Williams reinstated by KU football after domestic violence arrrest, will miss season opener

Kansas running back Pooka Williams Jr. (1) takes off on a run during the first quarter on Friday, Nov. 23, 2018 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas running back Pooka Williams Jr. (1) takes off on a run during the first quarter on Friday, Nov. 23, 2018 at Memorial Stadium.

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The Kansas football team’s undeniable star a season ago, running back Pooka Williams, is rejoining the program after a seven-month suspension.

Williams, who was arrested and charged with domestic battery in December before reaching a diversion agreement in the case, will miss the Jayhawks’ season opener versus Indiana State as part of his punishment, KU announced on Monday.

“My behavior was unacceptable, and I’m very sorry to those who were impacted by my poor choices,” Williams said in a news release from KU Athletics. “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. 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.”

KU head coach Les Miles suspended Williams from all team-related activities this past December, after KU police arrested Williams and he was charged with domestic battery.

The victim in the case told a KU police officer on Dec. 6 that Williams punched her in the stomach and grabbed her throat around 12:30 a.m. Dec. 5, when they were at Stouffer Place Apartments.

During the interview, the officer found that the victim had bruises on her arms and side, according to the affidavit supporting Williams’ arrest. She also showed the officer text messages from Williams admitting to punching her in the arms.

The officer interviewed Williams, who reportedly said that he pushed the woman when he saw her in a room with other men at the apartment building. Both Williams and the victim said they were in an intimate relationship.

Williams spent the night in jail and made his first court appearance Dec. 7 in Douglas County District Court. He was formally charged with domestic battery, a misdemeanor. Hatem B. Chahine, Williams’ attorney, entered a not guilty plea on his client’s behalf.

Williams and Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson signed a diversion agreement regarding the misdemeanor domestic battery charge in March.

A diversion is a means by which a defendant can avoid having a criminal conviction on his record, provided he completes an agreed upon program. In Williams’ case, that includes undergoing a domestic violence offender assessment, completing an anger management course and fulfilling 40 hours of community service by Nov. 30.

Chahine did not immediately respond to the Journal-World’s request for comment regarding his client’s diversion agreement.

In addition to the game suspension imposed by Kansas Athletics, the university’s Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards has required that Williams be subject to probation until he graduates, attend monthly meetings with a university conduct officer, complete 40 hours of community service, and complete a sexual violence accountability course through the university’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Education Center.

Although Williams didn’t practice with KU football during the spring, he was in attendance at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium for the spring game, watching from the bleachers.

“Pooka’s behavior last December was unacceptable as a member of any community, especially our university community,” KU Athletic Director Jeff Long said in the news release. “As a result, Kansas Athletics suspended Pooka from the football program in December when serious allegations were first brought forward, and he has remained suspended until now. During that time, he has gone through an extensive legal process as well as a comprehensive university conduct process, both resulting in sanctions and penalties.”

According to Long, Williams “has done all that has been required of him by the courts, the university and Kansas Athletics, and most importantly, has accepted responsibility for his actions.”

Williams’ continued time at KU as a student and football player, Long added, will depend on the running back meeting the requirements of his diversion agreement as well as University Conduct sanctions.

“We will continue our educational efforts with Pooka,” Long said, “and with all our student-athletes regarding our expectations of them as representatives of the university.”

A 5-foot-10, 170-pound running back from Louisiana, Williams was a first-team All-Big 12 running back in 2018.

Williams averaged 102.3 yards per game on the ground, while playing in 11, finishing his debut season with 1,125 yards and seven rushing touchdowns. The versatile back also contributed 289 receiving yards, 33 catches and two touchdown receptions. Plus, Williams threw a 9-yard TD pass at Oklahoma.

On special teams, Williams’ 246 yards on 11 kick returns helped him lead the conference in all-purpose yards, at 150.9 per game.

Williams became the first KU player to win Offensive Freshman of the Year and the first KU freshman to earn first-team distinction from the Big 12.

“Pooka has taken responsibility for his actions and we are happy he is back with the team,” Miles said in the release. “This young man has learned much throughout this process and we will support him as he continues working through the required educational and accountability steps.”

— Journal-World reporter Dylan Lysen contributed to this story.

Comments

Chris DeWeese 4 months, 1 week ago

Based on what we know, this seems reasonable. Glad to have him back. Glad he's been given a chance to redeem himself.

David Kemp 4 months, 1 week ago

Glad to see him back! Hope this was a wake up call. What does this mean? Bad news for coastal carolina

Jim Stauffer 4 months, 1 week ago

Wish we really knew the facts as in some cases where a video is available. Just never seemed to me to be the typical physical abuse scenario, but then I do not have the facts so I simply do not know.

Dirk Medema 4 months, 1 week ago

Really proud of the way the University and Pooka handled this. Some naysayers might talk about it only being a 1 game suspension for Indiana State, but it is quite a bit more by the University than required by our legal system. That’s really not surprising though because KU commonly exceeds the standards of others.

Rock Chalk.

Chris DeWeese 4 months, 1 week ago

I agree. I'm happy with the way Long and Miles handled this. No knee jerk reactions. Adopting a wait and see attitude. For what we know, this seems reasonable.

Andy Tweedy 4 months, 1 week ago

In regards to football only, he missed the opener last year and we lost the damn game. So from that perspective, we really don't know if this is a small suspension!!! From a non-football standpoint, I appreciate the fact both he and the university were successful at keeping their mouths shut for the duration of the story. As fans, we aren't "entitled" to know anything more than the public record shows, and I'm fine with that.

Bee Bee 4 months, 1 week ago

IF K U doesn't roll the first two opponents the natives will be restless!

Len Shaffer 4 months, 1 week ago

Well said, Dirk. I too am quite proud of the way all have handled this, including Pooka himself.

We all know there are plenty of places that wouldn't handle this type of situation as well, especially for someone who is clearly the best player on the team.

Everyone deserves a second chance, and let's all hope that Pooka has really learned his lesson and is ready to continue being one of the most exciting players in the country.

David Robinett 4 months, 1 week ago

Les + Khalil & Dom will deliver the 1st win.

Buck Bukaty 4 months, 1 week ago

Can you not imagine Khalil & Dom & Pooka running in The Wishbone!

Kinda reminds ya of the Nolan Cromwell days!

I agree, Khalil & Dom have the backfield covered for the first game.

Michael Leiker 4 months ago

Should have just sat him for 2 so he was extra fresh for the Big XII.

Jonathan Allison 4 months ago

I agree with all who have commented above. The sum total of the requirements placed on him through the justice system, the university offices, and the discipline administered by coaching staff seems appropriately severe given all that we know about the situation.

As long as Williams can fulfill the requirements that he's agreed to then it would be fair if we never hear about this incident again.

Based on his words and those of the Athletic Director, I assume that he's learned an invaluable lesson and in the future will exhibit much better self-control.

Secondary to that; it will be very good to have him back with the team this fall. Hopefully he can continue the on-field success from last year.

Freddie Garza 4 months ago

If you serve your suspension during the off season, did you really serve a suspension?

Jonathan Allison 4 months ago

1.) Are you aware that he will be required to sit out the first game?

2.) Are you saying that missing all of Spring Camp for disciplinary reasons is not discipline?

Other guys are getting coaching and getting first team reps and he's not there.

Lawrence McGlinn 4 months ago

I would agree that it is convenient that he is back in time for practice for this year, and missing a non-conf game. Hope all the measures have some impact on him.

Tim Orel 4 months ago

I just hope he's able to graduate. I wonder if he'd have to stay on some sort of "probation" otherwise.

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