Miles addresses suspension of Pooka Williams, stands by decision

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FRISCO, Tex. (WIBW) - KU head football coach Les Miles did not waste much time addressing the biggest offseason story for the Jayhawks at Big 12 Media Days.

Kansas head coach Les Miles speaks on the first day of Big 12 Conference NCAA college football media days Monday, July 15, 2019, at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/David Kent)

The first-year leader of Kansas got into the suspension of star running back Pooka Williams for the team's season-opener against Indiana State before anything else on Monday. KU suspended the sophomore from all team activities for seven months due to an arrest on suspicion of domestic battery before letting him rejoin the team on July 8.

"There is no proper way to put it," Miles said. "There is no violence. Violence will not be accepted with women. Period."

Kansas suspended Williams from all team-related activities shortly after his arrest. The program has also instituted some mandates for the running back as he rejoins the team.

He will be subject to probation until graduation, 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.

"We felt like a strong point was made, not only with Pooka, but the team," Miles said. "He didn't have the opportunity to spend time with his team, go to the weight room or just be a part."

Miles said while he didn't make the final call on Williams, he supports what was done about the situation. A KU spokesperson tells 13 News that KU athletics director Jeff Long ultimately decided to suspend Williams for one game after discussing the situation with university senior leadership.

"I did not make this decision, but I stand by it and see it as a right one," Miles said.

In addition to the university's requirements, Williams signed a diversion agreement with the Douglas County District Attorney's Office. It requires him to undergo a domestic violence offender assessment, complete an anger management course, fulfill 40 hours of community, service, avoid contacting the victim in the case, not consume alcohol or recreational drugs and notify the District Attorney's Office of any official contact with any law enforcement agency while they're on-duty within 48 hours of that contact. If those are fulfilled, he gets his charge dropped and avoids court.

"He's taken responsibility," Miles said of Williams. "He's been remorseful. He's learned from this experience as has our team. We're thankful to have him back and again, no violence against a woman is okay."

Before Miles spoke about the issue, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby addressed how KU handled the situation. According to the Lawrence Jorunal-World, Bowlsby said the program followed the conference's serious misconduct policy.

“First of all, I don't presume to know all the details about that,” Bowlsby said, according to the Journal-World. “It's not a domestic violence policy. It's a serious misconduct policy, so it covers domestic violence but also a wide variety of other things.

"The Kansas process followed what our misconduct policy describes and that is that the decision is made outside of the athletics department and within university higher administration. That's the level at which that decision was made.”

The conference's handbook says the member institutions address issues of serious misconduct through institutional procedures. It states "serious misconduct shall be defined by the Member Institution but that definition must include sexual assault and domestic violence."

The incident involving Williams is from Dec. 5, 2018, when according to an affidavit obtained by the Kansas City Star and Lawrence Journal-World, a woman told a KU police officer on Dec. 6 that Williams punched her in the stomach and grabbed her by the throat.

The aforementioned affidavit, as reported by other outlets, describes that during the officer's interview of the victim, the officer noticed she had bruises on her arms and side. She also revealed text messages from Williams showing him admitting to punching her in the arms.

In a stipulation of facts signed by Williams, he admitted to "knowingly" causing "physical contact" in a "rude, insulting or angry manner" with the victim after entering her friend's apartment. He stated he confronted the victim, whom he admitted to being in an intimate relationship with, by "grabbing her by the arms" during an argument.

Williams claimed this argument stemmed from the victim cheating on him. The stipulation states other people in the apartment separated Williams and the victim, resulting in Williams leaving the room and grabbing the victim by the wrist to get her to come out to the hall with him. Others in the apartment again separated them.

As a freshman in 2018, Williams broke out as an explosive star for the Jayhawks. The Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year rushed for 1,125 yards and seven touchdowns in his debut campaign. Approaching the upcoming season, he's been honored as a member of the Preseason All-Big 12 Team.

"He's very important to the team," senior defensive back Mike Lee said. "He can just make things happen once he gets the ball in his hands. I'm glad to have him back. He was the missing piece to the puzzle and now that we have the full puzzle, we're ready to get to work."

"A talent like Pooka, first-team All-Big 12 as a true freshman, that's not something you see very often," senior defensive back Bryce Torneden said. "To see him back with the team, it means a lot to us."