Pooka Williams to rejoin KU football, suspended for regular-season opener

FILE - In this Nov. 17, 2018, file photo, Kansas running back Pooka Williams Jr. (1) runs ahead of Oklahoma defenders during the first half of an NCAA college football game, in Norman, Okla. Pooka Williams Jr. was selected as the newcomer of the year when the AP All-Big 12 team was announced Friday, Dec. 7, 2018. (AP Photo/Alonzo Adams, File)

LAWRENCE, Kan. (WIBW) - KU football star running back Pooka Williams will rejoin the Jayhawks this week following a seven-month suspension.

The university announced the news on Monday as well as a one-game suspension for the sophomore. Williams will miss the team's regular-season opener against Indiana State on Aug. 31.

His suspension from all team-related activities stemmed from an arrest for suspicion of domestic violence in December. Williams reached a year-long diversion agreement with the Douglas County District Attorney's Office for this case.

"My behavior was unacceptable, and I'm very sorry to those who were impacted by my poor choices," Williams said in a release. "I am disappointed in myself, not just as a man, but as a student-athlete looked up to by younger kids."

The diversion agreement requires that he 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.

In addition to his diversion requirements, KU has added more mandates for the Louisiana native. Williams 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.

"Pooka's behavior last December was unacceptable as a member of any community, especially our university community," KU athletics director Jeff Long said. "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.

"While suspended, Pooka 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. Pooka will be permitted to continue his education and football career provided he continues to meet the requirements of his diversion agreement and University Conduct sanctions. We will continue our educational efforts with Pooka and with all our student-athletes regarding our expectations of them as representatives of the university."

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.

Eventually, Williams stated they both went out into the hall and continued to argue before he pushed her out out of the way and left.

"Pooka has taken responsibility for his actions and we are happy he is back with the team," Jayhawk head football coach Les Miles said. "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."

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.

"My suspension from football has been hard, but I have learned from it. I'm thankful I can continue with my education at KU," Williams said. "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."