ARLINGTON, Texas — Les Miles says he wasn’t the entity that determined the punishment delivered to standout Kansas football running back Pooka Williams.
Still, when it comes to the Jayhawk star’s one-game suspension, the first-year KU head coach appears to be in lockstep with his university's administration.
“I did not make this decision,” Miles said Monday at Big 12 media days at AT&T Stadium, “but I stand by it and see it as the right one.”
Williams, who was arrested and subsequently charged with misdemeanor domestic battery for a Dec. 5 incident with a female KU student with whom he had been intimately involved, returned to the team last week after a seven-plus-month suspension but will be withheld from the Jayhawks’ season opener against FCS-level foe Indiana State on Aug. 31 at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium in Lawrence. Williams on March 29 reached terms of a diversion agreement that created a path for the criminal charges to be dropped.
Asked about Williams’ suspension, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said he “didn’t presume to know all the details” about the case but added KU adhered to recently adopted conference bylaws on “serious misconduct” that take punishment decisions out of the hands of those closely associated with the programs.
“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,” Bowlsby said. “That’s the level at which the decision was made.”
It is unclear which university official had the final say on Williams' suspension. A KU athletics official did not immediately return The Capital-Journal's request for more information on the matter.
Miles stated that “violence will not be accepted with women, period.”
“Action was taken immediately,” Miles said of Williams’ indefinite suspension from the program shortly after the 5-foot-10, 179-pounder's arrest last December. “We felt like a strong point was made not only with Pooka but with the team — the idea that for seven-and-a-half months, Pooka was going through a process and he didn’t have the opportunity to spend time with his team, going to the weight room, just to be part (of it).”
Williams was initially accused of punching the stomach and grabbing at the throat of the victim, but that allegation was not included in his diversion agreement. Instead, Williams admitted to causing physical contact with the victim "in a rude, insulting or angry manner," the result of a heated late-night argument.
“When I entered, I confronted (the victim) about cheating on me,” Williams wrote in the diversion agreement. “I was upset and I grabbed her by the arms during the argument. The other people in the room separated me from (the victim), and I left the room. I later returned to get my keys. I grabbed (the victim) by the wrist to get her to come to the hall with me, but other people in the room separated me from her. I was able to get (the victim) to come out to the hall with me. While out in the hall we continued to argue and I pushed (the victim) out of the way and left.”
An All-Big 12 first-team selection as a true freshman, Williams tallied 1,125 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground, averaging 7 yards per attempt. He added 33 catches for 279 yards and a pair of touchdowns and threw one touchdown pass across his 11 games and was named the league’s offensive freshman of the year. Williams was also tabbed as a preseason All-Big 12 selection last week.
Miles indicated the terms of Williams’ diversion agreement — he underwent a domestic violence offender assessment, must complete 40 hours of community service and an anger management course by Nov. 30 and cannot contact the accuser for the length of the 12-month agreement — as well as the terms laid out by KU’s conduct board — mandatory monthly meetings with a KU conduct officer, completion of a sexual violence accountability course through the school's Sexual Assault Prevention and Education Center and probation until Williams’ graduation — have emphasized the scale of the mistake to Williams.
“Pooka went through a legal investigation with the legal community. Pooka also had proceedings that went through the conduct board with the university,” Miles said. “He basically understood very much that if he did not meet the criteria that the board asked that this would not last long, and he really met every criteria that he could.”
As Miles closed his comments on Williams’ situation, he the running back has “taken responsibility” and “been remorseful” for his actions.
“He’s learned from this experience, as has our team,” Miles said. “We’re thankful to have him back. Again, no violence against (women) is OK.”