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UAFS Men’s Basketball Coach Cleared Of Racial Discrimination Accusations

FORT SMITH, Ark. (KFSM) — The University of Arkansas Fort Smith Chancellor, Dr. Terisa Riley, released a statement Wednesday (Sep. 11) to all faculty, students ...

FORT SMITH, Ark. (KFSM) — The University of Arkansas Fort Smith Chancellor, Dr. Terisa Riley, released a statement Wednesday (Sep. 11) to all faculty, students and staff about the investigation into racist allegations made against the men's basketball coach by a former player.

Former UAFS basketball player Tyler Williams claims head coach Jim Boone said he did not like his dreadlocks, and he would not recruit other players whose hair looked the same as his.

Boone denied the allegations and UAFS players came out in support of their coach.

Boone released the following statement Thursday (Sept. 12):

“I have had the honor of coaching hundreds of young men over the course of my career, supporting their growth in and out of competition. My highest duty as a coach and the job of all members of a university community is to build up our students and create an environment where they are welcomed and supported, given opportunities to develop their skills, and prepared to be great husbands, fathers, and community leaders when they graduate from college.

I’m committed to taking the necessary steps toward healing alongside our chancellor, Dr. Terisa Riley, and our athletic director, Curtis Janz. Dr. Riley has made clear there will be no hair policy on my team or any other at UAFS, and I fully support that decision. In hindsight, after listening to the audio recording, I’m sorry that I responded reactively during the meeting on August 16, 2019. That was out of character for me, and I regret that I allowed both parties’ emotions to escalate.

There is nowhere I would rather be, and no team I would rather coach than the amazing young men of UA Fort Smith.”

UAFS Athletic Director Curtis Janz said the following about the investigation:

“What makes the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith special is the dedication everyone on this campus has to our students. This is a transformational place. I love these student-athletes, and I am truly impressed by every one of them.

As Athletic Director, my ultimate responsibility and utmost goal is to foster a welcoming environment where every student-athlete feels respected and heard. They must have a healthy place to learn, grow and compete. I respect the outcome of the thorough investigation and Chancellor Riley’s directives that resulted from it. I know Coach Boone is ready to fully participate in the healing process.

I hope our student athletes will join the UAFS Department of Athletics, the Black Student Association, and others at the campus open forum, where members of our community can talk freely about issues of race and hopefully find a way forward as a university.”

The statement released by Dr. Riley Wednesday read:

“Dear UAFS Students and Colleagues,

On Tuesday, September 2, 2019, I informed the UAFS community that an allegation of race discrimination had been reported by a former player against a head coach on campus.  Today, I am writing to share the final results of the investigation with you.

Today, the University of Arkansas Fort Smith EEO Officer sent formal letters to the former student and to the head coach which state that she did not find substantial evidence to support the claim of race discrimination; however, the process revealed a need for better communications when addressing a sensitive matter, particularly when raised by a student.

The past few weeks have been tremendously challenging for me and for many members of our community.  We have spent this time asking incredibly difficult questions about our core values and how we show people that we value and respect them.  We also have talked about forgiveness, compassion, the important role of education and our obligation to create a better world.  As a new leader in this community, I have been humbled by the outreach I have received from members of the Fort Smith community, local and state legislators, alumni, members of the NAACP, and UAFS students who voiced their opinions and concerns in incredibly meaningful ways.  Each person expressed confidence in the process which is used to collect and analyze information in order to come to a final conclusion.  I am particularly grateful for the meetings I have had over the past week with the student athletes on our men’s basketball team and the leaders of the Black Student Association.  I respect all of these students for their leadership and desire to improve the university.

I have struggled with the fact that I am unable to release the investigative report to you because it is legally protected as part of an employee performance and evaluation file, and I have debated how to live up to the promises I have made to you as your chancellor during this time when many people are questioning what we stand for as a university.  I will show what we stand for through my actions, not my words:

I will provide you with my complete assurance that the University of Arkansas Fort Smith Department of Athletics will not condone or allow a policy, procedure, or practice—conveyed verbally or in writing—to dictate the hair styles or hair lengths for its student athletes,

I will allocate resources to hire a director of campus diversity and inclusion who will join my leadership team and will have a seat at the senior staff table,

I will work with members of the UAFS community to create a campus diversity and inclusion committee that will be tasked with the creation of a diversity and inclusion strategic plan which includes increasing the number of faculty, staff, administrators and students of color on campus, and

I will work with the newly formed campus diversity and inclusion committee to review and improve policies, procedures, actions, and practices to fortify a more inclusive educational environment.

The Black Student Association and the Department of Athletics, along with other co-sponsors, would like to invite you to a campus open forum at which our campus leaders and students will talk openly about issues of race, identify ways that our university can improve, and discuss action steps that we can take to ensure that the University of Arkansas Fort Smith is a place where all students, faculty, and staff are empowered, educated, respected, and valued.  This event will take place on Tuesday, September 17 at 6:30 p.m. in the Reynold’s Room in the Campus Center.  I hope you will join me for this important conversation.

With highest respect and regards,

Terisa Riley, Ph.D.”