Baylor Associate Athletic Director Charged With Assault

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Baylor Associate Athletic Director Charged
WACO, TX - NOVEMBER 5: Head coach Jim Grobe of the Baylor Bears looks on from the sidelines as Baylor takes on TCU in the second half at McLane Stadium on November 5, 2016 in Waco, Texas. TCU won 62-22. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

Less than two weeks after the NCAA opened an investigation into possible recruiting violations at Baylor University, the school’s football program has made headlines for the wrong reason yet again.

Baylor Associate Athletic Director Charged With Assault

Heath Nielsen, an associate athletic director at Baylor, has been arrested and charged with assaulting a reporter. The alleged incident took place on Nov. 5 in the Bears’ locker room after Baylor’s 40-point loss to Texas Christian University.

James McBride of the Blaze News of Keller, Texas was the alleged victim. According to the police report, McBride was on the field taking a picture with a player whom McBride had got permission to do so from. Nielsen then allegedly approached McBride, grabbed him by the throat, squeezed and pushed him away. When questioned about his actions immediately thereafter, Nielsen stated that, “He’s abusing his privileges. You’ll never f****** work in this business again. You’re abusing your privileges on the field.”

Reports state that Baylor does have a rule against members of the press conducting interviews with players on the field after games. It’s true that McBride’s conduct could be viewed as a breach of etiquette. Interviews with players after games should be obtained via request of the school’s sports information director and/or athletic department staff.

Nielsen Charged

Regardless of the improper protocol that McBride may have exercised, Nielsen has been charged with a misdemeanor and reportedly put on an indefinite leave of absence. While the university has neither confirmed nor denied this publicly, it’s been made clear that Nielsen intends to fight the charge in a statement from his attorney, Michelle Simpson Tuegel.

“Shortly after the Baylor vs. TCU football game on November 5, Heath intervened when he noticed a man attempting to do an unauthorized interview of a student-athlete on the field. The one-sided version of events released by the complainant are not true or accurate. Mr. Nielsen maintains that he intervened to stop the interview, but he did not grab the complainant’s throat. We look forward to vigorously defending Mr. Nielsen and presenting the facts involved in this situation,” Tuegel said.

McBride’s publication says that incident was captured on the stadium’s cameras, and if that is the case, then the matter of Nielsen’s innocence or guilt should be easily decided. The bigger picture, however, is that an incident of this type is the last thing that Baylor needs.

Recent history hasn’t been kind to Baylor’s football program. First there was the sexual assault that wasn’t investigated by the university, then a player beating a dog and recording it, and the afore-mentioned second instance of possible recruiting violations. All these unsightly events took place within a two-year time frame.

Nielsen’s alleged assault only acts as another nail in the coffin for Baylor’s reputation as an ethical dumpster fire in the public eye, and that perception may be one that he will have to battle in court. It’s going to be hard to fill out a jury in the state of Texas of people who have never heard of any of the past scandals at the school.

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Derek Helling is a freelance writer who covers the intersections of sport and business, culture and law. He graduated from the University of Iowa in 2013 with a Bachelor of Arts degree, double-majoring in Journalism & Mass Communications and Sport Studies. As a fan, he follows Hawkeye athletics, Major League Baseball, the Florida Panthers and the Miami Heat.

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