Harbaugh, others allegedly knew of misconduct accusations against former football player

Tuesday, October 13, 2020 - 6:52pm

The University’s Office for Institutional Equity cleared former University of Michigan football player Mustapha Muhammad of violating sexual misconduct policies.

The University’s Office for Institutional Equity cleared former University of Michigan football player Mustapha Muhammad of violating sexual misconduct policies. Buy this photo
Alec Cohen/Daily

Nine months after two reports of sexual harassment were filed against former University of Michigan football player Mustapha Muhammad in Jan. 2019, the University’s Office for Institutional Equity cleared him of violating sexual misconduct policies. 

Muhammad said Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh, tight ends coach Sherrone Moore and former associate athletic director Greg Harden were aware of the claims against him. 

In September, a Michigan Daily investigation uncovered four accusations against Muhammad spanning from sexual harassment to misconduct, including unwanted touching and stalking women living in a campus residence hall.

New reporting has revealed two more allegations against Muhammad, neither of which was reported to the University. The Daily also found that three Athletics Department employees and two football players allegedly knew about the allegations against Muhammad at the time of his transfer in the fall of 2019.

On Oct. 15, 2019, Muhammad, a former Michigan football tight end, met with Title IX investigator Andrea McDaniel. One day prior, Muhammad had entered the transfer portal to leave the University. 

This meeting marked the conclusion of the University’s investigation into allegations of sexual harassment against Muhammad. McDaniel summarized her findings in an email provided to The Daily by Muhammad’s mother Stacey.

“The reports on their own were not of conduct that was so severe, persistent, or pervasive that it created a hostile environment and/or the potential claimants did not wish to participate in an OIE investigative resolution process and OIE did not have enough information to proceed,” McDaniel wrote in the email, dated Dec. 16, 2019.

Later in the email, McDaniel was more explicit.

“I can confirm that you are not under investigation by OIE and have not been found to have violated the Policy,” she wrote, referring to the University’s policy on student sexual misconduct and other forms of interpersonal violence. 

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Two of the previous allegations uncovered by The Daily were reported to the University through the residence staff reporting system in January 2019.

Through his attorney, Sadiyah A. Evangelista, Muhammad denied all allegations of nonconsensual sex.

“Any conduct between my client and alleged accusers have all been consensual. These allegations are completely false, malicious and dishonest,” Evangelista wrote in an email to The Daily.

In an email to The Daily, University spokesperson Rick Fitzgerald said the application of the University’s general sexual misconduct policy was consistent from student to student regardless of the circumstance.

“The University’s sexual misconduct policy and student procedures apply to all students,” Fitzgerald said. “There is no difference in the way the policy and procedures are applied to an LSA student, an Engineering student, a Ross student or a student-athlete.” 

Further reporting has uncovered another previously undisclosed allegation of sexual harassment against Muhammad, which took place at an off-campus apartment. 

The resident of this apartment, who requested anonymity citing privacy concerns, will be referred to as Mary. Text messages she sent and received at the time of this alleged incident corroborate the nature of her account.

Mary invited Muhammad to her apartment in winter of 2019. After a few hours, she alleges that Muhammad began repeatedly stroking her leg. She remembered asking Muhammad to stop.

“I had to keep swatting his hands,” Mary said. “He was acting ignorant to the fact that it was wrong. No matter how many times (I) swatted him away, it was like a game to him.”

Mary recalled another encounter in which Muhammad came unannounced to her apartment in October 2019 to pick up a phone charger his friend had left there. This alleged incident took place soon after Muhammad’s meeting with McDaniel.

Though Muhammad tried to speak with her, Mary handed him the charger and ran back to her apartment. 

She recalled locking the door as Muhammad called to her from the other side. 

“He was trying to get in,” Mary said. “That happened and then he knew where we lived.”

Mary said she remembered speaking to two football players about the rumors of Muhammad’s alleged sexual harassment. She claimed that both football players expressed knowledge of these rumors.

The Daily reached out to both of the football players Mary named. One player did not respond to multiple emails requesting comment for this article, while the other denied Mary’s allegation that he was aware of rumors about Muhammad.

“This information is false,” the other player wrote in an email to The Daily.

These two were not the only members of the football program to allegedly learn of these allegations. In an interview with The Daily in September, Muhammad said he met with Harbaugh and Moore, the tight ends coach, around a month after his meeting with McDaniel.

A spokesperson for the football team declined comment on Harbaugh and Moore’s alleged knowledge of the accusations.

Muhammad claimed both coaches knew about the allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct against him. They wanted to talk to Muhammad about an OIE investigation into one of the accusations.

Muhammad also said Harden, a former associate athletic director and director of athletic counseling, attended the meeting with McDaniel the as well. Muhammad believed Harden was there to advocate on his behalf. 

Harden, who retired this summer, has been credited with helping athletes like Tom Brady and Desmond Howard turn their careers around at the University. Harden did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

In an email to The Daily, Fitzgerald said a University employee being present at the meeting did not break with protocol.

“It … is not unusual for some university employees outside of OIE to be present for OIE meetings with the complainant or the respondent,” Fitzgerald wrote. “The university routinely makes university employees available to provide support to any student, complainant or respondent, in an OIE meeting.”

Fitzgerald added that students “are free to have anyone of their choosing attend these meetings as a support person,” such as personnel from the Dean of Students Office or the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center.

“There also are times – depending on individual circumstances – when university personnel outside of OIE may have another appropriate role in meeting with OIE and a student,” Fitzgerald wrote. “In those circumstances they may attend a meeting for that reason, and not on behalf of or in support of a student.”

When asked about LSA sophomore Addy Walker’s allegation of sexual misconduct as first reported in The Daily’s initial story, Muhammad confirmed that this encounter with Walker took place. He also confirmed that he told her, “Really, you don’t want to do it with a U of M football player?” during the encounter in response to Walker saying, “No.”

Through his lawyer, he disputed the non-consensual nature of the encounter as alleged by Walker, however.

“I might have said that once, one other time,” Muhammad said. “I’m not completely sure but maybe one more time. But I know I said it with Addy Walker.” 

He characterized the line as a joke more than once. 

“I just said that to her because I was kind of being funny,” Muhammad said. “I was flirting and being happy-go-lucky and I kind of regret it at this moment.” 

Walker disagreed with Muhammad’s characterization of the encounter.

“In the moment, it didn’t really seem like he was trying to be funny,” Walker said. “It seemed like he was trying to pressure me into having sex with him.”

In an email to The Daily, Stacey Muhammad challenged the accuracy of The Daily’s reporting based on her perception of her son.

“As his mother, I can assure you that he was raised to be respectful towards women and girls, and he was never accused of anything even similar to these allegations prior to his time spent in Michigan,” Stacey Muhammad wrote. “I would never excuse any action on his part that would ill-affect or harm any young lady. In the rule of law, an individual is innocent until proven guilty, and he has NEVER been charged with ANY crime.” 

She also denied that Mustapha’s transfer was connected to any allegations of sexual harassment or misconduct.

“Mustapha decided to transfer for reasons that had NOTHING to do with the allegations mentioned in your article,” Stacey Muhammad wrote.

Last year, Muhammad committed publicly to the University of Houston, but a spokesperson for the school said he never enrolled there. 

Muhammad told The Daily his decision to leave the University was purely related to football and had nothing to do with allegations brought against him. He said the committal fell apart because of complications with potential scholarship money.

After the transfer to the University of Houston had fallen apart, Muhammad transferred to Kilgore College, a community college in Texas. He has since left Kilgore and is not enrolled in any football program this fall. 

A spokesperson for the football team declined comment on these accusations.

Throughout the interview, Muhammad described himself as someone who was too young to understand what he was doing. 

“At this point, the article has been seen by a lot of people down here in Texas, you know, people are getting news about Michigan and how that went and how the overall experience was,” Muhammad said. “Nothing for me to add honestly. I’m just kind of heartbroken and a lot of people were disappointed with me. And it’s just the truth and I’m just going to move forward. Honestly, it’s all I can do.”

Managing Sports Editor Ethan Sears and Daily Staff Reporter Sammy Sussman can be reached at searseth@michigandaily.com and sbsu@michigandaily.com.

The Daily has a tip line for these types of stories: tipline@michigandaily.com. This is a private tip line viewable by a small team of reporters committed to responsible reporting on allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct. 

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