Wisconsin WR Quintez Cephus reinstated, not eligible to play
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Former Wisconsin receiver Quintez Cephus was cleared Monday to return to school after a jury acquitted him of sexual assault charges, though it was unclear when he will be eligible to play in a game.
The school announced Chancellor Rebecca Blank's decision in a statement that said the university had obtained information that wasn't provided during a student conduct review. The statement said sanctions against Cephus have been "reduced" and his expulsion had been lifted, though some conduct violations were upheld.
The statement didn't elaborate. Wisconsin spokesman John Lucas said he had no information on what the school had learned and declined to comment on what conduct violations were upheld.
Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst has said he would welcome Cephus back and the athletic department confirmed Cephus had officially rejoined the team. But in its own statement, the department said it was "working through eligibility issues before he can participate in a game." The opener for the 19th-ranked Badgers is Aug. 30 at South Florida.
"UW Athletics takes allegations of sexual misconduct very seriously," the statement said.
Cephus' attorney Stephen Meyer told The Associated Press in an email that he believes the eligibility issues will be addressed promptly but didn't elaborate.
Football spokesman Brian Lucas declined comment.
Earlier in the day Meyer said he believed the new information mentioned in the school's statement was 250 pages of court documents he supplied when Cephus requested reinstatement Aug. 6.
He said the only conduct violation that was upheld was sexual harassment. That violation stems from Cephus asking his roommate and fellow receiver, Danny Davis, to take a picture of the two women he was accused of assaulting as they slept in his room. Davis, a junior, was suspended for the first two games last season.
Meyer insisted in an email and at a news conference that Cephus faces no further sanctions and he is clear of any punishments when he returns to campus.
"I'm ready to win football games and start getting back my education and I expect to do it at a high level," Cephus said at the news conference.
Cephus was suspended from the team in August 2018 after he was charged with second- and third-degree sexual assault. Prosecutors charged him after two women accused him of sexually assaulting both of them on the same night in his apartment in April 2018 when they were too drunk to consent.
Cephus countered that the sex was consensual and was arranged by one of his accusers. The school expelled him earlier this year for violating its nonacademic misconduct code.
A jury acquitted him Aug. 2 after deliberating for less than an hour.
Cephus, a 6-foot-1 junior, was a standout receiver for the run-first Badgers before he was expelled.
He played a combined 23 games in 2016 and 2017. He accumulated 501 yards receiving in the 2017 season and led the team with six touchdown catches despite breaking his right leg in November of that year and missing the final five games of the season. He was entering his junior year of eligibility.
Blank was caught between the black community and sexual assault victim advocates as she pondered whether to reinstate Cephus. Meyer urged her last week not to reinforce what he called the stereotype that black men are sexually aggressive.
Marcus Allen, president of the African-American Council of Churches Madison and pastor at the Mount Zion Baptist Church that Cephus attends, said he was grateful Blank decided to allow Cephus to go on with his life.
"If he was found innocent why shouldn't he be allowed to return to his normal way of life?" Allen said. "We stand on the side of justice and justice said he was innocent."
Blank said she hopes her decision won't deter sexual assault victims from coming forward.
Erin Thornley Parisi, executive director of the Rape Crisis Center in Madison, said she was worried Cephus' acquittal and reinstatement could have a chilling effect on sexual assault reporting.
"There is a constant pressure for victims not to seek help and not to report their sexual assaults," she said. "It's far more of a pressure to not tell anybody than one might think."
Meyer said questions about Cephus' behavior must stop.
"He spent a year of his life being badgered about things like this," Meyer said. "It's time to stop. He's an innocent man. Treat him like that."