FORT SMITH, Ark. (AP) An investigation found no evidence that a white head coach discriminated against a black basketball player because of his dreadlocks, the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith said.
Tyler Williams said last month he was dismissed from the team by Coach Jim Boone over his hair. Tom Mars, Boone’s attorney, denied the allegations last week.
The university’s internal investigation did not find ”substantial” evidence supporting Williams, Chancellor Terisa Riley said Wednesday in an email to students, faculty and staff.
Last month, Boone noted he would ”probably not” recruit students who have hair like Williams.
”It’s about my program. This might be your team, but it’s my program and there are certain things and expectations that I have in my program and it’s going to be ran in that way,” Boone said. ”Everybody has a choice and when we recruit, you have that choice. If you feel that it’s not for you, then you don’t come here. It’s that simple.”
Boone never told him to change his hair but made him feel ”devalued and disrespected,” the 22-year-old from Oklahoma said.
Williams added last week that Boone, ”did say it had nothing to do with race, but deep down, if you really look at it, it has everything to do with race.”
The probe did not determine if Williams was dismissed or quit, Rachel Putman, a university spokeswoman said. Williams now attends Southern Nazarene University in Oklahoma.
Riley said the school plans to hire a campus diversity and inclusion director and create a diversity committee.
”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,” Riley said.