Investigation: WMU knew about former player’s history

Ex-player charged with robbery faced sexual assault allegations in hometown

Bryson White
Mug shot of Bryson White.

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Western Michigan University was aware of the criminal allegations against former football player Bryson White before his armed robbery arrest in Kalamazoo, according to White’s high school.

WMU officials, including former head coach P.J. Fleck, have said they were unaware of his history.

White’s prior trouble included four separate allegations of sexual assault, including gang rapes, in his hometown of Mason, Ohio, before WMU recruited him last year.

>>Timeline: Accusations, arrests follow Bryson White from Ohio to WMU

In an email obtained by Target 8, Mason (Ohio) High School said White’s high school football coach told the Broncos that White “had significant troubles at school and with law enforcement during White’s freshman and sophomore years.”

The email detailed an internal investigation conducted by an attorney for Mason High School in response to a Target 8 report. The attorney, William Deters, did not respond to Target’s request for an interview.

According to the email, the Mason High School coach told WMU that White was “relatively trouble-free” as a junior and senior.

“In my opinion, WMU had sufficient knowledge and warnings about White,” the attorney wrote in the email.

That contradicts statements made repeatedly by WMU officials, including Fleck, who is now head coach of the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers. During his first press conference with reporters in Minnesota on Friday, Fleck said he knew nothing about White’s past.

“I had zero knowledge, zero knowledge of that information prior,” Fleck told reporters. “We investigated it and we did our due diligence with the high school, the high school coach, the high school principal at the time and the information we got back from them had no recollection of anything that that young man had done.”

Broncos Athletic Director Kathy Beauregard said the same in September.

“It was absolutely stated to us that there were no issues at all with this young man, legally, when the coach talked to the coach,” Beauregard said at the time.

White was a star running back and track star for Mason High School in suburban Cincinnati.

The Broncos athletic director said the team contacted Mason High School last spring after questions were raised about his character.

“I don’t know what more homework we could have done on him than what we did,” Beauregard told Target 8 in September. “We talked to the football coach directly; we talked to administrators at the school, teachers at the school.”

In August, before the Broncos’ football season started, White and another former player were charged with home invasion and armed robbery after allegedly stealing cash and marijuana and threatening a woman at an off-campus apartment in Kalamazoo. Those charges are pending. White has since been accused of choking a woman in Ohio.

A Target 8 investigation uncovered police reports that showed White had been accused in two separate alleged gang rapes and of forcing two girls to perform oral sex, all in Mason. He was never charged in any of the cases.

Then, in March 2016, he was arrested in Mason for driving under the influence of marijuana. Police said the passenger in his car had a gun and a mask.

At his press conference in Minnesota, Fleck said he has learned from White’s case.

“Going through that has made me a better football coach, made me a better head football coach,” he said. “It has made us all better recruiters to not just take people that we trust word for it. We’re going to take that as part of the process but we’re going to even dig down deeper, legally.”

Target 8 could not reach Fleck for comment. WMU’s athletic director said the university’s legal counsel was reviewing Mason High School’s email.

The Mason High School internal investigation also cleared its head football coach, Brian Castner, of wrongdoing.

The district had investigated after an alleged victim of White told Target 8 that a Mason High School football coach had asked her not to pursue the case.

The woman, now 18, said White and two other members of the Mason High School football team allegedly forced her behind a Catholic church, put a gun to her head and raped her when she was 15.

Mason High School’s attorney said he interviewed the coach and others, including the alleged victim, and “did not substantiate” the claim against the coach.