UW-Madison announced Monday it has reinstated former Wisconsin Badgers wide receiver Quintez Cephus to the university — a year to the day he told his team he had to step down to face criminal charges.
Advocates for sexual assault victims, however, noted that reinstating him could make future victims less comfortable in coming forward to report assaults.
The decision on whether to accept Cephus' reinstatement to the university put UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank in a tough spot, having to weigh how two groups often doubted — African-Americans and sexual assault victims — would be affected on campus.
"I know the past year has been painful for everyone involved," Blank said in a statement. "I recognize that some will disagree with this decision. To those in our community who have experienced sexual assault, I sincerely hope that there is nothing in this case that will deter you from coming forward for support."
The decision also reduces the likelihood that Cephus' attorneys will re-file a lawsuit claiming UW-Madison violated his federal civil rights by pursuing its investigation while a criminal proceeding was ongoing. Cephus' attorneys argued he was unable to defend himself during the investigation without violating his Fifth Amendment right to silence.
An attorney for Cephus, Stephen Meyer, thanked the university in a statement for "doing the right thing by giving Quintez Cephus his life back in time to pursue his academic and athletic dreams."
Cephus, 21, of Macon, Georgia, was suspended from the team in August 2018 because of the women's accusations. He maintains the sex was consensual.
UW-Madison said it received information from the criminal trial that it did not have during its student conduct proceeding, which requires a lower burden of proof than in criminal cases.
The university said it applies its code of conduct impartially and consistently regardless of the identities of the individuals involved. Its review upheld some of its earlier findings that Cephus was responsible for violating parts of the student code of conduct and some sanctions are still in place.
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Citing a federal education privacy law, university spokesman John Lucas declined to elaborate on which violations were upheld and what remaining sanctions are in place.
Blank's decision re-establishes Cephus' status as a student in good standing and allows him to return to the Badgers as a student athlete if he wants to, Lucas said.
"If it's best for Q — and it truly is for him — then I know his teammates and I know how we feel: We'd welcome him back," Chryst said. "It's not about us. It's about what's best for him."
It was not immediately clear what the process is for Cephus to rejoin the team and if it requires a waiver from the NCAA.
In Cephus' first two seasons with the Badgers, he caught 34 passes for 595 yards and six touchdowns. He had a 100-yard receiving game against Purdue in 2017 and caught a pair of touchdown passes earlier that season at BYU.
In addressing Cephus' potential value to the team when asked about the possibility of the receiver's reinstatement earlier this month, Chryst turned his attention off the field.
"I know what he was before," Chryst said. "And what he was then meant a ton to this team, as a player. He was one of those connectors that unified different groups and I think had a lot of respect. And I think that he would still bring that."
This story will be updated.
State Journal reporter Todd Milewski contributed reporting.
Taking the 'Lambeau Leap'
Chryst congratulates Cephus
Fighting for extra yards
Taking the hit
Sneaking into the end zone
Moving the chains
Fighting through contact
Picking up first down
Carried off the field
Keeping it moving
Picking up first down
Showing some love
Crossing the goal line
Getting the job done
Making the cut
Just out of reach
Hauling it in
Hugging it out
Picking the jury
Taking the stand
Pleading his case
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