Kienus Boulware was fired as head football coach at Winston-Salem State based on his handling of a fight and its aftermath between two players, according to documents obtained by the Winston-Salem Journal through a public records request.
Boulware was fired by the school on April 25 and, like all state employees who have been fired, was given 30 days to file an appeal of that decision. Boulware, who is being represented by Jones Byrd Jr. of Crumpler, Freedman Parker & Witt, filed the appeal last week to WSSU and included a detailed statement with it.
Byrd Jr. said the next step is a hearing regarding WSSU's decision to fire Boulware.
"We are glad to have the opportunity to further illustrate that Coach Boulware acted in the best interests of his student-athletes on the date in question — which is entirely consistent with his strong character and the manner in which he has conducted himself throughout his career," Byrd Jr. said in a statement earlier this week.
The Journal received a copy of the letter from Chancellor Elwood Robinson detailing the reasoning behind the decision to fire Boulware after nine years as an assistant and head coach.
According to the letter from Robinson, a fight between two football players occurred in the locker room at Bowman Gray Stadium following a practice April 4 and carried over into another altercation in a dorm room. Both the school and Boulware say the second fight occurred at Gleason-Hairston Terrace Residence Hall.
According to Boulware's appeal, before getting to the dorm room, Boulware called a parent of one of the players in the altercation and that parent also went to the dorm room as well. When Boulware arrived, he says he found a bag which contained an unidentified brown residue in a trash bin, which the parent then took from Boulware and said he would handle.
Robinson’s letter to Boulware states that Boulware was told before his arrival at the dorm room about a gun possibly being in the room and that he failed to immediately report it to the WSSU police department or to the athletics director. In Boulware’s appeal, he states he asked the two students if either of them had a gun and they said no.
After Boulware cooled the situation in the dorm room, he said he left to go back to his office at Bowman Gray Stadium where he went to see George Knox, the interim athletics director, to let him know about the altercation. Knox was not at his office so Boulware said he informed James DuBose, an assistant athletics director, about what happened.
In the letter to Boulware, Robinson says Boulware failed to follow the proper protocol when it was brought to his attention that there was the possibility of a gun and drugs involved.
“It is illegal to have weapons and drugs on campus,” Robinson’s letter stated, “and having such items on campus endangers the campus community.”
The letter also states that Boulware's “failure to contact law enforcement and the athletics director given the information you received jeopardized campus safety. Additionally, you are a campus security authority (CSA) under the Clery Act."
The Clery Act requires all schools participating in federal financial aid programs to track and release information about crimes that occur on or near campus. Reports of violations of weapons and drug laws are among the categories that are supposed to be tracked.
"In an era where gun violence is prevalent, we take seriously our responsibility to ensure that our students, faculty, staff, and visitors are safe on our campus," said Jay Davis, a WSSU spokesman.
"The university’s investigation into Coach Boulware’s actions included interviews not only with other witnesses, but also with Coach Boulware himself. His own words during that investigation are in conflict with the statement he has released in response to his termination.
"The university stands by its decision to dismiss him as head coach. With this action, we are sending a strong message that as an institution we will not stand for behavior that introduces the risk of harm to our campus community."
According to the 2016 edition of The Handbook for Campus Safety and Security Reporting from the U.S. Department of Education, athletics directors and coaches, including those who are part-time employees and graduate assistants, are among the categories of employees listed as CSAs.
“CSAs are responsible for reporting allegations of Clery Act crimes that are reported to them in their capacity as a CSA,” the handbook says.
The school says Boulware failed to follow the proper procedure. Boulware, who was fired with two years left on a contract that pays him $130,000 a year, contends he handled the altercation the right way.
“Contrary to the allegations in the April 25, 2019 letter, Coach Boulware acted in a manner that assured the safety of the student athletes in his care on April 4, 2019,” his appeal letter states.
Boulware's appeal goes on to state that Boulware did not violate any policies or procedures of the university or the North Carolina university system.
If it’s determined WSSU did have just cause for Boulware’s dismissal, the school does not owe Boulware any money from the remaining two years on his contract.
In his appeal, Boulware addresses the use of the Clery Act.
He contends that he was not the first CSA in the room in either altercation. He says two CSAs associated with the football team were first in the locker room.
In addition, he claims Robert Massey, who was elevated to head coach by Knox, was the first to arrive at the dorm room because Massey called Boulware to inform him of the second altercation.
Massey offers a different account of the events.
"Coach Boulware called me and I went to the dorm room from my house and we got there at the same time," Massey said Saturday.
Boulware says he did not witness any physical altercation and no relevant CSA found any evidence of any weapon having been brandished or used in any way. Boulware also is refuting the claim that drugs were in the dorm room.
“The bag of residue located did not appear to have any odor or appearance consistent with marijuana, and no other evidence was present that would indicate that the residue inside the bag (which was located among the trash in the residence hall) was illegal or improper in any way,” the appeal said.
In Boulware’s appeal, he also states when the campus police learned of the altercation, the room was inspected and and no weapon was found.
Robinson’s termination letter to Boulware states that “the campus police became aware of the presence of drugs and a weapon later, but their ability to investigate the allegations or to retrieve a gun was hindered by your actions and failure to report.”
Robinson’s letter said the action of not reporting to campus police right away is grounds for dismissal.
“I believe your actions meet the definition for just cause to support the termination of your employment…,” Robinson’s letter stated.
Boulware went 35-18 in his five seasons as head coach with two CIAA titles and one berth into the Division II playoffs. The Rams failed to win the Southern Division the last two seasons.