Youngstown State football coach Bo Pelini has spent the last week explaining his decision to allow Ma’Lik Richmond—a former high school football player found guilty of rape in juvenile court in the Steubenville, Ohio, case—to walk on to the team this winter.
“I gave him some stipulations and some things he had to be able to do and if he lived up to them he’d be able to come out and see if he could be a member of our football team. He did those things and continues to do those things right now and he’s done a nice job for us,” Pelini told WFMJ. He did not elaborate on what those stipulations were.
In March 2013, when he was 16, Richmond was one of two football players found guilty of rape in juvenile court after a judge found the teens penetrated a girl with their fingers while she was too drunk to consent. The girl did not recall what happened, but text messages and photos from among the school’s teenagers became much of the evidence.
Richmond served just less than 10 months of a year-long sentence in juvenile detention. After being released in January 2014, he returned to play his senior season at Steubenville High and then spent time as a student at both Potomac State College of West Virginia University and California University of Pennsylvania, according to the Youngstown Vindicator. (It does not appear that he played football at either college; the first university he attended, Potomac State, does not even have a team.) Richmond enrolled at Youngstown State last August and earned a spot on the football team as a walk-on this January.
Pelini told the Vindicator that he sought out Richmond. Through a contact in Steubenville, he learned that Richmond was a student at Youngstown State last season and reached out to his high school coach to confirm. The coach told Pelini that Richmond was in fact attending the university but was not interested in playing football. Pelini went on to learn more about Richmond—both by reading up on the case and talking to people in Steubenville, he said—before meeting with him in January.
“Every case is different. You have to listen to their story to see if they are genuine,” Pelini told the Vindicator. “Gosh, when I was [head coach] at Nebraska I got rid of a lot of kids. Some of them weren’t even given a second chance.”