At this point, the Baylor University athletic department is perhaps best described as a nightmare circus. (Complete with terrifying clowns.) Given that atmosphere, it’s somehow not all that surprising to learn that an assistant AD was arrested earlier in November for allegedly assaulting a sportswriter, and yet that’s what happened.
Here’s the report from KWTX News 10:
Baylor Associate Athletic Director Heath Nielsen, 47, is free on bond following his arrest earlier this month on a misdemeanor assault warrant stemming from an attack on Nov. 5 in which a sportswriter was grabbed by the throat and pushed away from a player after the Bears’ 62-22 loss to TCU.
Nielsen was booked into the McLennan County Jail on Nov. 8.
Baylor has not commented on the incident, but Nielsen has been conspicuously absent for the past several weeks.
The victim, James McBride had received permission from a football player to take a photograph, and after the picture was taken “Nielsen walked up to McBride on the right, grabbed McBride by the throat with his right hand, squeezed and pushed him away from the football player,’ an arrest warrant affidavit obtained by KWTX says.
When McBride and the player asked Nielsen what the problem was, he replied, “He’s abusing his privileges,” ‘the affidavit said.
“McBride had visible scratches and complained of pain around his throat.”
The injuries were photographed, the affidavit says.
It’s a very odd story. Photographs allegedly showing the injuries McBride sustained are embedded in the report as well. McBride is reportedly seeking a handwritten apology and for Nielsen to lose his job. If the events played out as alleged by McBride, it’s possible he’ll get his wish.
Nielsen has probably had a fairly rough year already, given his university bio (emphasis added):
Heath Nielsen, Baylor’s associate athletics director for communications, is in his 17th year at Baylor and is responsible for all communications strategies, publicity and brand management for BU’s 19-sport athletics department; including media relations, digital platforms and video content, social media and publications.
He works directly with the Bears’ nationally ranked football squad and is responsible for management of the public image of the program. Nielsen is the program’s spokesman, the liaison between local and national media, and the primary contact with television and radio networks that broadcast Baylor games.
That can’t have been a fun job of late, but regardless, if the affidavit is accurate, his actions went way over the line of acceptability. Nielsen remained active on social media in the weeks since the incident, and it remains to be seen what actions the university will take. Amazingly, this falls far down on the scale in terms of scandals the university is currently facing.
The school probably wishes that the people in charge of maintaining the public image of the football program weren’t garnering bad press themselves.
As the football program has demonstrated on more than one occasion, they certainly don’t need the help.