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As Quintez Cephus returns to the field, UW-Madison faces potential lawsuit

Cephus returned to Camp Randall on Saturday in light of possible civil action from the two students who charged the football player last year.

Cephus returned to Camp Randall on Saturday in light of possible civil action from the two students who charged the football player last year.

Image By: Cameron Lane-Flehinger

Quintez Cephus returned to Camp Randall for the first time since October 2017 on Saturday, leading UW to a 61-0 win over Central Michigan. 

But, with the player’s homecoming comes increased legal pressure on UW-Madison.

Cephus was expelled last spring after two female UW-Madison students accused him of sexual assault in 2018. The University’s process found that Cephus “more likely than not” violated the nonacademic misconduct code under Title IX, a federal law mandating universities to quickly respond to students and staff who report sexual harassment and violence.

Cephus was found not guilty on both counts of second and third-degree sexual assault after a four-day trial in early August. UW-Madison reinstated and reduced sanctions for Cephus following his acquittal. 

Cephus’ readmission to the university seemed unlikely. Three expelled students requested re-entry between 2014 and 2018 and none were granted permission, according to university spokesman John Lucas.

“My decision is based on the availability of substantial new information that wasn’t made available to us during the earlier process,” Chancellor Rebecca Blank said in a statement. “I recognize that some will disagree with this decision.”

And many people did. Most recently, and notably, is attorney John Clune with Hutchinson Black and Cook LLC.

As the university faces more questioning from local lawyers on its decision to readmit Cephus, it now has a new opponent: Mr. Clune.

While reinstating Cephus may have allowed UW-Madison to avoid a lawsuit threatened by his team of lawyers last October, the university could now face civil action from the women Clune represents — the two UW-Madison students who charged Cephus last year.

Clune represented a variety of women in high-profile sexual misconduct cases, such as MBA basketball player Kobe Bryant, MLB baseball player Johan Santana and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. 

He told the Wisconsin State Journal that UW-Madison did not involve his clients in the process of determining whether to readmit Cephus. In failing to do so, he added, the university “denied them their due process rights under Title IX.”

“[The university has] done either a horrible job at explaining their decision-making or they did something illegal,” Clune said. “Right now it looks like both, but that’s what we’ve been hired to find out.”

Additionally, Clune said that the university breached the Clery Act, which instructs colleges to do two things:

  • Disclose crime statistics for incidents that occur on campus. 
  • Maintain ongoing and transparent communication about reported campus crimes.

The two female students who indicted Cephus received notification of Blank’s decision to readmit him only moments before the public did, Clune said. 

By shutting the women out from the reinstatement process, they could now bring a Title IX and negligence lawsuit against the school. 

The likelihood of legal action from the women depends on how cooperative the university will be in explaining its decision to let Cephus back as a student and athlete. 

For now, Cephus’ Saturday victory remains applauded by many of his teammates and gameday onlookers.

“It was amazing,” Cephus said following the game. “Just getting back to playing at Camp Randall was a special moment.”

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