ISU President Steven Leath talks Bubu Palo as appeal continues


Photo: Kait McKinney/Iowa State Daily

Iowa State’s Bubu Palo dribbles the ball up against the TCU Horned Frogs on Feb. 16 at Hilton Coliseum. The Cyclones defeated the Horned Frogs 87-53.

Alex Halsted

As the Bubu Palo appeals case plays out in district court, many questions have popped up about the handling of the case and the timing of the decision by ISU President Steven Leath.

On Saturday, Leath addressed some of the questions he has faced regarding his decision to remove Palo from the ISU men’s basketball team Aug. 30.

“Everybody involved with the university saw it in the same way,” Leath said. “Interestingly, the only people that saw it differently were people outside the academy who had never worked with our misconduct policy.”

Palo was charged in September 2012 with sexual abuse in the second degree relating to an incident in May 2012. That same month, the ISU Office of Judicial Affairs charged Palo for violating the university’s Code of Conduct relating to sexual misconduct.

Criminal charges were dropped in January 2013, and an administrative law judge ruled in May 2013 that his code of conduct violations were, “not founded,” according to court documents.

That decision was appealed to Leath on June 10, and Aug. 30 Leath ruled that Palo had violated the code of conduct and removed him from the team.

“I agreed with most of [the administrative law judge’s] findings, essentially all of his findings,” Leath said. “Except his interpretation of our policy.”

Since then, Palo has appealed the decision to the Iowa Board of Regents, which affirmed Leath’s decision on Dec. 5, and Palo appealed to district court. Judge Thomas Bice granted Palo a temporary stay Jan. 17 to return to the basketball team while the appeal plays out.

The regents appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court on Wednesday asking for that ruling to be stayed, but the Court denied the request Friday morning, allowing Palo to remain on the team for now.

Leath said he will not play a role in whether or not Palo receives playing time.

“This is (Fred Hoiberg’s) decision. The player is on the team,” Leath said. “I philosophically don’t see any reason for me to try and coach from the president’s office. It’s his responsibility now. Fred knows that, he understands that and I think he appreciates it.”

Palo and his attorney, Matt Boles, have raised two key questions in their appeal to the district court: the renewal of Palo’s scholarship in June and the timing of Leath’s decision, which they say kept Palo from being able to transfer.

Leath said he inquired about the renewal of Palo’s scholarship sometime after the appeal reached his desk.

“I asked athletics, ‘Is he on scholarship?’ They said, ‘Well, we renewed it,’” Leath said. “I felt it was inappropriate to renege on an agreement.”

Iowa State says an email was sent to Palo and Boles on Aug. 21 notifying them that Leath would make his decision within 10 days. The university says Boles and Palo had no qualms about the timeline.

Sometime after Leath’s decision Aug. 30, Boles asked ISU Athletic Director Jamie Pollard if he and Leath would support a transfer waiver. Pollard told him they would, but Leath said one was never requested.

“He knew we would sign an NCAA waiver if he asked for it,” Leath said. “It’s interesting that they didn’t ask us for it.”

Leath said he reached his decision on Palo after a thorough review and said removal from the team, he felt, was the best route for punishment. 

“If I concluded that he broke the policy, then some penalty was in order,” Leath said. “I weighed a number of possible penalties and decided that ‘Honor Before Victory’ — I thought this was an appropriate punishment that he shouldn’t be wearing the uniform.

“I also felt … we ought to give him a chance to go forth and finish his degree. I thought it was a reasonable compromise. It was a very difficult decision.”