The Texas Tech football team reinstated former Miami Booker T. Washington standout Nigel Bethel II on Wednesday, a day after felony assault charges against him stemming from an incident at the school were dropped.
Bethel was charged after punching Texas Tech women’s basketball player Amber Battle in the face during a pickup basketball game on campus on June 28. He was dismissed from the team the following day.
Bethel confirmed via text with the Miami Herald he will serve a three-game suspension as a condition under his reinstatement. The Red Raiders’ fourth game of the upcoming season is at Oklahoma State on Sept. 25.
“I am thankful for the opportunity to come back to Texas Tech,” Bethel said in a statement released by the school. “I take full responsibility for my actions and I would like to let everyone know that this won’t happen again. It’s not who I am and I am sorry for the embarrassment this has caused.
“I want to thank Amber Battle for accepting my apology and for coming forward to say that I deserved a second chance. I would like to thank everyone at Texas Tech, including the coaches, for believing in me and giving me a second chance to show my ability and to receive an education from Texas Tech.”
Bethel’s attorney, Tray Payne, told ESPN on Tuesday that Bethel was cleared by a Lubbock County (Texas) grand jury because there was no corroborating evidence nor probable cause to pursue charges. Payne also said reports that Battle sustained a broken jaw were incorrect.
“He’s a good kid with no criminal history, and this was out of character,” Payne said.
Payne said he received a copy of a letter sent from the grand jury to Texas Tech director of athletics Kirby Hocutt recommending Bethel be reinstated to the football team.
“This is an unfortunate situation with a unique set of circumstances and there are no winners,” Hocutt said in a statement. “Two talented young people made a mistake, have shown remorse and learned some very valuable life lessons.”
Bethel was allowed to finish his first summer term at Texas Tech, and has been home in Miami since July 4. Bethel said Wednesday he does not know when he’ll return to school.
Texas Tech suspended Battle, who will be a senior this fall, for the month of November (the first month of the basketball season), for her role in the incident. In a statement, Battle apologized to Bethel, among others, and admitted she “initiated the first contact.” Both suspensions are equated to 25 percent of each player’s upcoming season.
A video released by the school Wednesday showed Bethel, from behind, trying to hold Battle’s arms down to prevent her from shooting a layup after she secured an offensive rebound. After Battle shot the ball, she turned around and punched Bethel in the face. Bethel responded with a punch to Battle’s face with his right hand and a push from his left hand as he walked away.
Battle then took several steps backward to sit on a bench behind the basket while Bethel was rushed by two students, who restrained him.
In a police report obtained by the Miami Herald, Bethel told police he and Battle were playing aggressively during the entire game. Witnesses said Bethel repeatedly fouled Battle, and Battle was playing aggressively with other players. A witness also told police he saw Battle hit Bethel in the back of the head prior to the incident as Bethel walked away.
Bethel is expected to play football and run track for the Red Raiders. He committed to Texas Tech on Jan. 10, a day after decommitting from the University of Miami’s 2014 recruiting class.
Bethel won the Miami Herald’s All-Dade Boys’ Track and Field Athlete of the Year award in May for his accomplishments during his senior season. He was also a finalist for Class 5A-1A Male Athlete of the Year award recognizing athletes who played multiple sports.