Student Athletes Didn’t Want To Relive Trauma Of Alleged Sexual Assault By Teammates, Settled For $8M

Two collegiate basketball players have won a lawsuit against their college after alleging their teammates sexually assaulted them.

According to The Associated PressNew Mexico State University settled the lawsuit when it agreed to pay $8 million to the two basketball players. The settlement was awarded to Shak Odunewu, Deuce Benjamin, and Benjamin’s father, William, who was a co-defendant in the lawsuit. The Benjamins will receive $4.125 million, while Odunewu will receive $3.875 million.

New Mexico State has not admitted any liability in the accusation levied against them.

In their filed legal paperwork, Benjamin and Odunewu alleged they were ganged up on and assaulted more than once while on the basketball team. Odunewu said that after witnessing his teammate being assaulted, he asked their basketball coach to take the necessary action to stop the assaults. He said that the coach laughed and asked him, “What do you want me to do about it?”

Benjamin eventually informed campus police after one of the assaults, which led to the school canceling the 2022-23 season and firing coach Greg Heiar.

In May 2023, while discussing the lawsuit at a news conference, Benjamin and his father, who once played for the same college, said that the coach who replaced Heiar, Jason Hooten, advised Benjamin that he should find a new school to play basketball.

“I don’t think you’re supposed to hit the reset button and lump in victims with everyone you’re getting rid of,” William Benjamin said. “Deuce was going to be an Aggie if he was good enough.”

Based on the settlements, two coaches and three players were released from liability in the lawsuit, but the state attorney general’s office is looking into possible criminal charges.

Benjamin’s attorney, Joleen Youngers, informed the media outlet that the settlement was agreed upon in order to keep the players from having to recall and relive the trauma they suffered. The case could have been a yearslong legal process.

“To New Mexico State’s credit, they took the lawsuit very seriously. They obviously recognized that our clients had been harmed,” said Youngers.

The attorney also stated that Benjamin and Odunewu still had aspirations to play collegiate basketball.