He reported football teammate threats to KU. A secret document paid him to go home

·14 min read

Moments after the men charged into his apartment, Caperton Humphrey remembered the baseball bat in his bedroom.

If they came at him — and Humphrey believed he saw the imprint of a pistol in one man’s jogging pants — he needed a plan to fight back.

For months, four of these men had been his teammates on the Kansas Jayhawks football team. Now they and about a half-dozen others were in Humphrey’s living room, threatening him, his father Jamie, and even Caperton’s 15-year-old brother. Seconds later, Jamie Humphrey dialed 911, putting his phone on speaker before setting it on a countertop.

Caperton Humphrey didn’t know it, but the end of his time with KU football was just a few days away, with this serving as the breaking point.

The final resolution: KU’s athletic department agreeing to pay him more than $50,000 in benefits to go home after he reported threats and harassment from teammates.

“They bought him off. That’s what they did,” Jamie Humphrey told The Star. “They bought him off to keep his mouth shut.”

The Humphrey family says they explored other options before the matter escalated to this.

After Caperton Humphrey said he had an argument with a pair of teammates — and the next day discovered someone had loosened the lug nuts on one of his tires — he filed a police report. When that same feud led to arguments before workouts in the locker room, Jamie Humphrey reported that to a lifelong friend in KU’s compliance office and also told him the players were selling drugs. The information was eventually funneled to football coach Les Miles who, according to Caperton Humphrey, told the players to watch themselves.

Finally, after yet another altercation in practice, Humphrey told The Star, tensions rose highest at his apartment that night.

When the police arrived with sirens blaring — and after the players and the others had scrambled away — Caperton’s mother, Jennifer, could barely be consoled. The family had come from West Virginia to move Caperton out of his Lawrence apartment complex to get away from these teammates … but it was obvious now that wasn’t going to be enough.

“She basically said that there’s no way she could go home without me,” Caperton said, “(without) knowing that I was away from them.”

He and his dad said the family requested a meeting with Miles the next day, but it was declined. Miles did meet with Caperton and the four other football players, though, asking both sides to apologize. Neither side obliged.

Miles, according to Caperton and Jamie, offered a different solution. The players would settle their differences on the practice field, pitting them against each other — head-on — in full-contact drills.

The Star reached out to Miles, former KU athletic director Jeff Long, KU compliance director David Reed and KU Athletics for comment on this story. Miles and Long didn’t respond and Reed and KU Athletics didn’t comment.

“I came out of that meeting, and I was like, (Forget) this,’” Caperton said. “They don’t want to talk to my family. They don’t want to do anything to help me. Why sit in this misery and fear for my life over something dumb?”

A few weeks later, Caperton was gone, driving more than 700 miles back home to West Virginia.

KU Athletics said it would pay for the trip and more — as long as the family agreed to never tell their story.

’That’s a life-threatening situation’

Caperton Humphrey’s football trajectory changed the day he heard a rattling noise from the back of his Jaguar.

His KU football career, up to that point, had progressed nearly as well as he could’ve hoped.

After playing a year at Eastern Kentucky, Humphrey transferred to KU as a walk-on, wanting to prove himself at a higher level. KU’s compliance director Reed helped him on that path. Reed, a neighborhood friend of Caperton’s father in West Virginia, shared Caperton’s video with the team’s coaches.

So far, Caperton had taken advantage of the opportunity.

He played in seven games during his first season in 2017, which included one start at fullback. The next year, KU’s coaches elevated him from walk-on to scholarship player, and Caperton played in all 12 games while also being selected to the team’s leadership council when Miles took over after the season.

In late February 2019, though, Caperton said he was driving and saw a wobbly tire in his side-view mirror. After pulling over, he realized the lug nuts were barely hanging on ... to the point where he was able to rotate each of them with his fingers alone.

Caperton had a suspicion who’d done this. The previous week, he’d had an argument with football teammates in the apartment below him, and this seemed like a message.

“If I was going down the highway in Kansas City or something, that’s potentially … my tire pops off, who knows what happens with the control of the car?” Caperton said. “That’s a life-threatening situation.”

Caperton called the police and talked to an officer about the incident just before 6 p.m. Feb. 28, 2019, Lawrence police public affairs officer Patrick Compton told The Star. Caperton said he told the officer the name of the teammate he’d suspected but had no evidence, and no arrest was made.

The matter didn’t resolve itself. Caperton said he was challenged by those same four defensive teammates — who would receive substantial playing time under Miles — before workouts and in the locker room. It became so serious that the Humphreys contacted Reed about that while also communicating that two of those players were selling marijuana.

The Star contacted each of the four teammates for their comments about the Humphreys’ allegations. Two did not respond and two declined to comment.

Text messages given to The Star by Jamie Humphrey show Reed saying he had knowledge one player in question “has been called in and read the riot act on drugs and animal abuse.” Beyond that, Reed wrote that he took the family’s concerns and “ran it up the chain of command anonymously” with KU Athletics while trying to protect Caperton. A roommate later informed Caperton that those players said Miles had met with them, telling them they needed to be careful with their activities because they had been reported to the athletic department.

A short time later, Caperton said he retaliated in a fight at practice and swung at a teammate after he was hit first. The dispute intensified to the point where Caperton’s family traveled to Lawrence from West Virginia to move him out of his apartment complex and away from those football players who lived below him.

Caperton said on that day, he sent his roommate to talk to those guys. The message: Leave me alone and we’ll leave you alone — while remaining quiet about some drug offenses Caperton said he saw out his apartment window.

A few minutes later, those men were banging on his door to be let in, with about 10 people from the group — including the four defensive players — entering his apartment.

Once there, Jamie said the men called his son racist while also taking issue with him being rich. Jamie, who is self-employed in West Virginia, took exception to that, noting Caperton had a Black roommate all three years at KU.

“I said, ‘Hell, he ain’t got no money. I’m the one that’s got the money,” Jamie said. “ … So he was a racist because he had money, but he didn’t have any money. He was a college student just like they were.”

Caperton’s ex-girlfriend — the two have been split for more than a year — recalled the incident from her vantage point in the bedroom, where she was calming the couple’s dog. She told The Star that the group was “yelling at Cape and his dad and even his younger brother, saying they were going to beat them up basically,” before explaining Caperton’s frustration built up to that point at KU because of “coaches turning a blind eye to some bad stuff these other players were doing, and being notified of it, then still giving these guys playing time.”

The football players finally dispersed after about 20 minutes, when they heard the police arrive. According to Jamie, before they left, they said they would be looking to go after Caperton before practice, during practice and after practice.

Lawrence police records manager Kim Murphree confirmed that a 911 call was received by the department at 8:52 p.m. on March 25, 2019, with an officer being dispatched to Caperton’s apartment complex. That call did not result in the creation of a police report, Murphree said.

The Star’s open records request for a recording of the 911 call was denied by Lawrence police because it was “part of the criminal investigative record.” When asked why an offense report was not created for this particular 911 call, Lawrence police did not respond.

A few days later, Reed told Jamie that KU Athletics was ready to craft a secret document for Caperton.

“They told him to go to West Virginia,” Jamie said, “and never come back.”

‘Call me so we can figure out what you want to do’

Jamie Humphrey, for more than a week, had messaged longtime friend David Reed while concerned about his son.

“Call me tonight I need to pick your brain about problems outside of football but with a football player,” Jamie texted on March 18, 2019.

“How’s things going I need to know if I need to come (up) there and move cape this weekend?” he wrote on March 21, just after Caperton was involved in a practice fight with a teammate.

“Call me things getting worse on my way out there tomorrow!” he said later that day. “I need you more than ever now please don’t let me down! I’ve always considered you a good friend all my life?”

According to the texts shared with The Star, Reed — outside of the anonymous report of players selling drugs — spoke to Jamie about not wanting to intervene on Caperton’s behalf to coaches while fearing the player would get labeled as a diva. He told Jamie to have Caperton contact KU director of player development Ed Jones “if he’s feeling bullied or having personal issues.”

Three days later, though — and less than 24 hours after Caperton’s teammates invaded his apartment — Jamie and Jennifer met with Reed in his office to discuss the latest events.

“Update: all department officials are sleeping on it,” Reed texted later that night in reference to Caperton’s situation. He followed by saying he thought “resolution” was the way that KU Athletics would eventually want to handle it.

“What is he thinking?” Reed asked Jamie over text.

“He is at tutoring but I know he wants them punished for threatening his family, etc and I think he’ll stay if Jennifer is convinced that they are not going to kill him,” Jamie wrote back. “she’s been extremely upset all day (about) if they truly want him and truly have plans for him.”

The family met with Reed again two days later, and the next morning, Reed messaged Jamie: “Call me so we can figure out what you want to do.”

Reed — he was on KU’s recent search committees to hire new football coach Lance Leipold and athletic director Travis Goff — helped negotiate a settlement over text messages in the ensuing hours, sending Caperton an email titled “Agreement DRAFT” that night.

“This draft is pending proper authority approval and is currently my work alone,” Reed wrote. “While I am awaiting the appropriate authorization to execute the document I wanted to share this with you in order (to) secure the agreement.”

What followed was the outline of a confidential settlement agreement, setting forth conditions, including a non-disparagement clause, for Caperton to examine.

The deal, in essence, would be this: If Caperton left Lawrence, took KU online classes in West Virginia, and he and his family agreed to not talk about his experiences with the football team, he would continue to be paid his tuition and monthly stipend money from spring 2019 through his expected graduation date in May 2020.

Specifically, the document stated that the Humphreys “understand and agree they will not make or publish, directly or indirectly, any materially negative comments verbally or in writing, on social media or in any other forum” about KU and KU Athletics employees “that might cause an individual to reasonably question the integrity, quality, character, competence or diligence of the University of Kansas, its Athletic Department, or its administrators, coaches, faculty and/or staff.”

The value of Caperton’s tuition total with the offer would be slightly higher than the $28,431.08 the Humphreys paid during the 2017 spring, summer and fall semesters combined before he was put on scholarship. The stipend checks of roughly $1,289 per month also would add up to $18,331.20, according to an email sent to Jamie by KU’s assistant athletic director for student services.

There was more to the pact than tuition and stipends, though.

Through KU Athletics’ Student Assistance Fund, the Humphreys would be reimbursed 58 cents per mile for their trip back to West Virginia. Caperton, in addition, would have his meals, lodging and transportation paid for by KU Athletics for his return, with KU also footing the bill for shipping his personal belongings more than 700 miles from a storage unit in Lawrence. Caperton estimated the latter cost alone was around $5,000.

“They chose the four football players over Caperton,” Jamie said.

The final version — signed by all parties on April 2 and 3 of 2019 — had similar language to the first draft sent by Reed to Caperton earlier in the week, with KU Athletics requiring that the agreement be signed by both his parents. In addition, KU was not represented on the document by its athletic director Long, but instead by Reed.

According to one person with extensive experience in compliance, that approach is unusual. A former Big 12 compliance director, who spoke to The Star with anonymity in order to talk freely about the situation, said he’d never had a non-disparagement agreement pass his desk during his 20-plus-year career in the field, while also saying he’d also never signed one on behalf of his athletic department.

“What would have given me pause about that is, I don’t see a non-disparagement agreement as an athletic matter,” the former compliance director said. “That to me would be more of a legal matter which somebody out of the university attorney’s office should be handling that. That’s just my own personal opinion.”

‘Tried to buy our silence’

Caperton Humphrey admits he began to dream a bit during his first two seasons at KU.

He loved playing football, and believed maybe there could be a path for him to do that past college. An NFL combine invite might’ve been a stretch, but trying out for an NFL or CFL team seemed like an option worth pursuing.

Caperton feels like he was deprived of the chance. After leaving KU, the pandemic hit, and he didn’t transfer to a new football program.

“It cost me everything,” Caperton said of his KU situation.

Jamie, succinctly, says he and his wife “have been through hell” because of the circumstances.

He says Caperton now suffers from anger issues that he had never experienced before. His son has battled depression, has started to see a psychiatrist and now is on medication — all of which came about following his departure from Lawrence.

“It changed him,” Jamie said.

Which is also the reason the family is looking to pursue legal action … with the hopes of suing Long, Miles and KU Athletics for the damage they caused his son.

“Les Miles and Jeff Long swept this under the rug and tried to buy our silence,” Jamie said. “This is how they operated while representing Kansas.”

Caperton says he has hopes of starting his own company, but he hasn’t been up to much else lately. He talks to a psychiatrist every other week, speaking to her about what happened at KU and also what he wants to do with his life.

It never would’ve come to all this, Caperton believes, if someone would’ve stood up for him at KU.

“It was like, ‘Why would I stay here and deal with this (stuff),’ especially if they’re not going to try to help me on the situation when I brought it to them?” Caperton said. “They literally just forced me out.”

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