Oregon tight end Pharaoh Brown accused of three acts of violence since October 2014
Oregon senior tight end Pharaoh Brown has been accused of three acts of violence off the field since October 2014, an investigation by the Emerald has revealed.
Brown is one of the most well-known figures on the Ducks football team and University of Oregon campus. A redshirt senior and NFL prospect, Brown garners some of the loudest applause when his name is called on gamedays at Autzen Stadium.
During his time at Oregon, Brown has found himself at the center of controversy on multiple occasions:
Brown allegedly punched teammate Matt Wogan in the Ducks’ locker room in October 2014, rendering Wogan concussed. Eugene Police Department investigated Brown for strangulation in October 2015 following a physical fight with his girlfriend at his apartment. Most recently, Brown allegedly fought former teammate Paris Bostick in the locker room after a verbal dispute during a conditioning session in summer 2016.
Neither the University of Oregon nor the football team has taken public disciplinary action against Brown regarding the three incidents.
Both altercations involving teammates occurred while each was alone with Brown in the locker room. The Emerald spoke to several former and current players who said they heard about them through others on the team.
Brown was neither arrested nor charged after the violent incident with his girlfriend. An ensuing investigation conducted by Lane County Assistant District Attorney Carolyn Rasche determined that Brown’s girlfriend was the primary aggressor in the altercation, but she was not arrested either.
During the course of its investigation of these incidences, the Emerald made an email request to Oregon football sports information director Dave Williford for private interviews with Brown and head coach Mark Helfrich to discuss the allegations against Brown. (The Oregon athletic department forbids reporters from contacting student athletes directly.) Williford provided the following response via email two days after the Emerald’s initial request:
“Following thoughtful consideration, Mark Helfrich and Pharaoh Brown have declined the opportunity to contribute to whatever story you’re working on.”
On Nov. 16, the Emerald made a final request via email for comment through Williford that specifically outlined the physical altercations involving Brown and his girlfriend, Wogan and Bostick and the approximate dates they occurred. Williford replied:
“Neither Brown or Helfrich are changing their minds.”
According to Arrest Nation, a website that tracks criminal activity in sports, people in college football have been arrested, legally cited or charged 176 times thus far in 2016. College football accounts for 45 percent of the total arrests, citations and charges against those in both professional and collegiate sports this year.
The Oregon football team has dealt with three violent incidents involving players in the past three months. Defensive lineman Torrodney Prevot is under criminal investigation and was suspended from the team indefinitely in August; a former Oregon athlete filed a complaint claiming Prevot physically assaulted her twice earlier this year. Wide receiver Darren Carrington was accused of pushing a man to the ground and breaking his arm in October. Defensive lineman Eddie Heard was arrested in November on harassment and assault charges after a woman told University of Oregon Police Department he touched her inappropriately, slapped her and punched her in the face. Heard pled not guilty to both charges and awaits a court date Dec. 8.
Brown, a two-sport athlete from Lyndhurst, Ohio — a small town near Cleveland — chose to play college football for Oregon over offers from more than a dozen other NCAA Division I schools, including Michigan, Michigan State and Oklahoma. Former Oregon undergraduate assistant Collin Hungate, who worked frequently with Brown and the tight ends, said Brown “has a huge heart” and competes at practice for himself, his family and his team. His teammates say he’s a quiet, hard worker who cares deeply about family.
Some teammates, including running back Royce Freeman, have called him a leader on the team. They say he doesn’t open up to anyone unless they’ve earned his trust. An advertising major, Brown co-hosts a podcast with his friend called “WinTheDay with Raoh and Zai” that invites various Oregon athletes on to talk sports, politics and music. He actively engages with fans on Twitter.
His first two seasons with Oregon football went rather quietly. Brown played in 21 games but caught just 12 passes and scored 2 touchdowns.
But Brown did not go entirely unnoticed in his first two years.
In a December 2013 video that has attracted more than 4.7 million views on YouTube, Brown was captured dumping a bucket of snow into the car of retired UO professor Sherwin Simmons during a snowball fight on UO campus. Although several other Oregon football players played roles in the snowball fight, Brown was the only player who was formally disciplined. Helfrich suspended Brown for Oregon’s matchup with University of Texas in the Valero Alamo Bowl.
Brown said the following in a statement after his suspension:
“I was one of the many UO students involved in the snowball fight on Friday and my actions escalated to an inappropriate level and for that, I sincerely apologize.”
The following season, Brown made a name for himself for his on-field performance. He earned First-Team Pac-12 All-Conference honors despite missing the season’s final five games — including the national championship against Ohio State — due to a gruesome right knee injury.
But the week prior to Oregon’s matchup with Cal on Oct. 24 — just over two weeks before his injury — Brown and kicker Matt Wogan had an altercation, former players said. Brown allegedly punched Wogan in the head inside the locker room. Wogan suffered a concussion and did not travel to Berkeley for the Cal game.
Wogan told the Emerald in an interview on Nov. 3 that he could not discuss the incident because it had to do with an injury, and a team rule prohibits him from discussing injuries with reporters.
“You can ask coach Helfrich or one of the coaches, but I can’t discuss that. It’s a team rule and I’m going to follow that rule,” Wogan said. “Not ‘no comment,’ but I can’t discuss that.”
Steve Muscarello, a kicker for University of North Carolina at Charlotte who has been close friends with Wogan since high school, said Wogan told him about his altercation with Brown about a week after it happened.
Wogan was Oregon’s field goal kicker at the time of the incident, so Aidan Schneider handled field goal duties in Wogan’s absence. Schneider successfully made all four field goals he attempted over the next three games.
Wogan kicked field goals again on Nov. 22 against Colorado and made all three attempts over the next two games, but Schneider won the job back for the Pac-12 Championship on Dec. 5. Schneider has been the field goal kicker ever since, while Wogan has only handled kickoff duties.
“Obviously you don’t ever want to lose a job, especially if it’s one that you love,” Wogan told the Emerald. “There were frustrations but it wasn’t against a coach, it wasn’t against Aidan — it was against some of the situations that played out.”
Brown was not suspended. He played each of the next three games, the last of which ended his season in the heat of Oregon’s run to the national championship game.
In the fourth quarter against Utah on Nov. 8, Brown tore two ligaments and stretched an artery in his right leg, which left him bleeding internally and facing the possibility of amputation.
Brown spent the next year and a half rehabilitating from his injury, which was so gruesome that ESPN chose not to replay the footage. Brown estimated receiving more than 1,000 pieces of fan mail from onlookers supporting his recovery effort, according to the Oregonian. He has been a fan favorite ever since his return to the field in Oregon’s spring game on April 30, 2016.
But even as he recovered from his injury, Brown continued to have issues off the field. Last October, two neighbors living in the unit beneath Brown at O-Town apartments heard a woman’s screams and loud banging noises coming from his apartment, according to the police report.
A late-night argument with his girlfriend of a year and a half had turned physical.
The Emerald chose not to identify Brown’s girlfriend in the interest of her privacy.
After hearing the noises, Brown’s neighbors, UO students Mina Schaaf and Brooke Dannen, repeatedly rang the doorbell to Brown’s apartment. Brown’s girlfriend answered the door, “crying and looking over her shoulder,” Schaaf told the Emerald in September.
The students brought Brown’s girlfriend into their apartment. She told them she had been in a physical fight with Brown, in which Brown had thrown her against the wall, climbed on top of her and strangled her. Schaaf told the Emerald that Brown’s girlfriend had red marks on her neck and chest and a handprint on her thigh.
According to Brown’s girlfriend’s interview with the Eugene police officers, the incident stemmed from an argument about whether Brown had gone to the bars with friends a week prior. Brown’s girlfriend told officers she had bitten and scratched Brown and torn off several of her acrylic fingernails in an attempt to retrieve her phone from Brown’s grasp. She said at one point during the altercation she recovered her phone and dialed 9-1-1 from the bathroom but immediately hung up.
Schaaf and Dannen urged Brown’s girlfriend to call the police. She refused but allowed the students to photograph the marks on her arms, leg, neck and face. Schaaf and Dannen ultimately called the police at 1:30 a.m., the EPD dispatch log shows.
From the moment police arrived, Brown’s girlfriend defended Brown. “He has a lot going for him, I don’t want him to get in trouble,” she told police. She told police officers that she and Brown were equally at fault.
Schaaf and Dannen told officers that Brown’s girlfriend admitted to them that Brown choked her during the dispute. They showed Officer Andrew Whipple the pictures they had taken of the red marks on Brown’s girlfriend’s body. Whipple described in his report that the marks “looked to be consistent with marks produced when someone is strangled.”
When Whipple asked Brown’s girlfriend how she received the marks on her neck, she said Brown “pushed her in the neck but never choked her,” according to the report. She told police that Brown, whom officers estimated to be 6-foot-7 and 260 pounds, “is a very large and strong person and when he touched her it left a mark.”
According to the police report, officers had trouble contacting Brown — who later told them he had fallen asleep inside his apartment — until a UO athletic department representative called Brown’s phone at the request of an officer. Shortly thereafter, Brown called the officer from inside his apartment and confirmed he had been in a physical altercation with his girlfriend, “though insisted he had done nothing wrong,” the police report states. Police eventually entered Brown’s apartment and noticed scratches on his chin and hands and bite marks on his arm and shoulder.
According to Brown’s interview with police officers, at one point during the dispute his girlfriend climbed on his back and began biting his right shoulder while he was lying on his stomach in bed. He told officers he reacted by shifting his body weight, in turn causing his girlfriend to lose her balance and fall off the bed into a wooden dresser.
Officers ultimately decided not to arrest either party and neither Brown nor his girlfriend chose to press charges.
“I definitely felt like I was an equal part in what happened and maybe even more the reason why it escalated to that point,” Brown’s girlfriend told the Emerald during a phone interview on Nov. 7. “People are always quick to blame the guy, but sometimes the girl is out of line, too. I don’t think that one or the other should put hands on each other.”
Brown and his girlfriend — as well as Schaaf and Dannen — had been consuming alcohol the night of the incident. Brown’s girlfriend told the Emerald she believed it played a factor in her fight with Brown.
The full police report is available here.
EPD prohibited the Emerald from discussing the case with an officer because it is a closed investigation and no charges were made.
UOPD Interim Sergeant Bo Macovis, a police officer in Oregon for 16 years, told the Emerald if police are able to prove in a domestic violence case that “more likely than not the crime occurred,” then a mandatory arrest is warranted in Oregon. UOPD operates under the same protocol as Eugene Police when dealing with incidents of domestic violence, Macovis said.
In order to identify “probable cause,” Macovis said the officer will depend on physical evidence such as bite marks, scratch marks and bruises. If both have injuries, Macovis said, the officer is required to identify who the aggressor is and arrest that party, even if neither party wants to press charges. Macovis said sometimes parties involved will downplay the severity of the dispute to avoid pressing charges, but if it’s clear the crime has happened, then the police will disregard the statements dismissing the dispute and make a mandatory arrest.
The case was forwarded to the Lane County District Attorney’s Office for further evaluation. The police report named Brown the suspect and his girlfriend the victim in an investigation of strangulation, a Class A misdemeanor.
The Emerald obtained a copy of the District Attorney’s Office’s case evaluation. Rasche, the attorney who evaluated the case a month after the incident occurred, identified Brown’s girlfriend as the primary aggressor and closed the case.
“Good investigation,” Rasche wrote. “Based on the statements of the parties, it appears that the identified victim [Brown’s girlfriend] was actually the primary physical aggressor. However, because she was likely attempting to get her property [cell phone], she may have been entitled to use physical force.”
Brown’s girlfriend told the Emerald that Brown is “the last person to hurt anybody.” She said both she and Brown saw therapists as a result of the incident and that the two are still together.
Brown became a regular starter for Oregon in 2016 after fully recovering from his injury. In nine games, Brown has caught 33 passes for 426 yards and scored 5 touchdowns.
Before the season began, however, Brown allegedly engaged in a physical fight with linebacker Paris Bostick in the locker room. Following a verbal altercation on the field during a conditioning session in late July or early August 2016, Bostick said Brown started throwing punches at him while he was entering the keypad information on his locker. Bostick fought back but felt he was caught off guard.
Bostick said he threatened to kill Brown after teammates broke up the fight because he felt he didn’t get a fair opportunity to fight. He was immediately suspended from the team and its facilities for threatening to kill a teammate, he said. Brown was not suspended.
At the beginning of fall camp just over a week later, Helfrich informed the media that Bostick left the team “to pursue his own interests.”
Former cornerback Chris Seisay, who was on the team at the time but transferred to Portland State shortly after the altercation, heard about the incident through teammates.
“It was just kind of messed up how they treated [Bostick] in that situation, not even knowing what really happened,” Seisay said. “You got in a fight with Pharaoh? Okay, you’re off the team.”
Current cornerback Tyree Robinson said the fight between Brown and Bostick was the culmination of several incidents involving Bostick that led to his leaving the program.
“It wasn’t just that one incident that made that guy get dismissed,” Robinson said. “It was just constantly other things.”
Robinson said Brown is one of his best friends on the team and a player he respects.
“He’s no punk,” Robinson said. “Some guys are just smart asses on the team, and he’s not gonna take that. But that’s not his character anymore.”
Robinson said he saw a big change in Brown’s personality after he suffered his injury. He said before the injury he was just a young guy trying to experience as much as he could in college.
“I think once he got hurt or once he started making a lot of plays, he realized that he can do a lot with his game and really take it to the next level, and not just take it for granted,” Robinson said.
Robinson said that, until the incident with Bostick, Brown hadn’t been involved in a fight since the encounter with Wogan.
A former Oregon player and teammate of Brown’s — who wished to remain anonymous in this story so as not to be identified by his former teammates — said players who come to Oregon out of high school are the best of the best, and when they start to compete with players who are as good as or better than them, it becomes “a huge pride fest” as players try to prove their status on the team.
Scuffles, the former player said, often ensue, but rarely do they escalate to fist fights off the field the way they did with Brown, Bostick and Wogan.
“Pharaoh Brown — he’s a really good piece of the business, and you don’t want to lose that guy, regardless of whether he’s punching dudes in the head,” the former player said.
Brown remains an active player for the Ducks and has two games left in his college football career.