BU athletic department official charged in post-game attack

Heath Nielsen. (Jail photo)
Heath Nielsen. (Jail photo)(KWTX)
Published: Nov. 21, 2016 at 6:55 PM CST
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Baylor Associate Athletic Director Heath Nielsen, 47, is free on bond following his arrest earlier this month on a misdemeanor assault warrant stemming from an attack on Nov. 5 in which a sportswriter was grabbed by the throat and pushed away from a player after the Bears’ 62-22 loss to TCU.

Nielsen’s attorney, Michelle Tuegel, issued a brief statement Tuesday in which she said Nielsen denies attacking McBride.

“The one-sided version of events released by the complainant are not true or accurate. Mr. Nielsen maintains that he intervened to stop the interview, but he did not grab the complainant’s throat,” she said in the statement.

“We look forward to vigorously defending Mr. Nielsen and presenting the facts involved in this situation.”

Baylor's Executive Associate Athletic Director for External Affairs Nick Joos responded Tuesday to KWTX's request for comment, with a brief statement in which he said, "Baylor Athletics was made aware of the post-game incident involving Heath Nielsen shortly after the game and took immediate action to address it with him through the University's human resources process. We will continue to handle this personnel matter internally."

Baylor had not commented or released any information about the incident before KWTX reported on it Monday night, but Nielsen has been conspicuously absent for the past several weeks.

Nielsen was booked into the McLennan County Jail on Nov. 8.

The victim, James McBride had received permission from a football player to take a photograph, and after the picture was taken “Nielsen walked up to McBride on the right, grabbed McBride by the throat with his right hand, squeezed and pushed him away from the football player,’ an arrest warrant affidavit obtained by KWTX says.

When McBride and the player asked Nielsen what the problem was, he replied, “He’s abusing his privileges,” ‘the affidavit said.

“McBride had visible scratches and complained of pain around his throat.”

The injuries were photographed, the affidavit says.

McBride writes for Texas Blaze News, a community newspaper in Keller.

He told KWTX Monday the newspaper had always worked well with Joos and others at Baylor, but said it has had a history of issues with Nielsen, who was unhappy with some articles and videos McBride posted to his YouTube Channel, “Mustard Slinger Sports” that weren’t positive for the university.

“I had asked the player if I could take a photo with him, he said ‘yes,’” Mc Bride said Monday.

“I was leaning back to take the photo. I heard somebody who I didn’t know at this point in time yell from my right-hand side, saying ‘no interviews on the field,’” he said.

“About that time they came in and tomahawk-chopped, trying to knock the phone that I had taken the picture with out of my hand. They were unsuccessful in trying to do that, and when they couldn’t do that they came up and they grabbed my throat, and I pulled back. Whenever I looked up I saw that it was Heath Nielsen,” he said.

Right after the incident, McBride said, Nielsen told him, “You’ll never f****** work in this business again. You’re abusing your privileges on the field.”

A spokesperson for the newspaper said stadium cameras recorded the incident.

McBride said he hasn’t decided on a course of action, but says he thinks Nielsen should “lose his job hands down,” and said he wants a handwritten apology from Nielsen.

Nielsen was charged with assault with bodily injury, a Class A misdemeanor.

Nielsen is in his 17th year at Baylor, works directly with the football program “and is responsible for management of the public image of the program.”

In October 2014, the Big 12 publicly reprimanded him for Twitter comments about officiating during the Baylor-West Virginia game.

The conference assessed a $1,000 fine for the comments.

Before beginning his current job in 2012, Nielsen spent six years as the school’s director of athletic media relations and six years as assistant athletic director of communications.

He joined the Baylor staff in 2000 after two years as assistant athletics director for media relations at New Mexico State University.

Before that, he was assistant director of athletic media relations at Mississippi State University.

He’s a 1994 graduate of Utah State University.