A petition campaign to exonerate an expelled Washington State football player grew complicated Friday when a newspaper published excerpts of what’s claimed to be a WSU investigation of the player.

Dominick Silvels, a linebacker and rush specialist from San Diego who led the Cougars in sacks in 2018, has implied on social media that his unexplained absence from the team in 2019 was the result of an expulsion by the school.

An online petition on Change.org was launched this week and, as of Friday, had drawn more than 23,000 signatures.

But the rush of new signings had appeared to stop after the Spokesman-Review published a lengthy online story that included excerpts of a report by WSU’s Office of Civils Rights Compliance and Investigation. All names in the report were redacted.

According to the Spokesman-Review, the excerpts were posted on Instagram by the person whose accusations prompted the investigation.

Silvels had alluded to his accuser Tuesday on Twitter, writing, “She doesn’t go to WSU she’s from my hometown she literally just emailed WSU never went to the police

“The coaches at WSU were sticking with me and trying to help as much as they could,” he continued. “It was the school that I was fighting this with.”

The online petition was started by a woman named Katelynn Harris, who told the Tribune by phone Wednesday she was interested in commenting on the matter and Silvels might also be interested. She said she was speaking from the Los Angeles area and was headed to visit Silvels in San Diego. But neither of them has responded to requests for comment since.

Silvels entered the NCAA transfer portal in December but apparently didn’t transfer, remaining in Pullman for at least a stretch. In February, he was charged with third-degree theft in Whitman County District Court, and he’s scheduled to appear in court this month.

Silvels, 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds who would have been a Cougar junior this year, tied for the team lead with 4½ sacks in 2018, starting three games and tallying 7½ tackles for loss. During his mysterious absence last season, then-coach Mike Leach repeatedly said he was out for personal reasons, without elaborating and without giving the impression he was displeased with the player.

Leach jumped to Mississippi State in January and was replaced by Nick Rolovich. The coronavirus pandemic has prompted the cancellation of the Cougars’ 2020 nonconference games and the scrambling of their league schedule, but they’re set to begin the season Sept. 26.

Silvels appeared in nine games as a true freshman for the Cougars in 2017, mostly on special teams.

A spokesman for the WSU athletic department said this week any information regarding Silvels would have to come from university administration, as opposed to athletics.

Grummert may be contacted at daleg@lmtribune.com or (208) 848-2290.

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