ATLANTA — The University of Georgia said Tuesday it is investigating events that preceded a late-night car crash that killed a football player and a member of the team’s recruiting staff.
The head of the UGA Athletic Association said the investigation could lead to policy changes. His statement said the individuals involved in the crash were not engaged in university-sanctioned activities.
“We want the public to know that the Athletic Department is conducting a thorough review, in coordination with appropriate legal counsel, to fully understand this tragic event,” athletic director Josh Brooks said in a brief statement.
It is unclear, however, whether the inquiry — which will include an examination of whether athletic department policies were broken — would be conducted independently or under the control of university officials. Neither a spokesman for UGA President Jere Morehead nor the athletic department’s sports information director would comment late Tuesday.
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The crash, about 2:45 a.m. on Jan. 15, killed 20-year-old offensive lineman Devin Willock and recruiting analyst Chandler LeCroy, 24. Another member of the recruiting staff, Tory Bowles, 26, suffered serious injuries. Lineman Warren McClendon, 21, was treated at a hospital and released. Police say the car, driven by LeCroy, was speeding at the time of the crash. Authorities are waiting for results of a toxicology test performed on LeCroy.
The university’s statement followed a report Sunday by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that raised questions about why university employees were accompanying student-athletes at such a late hour and whether their socializing violated a policy barring “inappropriate” behavior and “prohibited consensual relationships.”
Surveillance video obtained by the Journal-Constitution showed McClendon and Willock emerging from a downtown Athens strip club about 15 minutes before the crash, accompanied by two women who strongly resembled Bowles and LeCroy.
The video also showed the group leaving the downtown nightlife area in the black Ford Expedition that was involved in a violent one-car crash about 2 1/2 miles from the club, Toppers International Showbar, just off the UGA North Campus.
Other players could be seen on the video leaving the club about half an hour after closing time. The video did not show where they went afterward.
The university for the past week has declined to address the crash, including whether the athletic department had assigned LeCroy and Bowles to attend to the players that night.
But in the statement Tuesday, Brooks said that “we want to emphasize that these individuals were not engaged in Athletic Department duties around the time of this incident.”
The crash followed a day of celebration, including a parade and a ceremony in Sanford Stadium, of UGA’s second consecutive national football championship. LeCroy had assisted football recruits invited to the events; Bowles’ activities that day are not known. Willock was photographed early the evening of the celebrations at an Athens restaurant, and a social media post the same night showed him and McClendon at a gathering with other players.
Brooks’ statement contained few details about the school’s investigation, including who will be in charge of the inquiry. He said the school is cooperating with the police. He also said he and football coach Kirby Smart are “actively reviewing relevant football policies,” although he did not identify those policies.
“At the conclusion of that review,” Brooks said, “we will take steps to implement any improvements in our policies and procedures that may be needed.”
Among the unanswered questions is whether the Ford Expedition had been part of a fleet of luxury SUVs the Athletic Association rented to transport football prospects the day of the championship celebration. If so, it is unclear whether any athletic department supervisors had authorized LeCroy to drive the vehicle, particularly hours after the celebration officially concluded.
NCAA rules limit the circumstances under which university employees may transport student-athletes. While it says “reasonable transportation” is allowed, the NCAA does not define that term. However, its bylaws list several permissible examples, including for appearances at civic or booster organizations, media interviews and “goodwill tours.”
Staff writer Chip Towers contributed reporting.