UGA president unsure if policy changes needed after fatal crash

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Athletic director Brooks praises those who assisted after crash, including football staffer Bryant Gantt

ATHENS — As university and police investigations continue into the fatal January crash that killed a football player and recruiting staff member, University of Georgia President Jere Morehead said he is unsure whether policy changes will need to be made.

“So far, I haven’t seen anything that has caused me concern,” Morehead said. “Obviously we wish the vehicle had been turned in that evening. But the review is ongoing and I’m confident that if any procedures need to be changed — I’m not sure they will need to be changed — but I’m confident that our athletic director and head coach will do whatever they need to do.”

Morehead’s public comments Tuesday were his most extensive to date about a Jan. 15 crash that killed 20-year-old offensive lineman Devin Willock and recruiting analyst Chandler LeCroy, 24, who was driving. Football player Warren McClendon and recruiting analyst Tory Bowles were also injured in the crash.

Morehead spoke in response to a reporter’s question following the first public meeting of the university’s athletics association board since the crash. Athletic director Josh Brooks offered few details on the university’s investigation. He told reporters that the athletic association has not hired an outside firm to conduct the inquiry. He said the school was unaware that the luxury SUV rented by the university to ferry recruits during a Jan. 14 national championship celebration weekend had not been turned in by the recruiting staff the evening of the crash.

Otherwise, Brooks and Morehead declined to share more information or other details surrounding the crash.

Brooks declined to address questions regarding whether the school had spoken to two football players that Athens officers at the scene sought information on after the crash: linebackers Jamon Dumas-Johnson and Smael Mondon. Brooks also would not comment on what Willock’s father meant when he told the AJC that the university was “compensating” his family.

The crash has raised questions about the university’s culpability in an episode that exposed the blurred lines between the university’s football staff and its football players.

The Journal-Constitution reported that surveillance video showed McClendon and Willock leaving a downtown Athens strip club with two women strongly resembling Bowles and LeCroy about 15 minutes before the crash. Their late-night socializing may have violated a university policy that forbids inappropriate contact between employees and student-athletes. McClendon told reporters last week that the group was headed to a Waffle House at the time of the crash to meet other players.

Brooks announced on Jan. 24 that the athletic association was conducting its own investigation of the crash, indicating that it could lead to policy changes.

During his presentation Tuesday to the association board, Brooks made mention of the tragic crash and said the university continues to grieve the loss of Willock and LeCroy. He also reiterated to the board that LeCroy was unauthorized to drive the university-leased car at the time of the crash, reiterating statements released previously by the athletic association.

Brooks also took a moment to recognize three UGA staff members for their assistance during the tragedy comforting players and others. Brooks publicly recognized to the board team chaplain Thomas Settles, Executive Associate Athletic Director Ron Courson and Director of Player Support and Operations Bryant Gantt.

“Sometimes in the darkest moments, individuals shine,” Brooks said.

On Friday, the AJC reported that Gantt arrived at the scene of the crash less than a half hour after the wreck. Gantt was given clearance by Athens-Clarke County Police Chief Jerry Saulters to speak to officers at the scene, raising questions about the independence of the crash investigation.

Athens police spokesperson Lt. Shaun Barnett told the AJC that “there is no evidence that suggests anyone involved in the crash has been influenced in any way.”

Brooks said the university is cooperating with law enforcement. Authorities are waiting for results of a toxicology test performed on LeCroy