ATLANTA — A recruiting analyst for the University of Georgia football team was not authorized to drive an SUV rented by the university at the time of a crash in which she and a football player died, athletic department officials said late Friday.
After nearly two weeks of refusing to answer questions about the crash, the UGA Athletic Association released a brief statement in response to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s again asking on Friday whether the university had rented the vehicle.
The statement provided a few key details about the crash, which killed offensive lineman Devin Willock, 20, and the driver, 24-year-old Chandler LeCroy, an employee on the team’s recruiting staff. But a complete picture of what led to the crash, which occurred about 2:45 a.m. Jan. 15 about 2 1/2 miles southeast of downtown Athens, remains murky.
The statement said the car involved in the crash, a 2021 Ford Expedition, was one of several vehicles “leased by our athletic department for use during recruiting activities only.” The vehicles had been used on Saturday, Jan. 14, to transport prospects around Athens during a massive celebration of Georgia’s second consecutive national football championship.
LeCroy was not authorized to drive the car after she completed work that day, the athletic association said. The statement did not specify when she completed her assigned duties. University officials had previously said neither LeCroy nor recruiting analyst Tory Bowles, 26, who was severely injured in the crash, was working when they were out late that night with Willock and lineman Warren McClendon, 21, who received minor injuries.
“Policies and expectations that were well understood by athletics staff dictated that such rental vehicles were to be turned in at the immediate conclusion of recruiting duties,” the athletic association said. “Personal use was strictly prohibited. Therefore, the continued use of the leased car by our staff members after their recruiting duties ended earlier that evening was unauthorized.”
The athletic association did not immediately respond Friday evening to follow-up questions, including the procedure for employees to turn in the rental vehicles after recruiting activities. It did not say how many vehicles had been used to ferry prospects during the Saturday celebration.
Also unknown is who was responsible for assigning the vehicles to LeCroy and other employees or for monitoring when and how the vehicles were used.
The Journal-Constitution reported Sunday 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.
The video also showed the Expedition at a stoplight minutes later, headed in the direction of the crash.
The athletic association announced on Tuesday that it was conducting its own investigation of the events the led to the crash.
The Athens police said LeCroy was speeding on Barnett Shoals Road when the vehicle left the roadway, struck two utility poles and two trees and finally hit an apartment building.
LeCroy was pronounced dead at an Athens hospital. Willock was ejected from the vehicle and died at the scene. He had been seated behind her in a driver’s side passenger seat. Willock’s family held a funeral on Friday in Englewood, N.J., near his family’s home.
Regardless of whether LeCroy was authorized to drive the Expedition, giving a ride to the two football players may have violated NCAA rules. Such rides could be considered special benefits not provided to other students.
In its statement Friday evening, the athletic association suggested that authorities still have questions about the crash.
“We are continuing to cooperate fully with investigators,” the athletic association said.