Safety & Security: Athlete Safety
- Kent State Fires Strength Coach Over Certification Issue
by Paul Steinbach August 2017
Kent State University has fired a member of its football staff after investigations found the individual lacked certification as a strength and conditioning coach required by the NCAA.
Ross Bowsher was in charge of a June 13 workout at which 19-year-old Tyler Heintz collapsed and died. The preliminary cause of death was listed as hyperthermia, a condition that develops when the body cannot properly cool itself. Almost immediately after Heintz's death, both major strength and conditioning certification bodies — the National Strength and Conditioning Association and the Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coaches Association — informed CBS Sports that Bowsher was not a member. Combined, the organizations claim 29,000 members.
A CBS Sports investigation found that Bowsher, in his second year with the Golden Flashes after stints with Arkansas Tech and Purdue, was the only Kent State staffer lacking certification, required since 2015 under NCAA Bylaw 11.1.5.
Subsequent to those findings, the university released the following statement:
“The safety and wellbeing of our student-athletes is paramount at Kent State University, and we have continued to assess and review all policies and circumstances relative to the June 13 summer football workout that occurred prior to the death of Tyler Heintz. We continue to mourn the loss of Tyler, and the Kent State family is focused on joining with the Heintz family in honoring his memory in our thoughts and actions.
“The university has concluded its internal review of the matter, and our findings indicate that the workout was conducted in accordance with national protocols for student-athlete health and safety, and the session was supervised appropriately by qualified personnel. Present at the June 13 football workout were five certified personnel who participated in the design, implementation and supervision of the 20 student-athletes.
“During the course of the review, it was discovered that football strength and conditioning coach Ross Bowsher provided false information about his certification, which is required by the university and the NCAA. Mr. Bowsher has been dismissed from the university, and we are self-reporting this decision to the NCAA.”
The case illustrates the importance of a thorough vetting process for coaches. “Today, the way liability is, if you’re not certified by an accredited organization you’re walking on thin ice,” CSCCA executive director Chuck Stiggins told CBS Sports. “Lawsuits could be $20 million to $30 million dollars. I can’t imagine hiring someone without the appropriate credentials.”
Heintz is the 35th college football player across all divisions to die since 2000, with factors relating to overexertion the leading cause of death.
“Football has a problem,” NSCA coaching education manager Scott Caulfield told CBS Sports. “Typically they hire the biggest dude that lifted weights and make him the strength coach. A lot of times they don't care if he is certified or not.”
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