University of Georgia football players and staff members involved in the fatal car crash on the night the team was celebrating its repeat national championship appear to have patronized a strip club minutes before the accident.
Surveillance video obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution shows Georgia offensive linemen Warren McClendon and Devin Willock, along with other players, leaving Toppers International Showbar in downtown Athens about 2:30 a.m. Jan. 15. They were accompanied by two women who strongly resemble the UGA employees involved in the fatal crash roughly 15 minutes later.
The crash occurred less than three miles from the strip club. A Ford Expedition, traveling at high speed, left the roadway and slammed into two utility poles, two trees and an apartment building, killing Willock, 20, and UGA recruiting analyst Chandler LeCroy, 24, who was driving the SUV. Another recruiting staff member, Tory Bowles, 26, suffered serious injuries. McClendon, 21, was treated at an Athens hospital and released.
As reported by Dylan Jackson and Alan Judd of the Journal-Constitution, the video, social media posts and interviews provide the most complete understanding to date of events that culminated with the single-car crash. It occurred at the end of a day when tens of thousands of fans poured into Athens for a celebration of Georgia’s second consecutive national college football championship, "raising questions about boundaries between the program’s staff and its athletes," according to the authors, who ask, "Why were two university employees out with two student-athletes at such a late hour, riding in a rented vehicle like those the football program uses to transport potential recruits?"
A job description that UGA posted in 2021 for a similar position indicates that the work duties of recruiting analysts include giving vehicular tours of the campus and city to football prospects. The job posting did not mention accompanying current players on any occasions.
If Bowles and LeCroy were not on duty, their socializing with players suggests a possible violation of university rules, according to Jackson and Judd. In a policy manual for student-athletes, the UGA Athletic Association says coaches and staff members are responsible for avoiding “prohibited consensual relationships” with athletes. This includes behavior that might be deemed “inappropriate,” the document says. The policy does not list all possible examples of inappropriate conduct. However, employees may be fired for violations, the document says.
The Jan. 14 celebration began with a parade through downtown Athens. Coaches and players then greeted thousands of fans gathered inside Sanford Stadium. Shortly after the event was over, McClendon posted a message on Twitter that he had decided to leave school early to enter the NFL draft. Recruiting analysts spent the day assisting prospects the coaches had invited to observe the celebration. It is not known when Bowles and LeCroy met up with McClendon and Willock, Jackson and Judd reported.
University officials have not responded to detailed questions about the crash from the Journal-Constitution. The Athletic Association issued the following statement last week and again on Saturday:
“Our primary focus remains on providing comfort and support to the families and friends of Devin, Chandler, and the two others who were injured, as well as everyone impacted by this tragedy. Out of respect for the individuals and their families, we will not comment further at this time on the accident or the ongoing investigation.”