An investigation by the Texas dean of students office into the death of a new member in a 2018 car accident concluded on Wednesday with a six-year suspension of the Texas Cowboys.
The spirit organization, which is responsible for firing “Smokey the Cannon” at athletic events, including football games, will have an opportunity to appeal the suspension, which includes a two-year probationary period if the school reinstates the organization.
“New members of the Cowboys were subjected to multiple forms of hazing, including physical brutality, physical activity, forced ingestion of unwanted substances, coerced consumption of alcohol and degradation,” said the school’s report, which was obtained by the Austin American-Statesman.
Those actions represented violations of school policy at a time when the state legislature is moving to enact more strict measures to prevent hazing.
The cause of the investigation was a late September rollover accident last fall that resulted in the death of a student, Nicholas Cumberland, who was thrown from the pickup truck carrying Cowboys back to Austin from a retreat at a private ranch.
In 1995, the drowning death of Gabe Higgins in the Colorado River following hazing involving alcohol resulted in a five-year suspension of the Cowboys.
A statement from the organization following the most recent suspension noted its volunteer efforts and cited findings in the report that concluded sleep deprivation did not occur at the retreat prior to the fatal car accident.
“Hazing did not cause the car accident that took Nicky Cumberland’s life,” the statement said.
“Our organization is committed to learning, growing, and using this tragedy to educate and prepare the next generation of leaders to do better — and to more effectively serve others. However, we cannot accomplish these goals if the Texas Cowboys are no longer permitted to operate as an official student organization. Our leaders are currently reviewing their options and will make a decision shortly on how to proceed.”
Cumberland’s father, Shawn, released his own statement expressing his disappointment with the organization.
“The Cowboy’s statement is extremely disappointing,” Cumberland said.
“It tells us that nothing has changed since Gabe Higgins death. There is no ownership, but rather lack of sincere remorse. The Cowboys alumni does not accept responsibility for the continued culture of hazing and for the deceptive and dangerous system that was put in place to protect and promote hazing. The alumni care only about the preservation of the organization, but not the safety of the individuals.”
Whether another student group takes over firing “Smokey the Cannon” is currently unclear, though one suggestion advocates for a women’s organization to assume those responsibilities:
So it finally sounds like a women's organization should take over firing the cannon and celebrate all of the awesome women on our campus by letting us be in charge of a prestigious game day tradition in our own right and not just as sweethearts of a men's group https://t.co/fdTzkl36y0— Jessica Holt (@JessicaHolt13) March 28, 2019