Student hit by car before UNC-USC game

Updated: March 24, 2007, 11:53 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The student who wears the North Carolina mascot uniform remained in critical condition Saturday after being hit by a car while walking on a highway shoulder outside a hotel.

Jayson K. Ray, a senior from Concord, N.C., was to have performed inside the Ram mascot costume during Friday night's East Regional semifinal between the Tar Heels and Southern California. He was injured while walking in the afternoon in Fort Lee, a few miles from the Meadowlands complex where the game was played.

Ray was taken to Hackensack Medical Center, the school said. His parents were en route to the hospital.

"We are deeply saddened by this tragic accident," North Carolina athletic director Dick Baddour said. "Our hearts go out to Jayson and his family and our prayers are with them."

According to the Newark Star-Ledger, Tar Heels coach Roy Williams addressed the incident before fielding questions in his postgame news conference Friday.

"I've just been told about mascot [prior to the post-game news conference], that he was hit by a car this afternoon, and our prayers go our and we hope that things look better than they look right now," said Williams, in the Newark Star-Ledger. "It sort of makes everything else pale in comparison to that -- a youngster to have something like that happen.

"I was just told that, so it's a little nerve-wracking right now to think about that."

The Fort Lee police said Ray was walking on the shoulder of Route 4 when he was hit by a 2006 Mercury Mountaineer driven by 51-year-old Gagik Hovsepyan of Paramus. Hovsepyan called the police and aided Ray, hit while returning to the Fort Lee Hilton after purchasing food at a convenience store.

The accident is under investigation and no charges have been filed. Police said Hovsepyan had a valid license and didn't appear to be under the influence of alcohol or narcotics.

Information from The Associated Press contributed to this story.