Coroner: Umeh had enlarged heart

Updated: June 13, 2004, 8:02 PM ET
Associated Press

TUCSON, Ariz. -- A University of Arizona football recruit who died during a voluntary practice had an enlarged heart but heat was not a factor in the death, authorities said Wednesday.

The Pima County Medical Examiner's Office, which conducted an autopsy on the body of McCollins Umeh, said the official cause of death was pending further examination of organ tissue and toxicology results.

Umeh, an 18-year-old defensive end from Houston, collapsed Tuesday after having passed a physical that morning and shortly after working out.

A 911 call was made at 1:26 p.m. and Umeh was taken to the nearby University Medical Center. He was pronounced dead at 2:24 p.m.

University athletic officials said comprehensive reviews are under way of university policies concerning summer workouts and all events surrounding the death.

"This is a great tragedy that has happened to my family," Umeh's father, Betrand "Ike" Umeh, said at a news conference Wednesday. "It's a great loss. But I think it's the will of God."

One of Umeh's aunts, Darlene McClemmon, also spoke to reporters along with athletic director Jim Livengood, university president Peter Likins and coach Mike Stoops.

"M.C., that's what we called him, was special; he was a special angel in our lives," McClemmon said.

She called Umeh kindhearted and trustworthy with an overpowering spirit and "a million-dollar smile."

Likins, who lost a 33-year-old son in July 2002, said he never met Umeh "but I feel like I know his family, because I know what it's like to bury your son, and there is no greater pain.

"You have my heartfelt sympathy," Likins told Umeh's family, "and it's going to take courage from all of you just to hold it together, to get through some very, very difficult times, and life is never going to be the same."

Stoops said Umeh's "spirit, his smile, his personality will be everlasting in this program. He was special."

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press