ESPN Investigation into A&M Medical Practices

Documents, claims bring NCAA medical care issues into question

In January 2018, a month after Texas A&M hired Jimbo Fisher for $75 million over 10 years to replace Kevin Sumlin as head football coach, then-Texas A&M athletic director Scott Woodward signed off on two letters terminating the employment of Phil Hedrick, the school's associate athletics director overseeing athletic training, and Owen Stanley, its head football athletic trainer.

The letters state that Fisher was hired on Dec. 4, 2017, "and will want to hire his own staff, as in the industry standard."

Outside the Lines showed a copy of one of the letters to Hainline, who was instrumental in the 2016 passage of the NCAA's independent medical care rules.

"This is not the industry standard today, and it's not consistent with independent medical care legislation," Hainline said.

That might have been "just how things [were] done" several years ago, Hainline said. But in the years leading up to 2014, when the NCAA and sports medicine groups started to work on drafting the medical independence rules, he said there was an awakening to reject that status quo: "It's not right that coaches come in, and they bring in their medical team, and ... they have that sort of control over that medical team."

Lindley, of NATA, said Texas A&M's move was a "direct contradiction of NCAA policy. I'm not sure what industry they're in, but last I checked, they were an NCAA member institution."

In April, Texas A&M announced the hiring of Buzz Williams as men's basketball coach. The school fired the men's basketball athletic trainer, Matt Doles, who had been with the program for 14 years.

Outside the Lines obtained an April 9 email from Justin Moore, senior associate athletics director, regarding the men's basketball athletic trainer position, in which Moore writes that Williams "is bringing his guy with him from Virginia Tech." And indeed, athletic trainer Eddie Benion left Virginia Tech, where he worked with Williams, and is now Texas A&M's men's basketball athletic trainer, making almost $100,000, or about 55% more than Doles, according to records provided by the university.

After reviewing the email, Hainline said that sort of action was "not consistent with the legislation."

"This is an example where that understanding is not consistent with what we had put out. So even if it's just ... one, that's too many," Hainline said.

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