Family of Texas Cowboys pledge requests investigation following deadly crash

Lisa Nhan

The family of Nicholas Cumberland has asked for an investigation into alleged hazing at this year’s Texas Cowboys initiation retreat, according to a statement provided to The Daily Texan. This follows the death of their son from injuries sustained as a passenger in a car crash returning from the retreat in the early morning hours of Sept. 30.

The crash, which occurred at 5:43 a.m. an hour and a half northwest of Austin, was a result of the driver falling asleep, according to the crash report. The driver, who is a new member of Texas Cowboys, did not respond to requests for comment.

“Why was our son and a group of new Cowboy pledges permitted to depart on a two and a half hour drive from a ranch back to Austin around 4 a.m. in the morning with zero sleep after a full day of initiation activities?” the statement said.

Nicholas “Nicky” Cumberland spent four weeks on life support following the crash and his funeral was held on Nov. 3. Clio Harralson, Nicky’s girlfriend, said Nicky left for the retreat around 4 p.m. the day before the crash and told her he would return the next morning.

The Cumberland family said they heard allegations of hazing following the crash and then shared “information and documents with the proper authorities,” according to the statement.

University spokesman J.B. Bird confirmed the University recently received allegations of hazing connected to the accident but didn’t specify where the University received the information.

“The University takes all accusations of hazing seriously and investigates them as warranted,” Bird wrote in a statement given to the Texan. “We are evaluating how to proceed with the information we have at this time.”

Texas Cowboys, a registered student organization best known for firing “Smokey the Cannon” at football games, did not respond to repeated requests for comment. In addition, The Texan reached out to four current members of the organization, who did not respond to requests for comment.

However, the Texas Cowboys Alumni Association said it has launched an investigation into the events of this year’s Cowboys initiation retreat.

“The welfare and safety of its students is the first priority of the Texas Cowboys,” the association wrote in a statement to The Texan. “The Texas Cowboys have zero tolerance for hazing of any kind. After the investigation is complete, the Texas Cowboys will take any necessary actions to ensure a safe environment for current and future Cowboys.”

Texas Cowboys were previously suspended for five years in 1995 after the University determined hazing occurred at the Cowboy’s initiation retreat earlier that year. During that year’s initiation retreat, then-pledge Gabe Higgins was found dead in the Colorado River near Bastrop with a blood alcohol content twice the legal limit for driving.

The Cumberland family notes in the statement that Texas law and UT policy grant immunity to people who report hazing incidents.

“Our family will have no sympathy for anyone who adopts or encourages a code of silence; however, based on the candid discussions and support we’ve had so far, we are confident that this will be an open, transparent and cathartic process,” the statement said.

Harralson, Nicky’s girlfriend and a former Texan staffer, echoed the family’s sentiment.

“We’re not trying to punish anyone,” said Harralson, a Plan II, management information systems and business honors junior. “We just want to find out what happened to the person we love.”

Morgan O’Hanlon and Meghan Nguyen contributed to this reporting.