Nearly two years after former North Carolina football player Jackson Boyer suffered an alleged concussion during an off-campus hazing incident that involved at least four of his teammates, the university has reached a $795,000 settlement with Boyer and his family.
According to the settlement, a copy of which The News & Observer obtained on Tuesday, the $795,000 that Boyer will receive from UNC “covers all of Jackson Boyer’s actual or potential personal injury claims, including but not limited to, any claim for damages, attorneys’ fees and litigation expenses.”
Boyer was a non-scholarship wide receiver at UNC when on Aug. 4, 2014, he was involved in an altercation at the Aloft Hotel in Chapel Hill, where the football team stays during its weekslong preseason camp. The altercation didn’t become public until weeks later, when Yahoo! Sports reported that Boyer had suffered a concussion during a hazing incident.
Since then it had been unclear whether UNC agreed that the altercation met its official definition of hazing. The university’s settlement with Boyer provides clarity, though.
In addition to the $795,000 payment, which is going into a trust for Boyer, UNC also agreed to pay for all of a mediator’s fees and expenses, and to “continue its good faith, best efforts towards developing healthy team cultures, taking into account the recommendations of the university’s current working group tasked with addressing student issues involving hazing and bullying.”
The parties involved in the settlement, which was completed earlier this month, agreed not to disclose the terms of the agreement, or to talk publicly about the case. Jim Gregory, a university spokesman, confirmed the settlement’s authenticity.
The settlement provides a clear ending to a saga that began nearly two years ago. Even so, what transpired at the Aloft has remained unclear because of the lack of official documentation related to the incident and the refusal of those involved to talk about it. Police were not called to the Aloft to investigate the incident, and no criminal charges related to it were ever filed.
According to UNC’s anti-hazing policy, found on its website, the university “expressly prohibits hazing or any activity that puts a student’s physical, emotional or psychological health and safety at risk.”
Boyer, who played in seven games during the 2014 season before transferring to the University of Southern California, where he’s now a junior walk-on receiver, has never discussed the incident publicly. Neither have his parents, who at the time didn’t return several phone calls seeking comment.
The university has also offered few details about what happened at the Aloft. In addition to never publicly acknowledging that Boyer was a victim of hazing, university officials also never confirmed he’d endured a concussion as a result of what happened at the hotel.
Days after news of the hazing incident became public, officials from UNC’s campus police department and the Chapel Hill Police Department said they hadn’t been aware of the incident at the Aloft. Police were made aware of the incident four days after it happened.
Neither police department investigated it. Jeff McCracken, the UNC chief of police, said at the time that because the altercation happened at an off-campus hotel, it was out of his department’s jurisdiction.
Chris Blue, the chief of the Chapel Hill Police Department, said then that he couldn’t investigate the incident without an official complaint from Boyer or his family. Blue said he received no such complaint.
The only official, public documentation was a thinly detailed incident report produced by UNC police. The document didn’t contain any details about what it described as “an allegation of aggravated assault.”
UNC police recorded that incident report, which incorrectly listed the date and address of the altercation at the Aloft, in accordance with the Clery Act, which requires that alleged crimes on or near college campuses be reported to the U.S. Department of Education.
Four of Boyer’s teammates at the time – Des Lawrence, Donnie Miles, M.J. Stewart and Brian Walker – were suspended for one game and sat out UNC’s first game in 2014, a 56-29 victory against Liberty.
Those four players, none of whom were made available to reporters throughout the 2014 season, still practiced with the team and played after their one-game suspensions ended. Lawrence, Miles and Stewart, all defensive backs, are still on the team.
Those three are expected to be among the Tar Heels’ most important defensive players this season. Along with Walker, a cornerback who left the team midway through last season, they were part of a position group that has nicknamed themselves the “rude boys.”
Boyer, a two-time all-conference player at East Chapel Hill High, sat out the 2013 season and was attempting to prove himself before the start of the 2014 season.
Per the NCAA’s transfer rules, Boyer didn’t play in games last season at USC. He has two years of eligibility remaining.
The settlement agreement between Boyer’s family and UNC was signed by Boyer and his parents, Kimber and Robert Boyer on June 6. It was finalized on June 11 when Matt Fajack, UNC’s vice chancellor of finance and administration, signed the agreement.
Jerome Trehy, an attorney representing Boyer, declined to expound on the settlement, and how it came to be finalized, when reached on Tuesday. Trehy said only that “the matter has been resolved.”