Kent State cannot produce certification for strength coach in charge during death

Kent State cannot produce any professional certification required by the NCAA for the head football strength coach who oversaw conditioning drills the day freshman Tyler Heintz died of complications from an abnormally high body temperature, CBS Sports has learned.

In fact, Golden Flashes strength coach Ross Bowsher -- beginning his second year with the program -- seems to be the only member of the strength and conditioning and training staffs without certification.

If Bowsher is not certified, that would be a violation of NCAA Bylaw 11.1.5, which states that strength coaches "must maintain current certification through a nationally accredited strength and conditioning certification program."

A Kent State spokesman told CBS Sports "there were no responsive records" to a Freedom of Information Act request for copies of the strength and conditioning staff's certification.

Also, two of the nation's largest strength and conditioning organizations told CBS Sports they couldn't find certification for Bowsher.

Bowsher was responsible at the time for supervised drills on June 13 when Heintz, 19, collapsed during the second day of conditioning. The preliminary cause of death by a local coroner was hyperthermia, a condition that develops when the body is unable to properly cool itself.

An official cause of death will take at least six more weeks, according to the Portage County Coroner's office.

A spokesman for the office told CBS Sports that hyperthermia "is more than heat exhaustion."

When CBS Sports contacted Kent State athletic director Joel Nielsen for comment, a university spokesman responded with the following statement:

"We continue to mourn the loss of Tyler Heintz, and the Kent State family is focused on joining with the Heintz family in honoring the memory of Tyler in our thoughts and actions.

"Kent State University continues to assess and review all policies and practices relative to the circumstances surrounding Tyler's death.  It is premature to report the totality of our findings, but we remain steadfast in the due diligence of our review and our commitment to the safety and well-being of all student-athletes at Kent State University."

Typically, strength coaches lead drills during the offseason when players' interaction with the coaching staff is limited. Players train through noncontact drills in T-shirts and shorts.

Heintz became the 35th college football player across all divisions to die since 2000, according to updated research done by Oklahoma head trainer Scott Anderson. Only six of those were traumatic deaths, occurring outside preseason conditioning or offseason drills. 

Factors relating to overexertion have become the leading cause of death for college football players since the beginning of the century.

Through that same FOIA request, CBS Sports obtained the workout plans from the day before and day of Heintz's death. Two experts asked to analyze the documents said there didn't seem to be anything overly strenuous in the workouts.

Reports said the temperature was 81 degrees when Heintz collapsed.

However, almost immediately after Heintz's death, both major strength and conditioning certification bodies reached out to CBS Sports to relay the fact Bowsher was not a member.

The National Strength Coaches Association (NSCA) and Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coaches Association (CSCCa) account for a combined 29,000 members.

"Today, the way liability is, if you're not certified by an accredited organization you're walking on thin ice," CSCCa executive director Chuck Stiggins said. "Lawsuits could be $20 million-$30 million dollars. I can't imagine hiring someone without the appropriate credentials."

While the school could not produce the certifications, four subordinates under Bowsher were listed as members on the CSCCa membership site.

It is possible for membership in both those national bodies to lapse, but during that time, strength coaches are not considered certified.

The NCAA has only required that strength coaches be certified since 2015. Since then, major sanctioning bodies have urged the NCAA for more strict guidelines. The association has suggested state licensing or a registry from which a pool of qualified candidates could be hired.

Those sanctioning bodies argue NCAA certification is too easy, allowing underqualified or unqualified coaches into programs.

"[The NCAA doesn't] want to take anybody's side," Stiggins said.

A CBS Sports investigation found in March that Oregon's football strength coach had only a track and field certification at the time three Oregon players were hospitalized after strenuous workouts.

While that coach was technically in compliance with NCAA rules, Irele Oderinde was suspended by Oregon. Four industry experts totaling 100 years of experience said they didn't consider Oderinde properly certified to be a football strength coach.

"Football has a problem ..." NSCA coaching education manager Scott Caulfield said. "Typically they hire the biggest dude that lifted weights and make him the strength coach. A lot of times they don't care if he is certified or not."

Bowsher was hired from Arkansas Tech in January 2016 after serving as an assistant at Purdue. According to the Kent State website, Bowsher completed a certification program at Indiana University Purdue University-Indianapolis.

An IUPUI official told CBS Sports the school offers a personal trainer certificate program that prepares students to take national strength and conditioning certification tests, including that from the NSCA. 

To be clear, that IUPUI class is not national certification. In fact, the NCAA requires any certification must be accredited by the National Commission For Certifying Agencies

CBS Sports attempted to verify Bowsher's degree and the certification class. IUPUI said it could not comply due to privacy laws. Bowsher did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Correction: The initial version of the video published atop this story incorrectly listed Bowsher as "charged in" the incident as opposed to "in charge" (of drills) during the time the incident took place. There are no such allegations or charges against him. CBS Sports regrets this error.

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Dennis Dodd has covered college football for CBS Sports since it was CBS SportsLine in 1998. He is one of only seven media members to attend all 16 BCS title games and has chronicled conference realignment... Full Bio

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