Garden City Community College President Ryan Ruda has agreed to meet with the mother of former GCCC football player Braeden Bradforth, who died after a practice in August 2018, and U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), college spokesperson Ashley Salazar told The Telegram on Friday.
The agreement comes a week after Smith held a news conference with Bradforth’s mother, Joanne Atkins-Ingram, and her representation, Jill Greene, expressing outrage at the college’s handling of the review of Bradforth’s death.
“After eight months of seeking answers about her son’s death, it is long-past time for Joanne to speak directly with the President of GCCC and the staff,” Smith said, according to a news release from his office on Friday.
However, Greene said Atkins-Ingram has not committed to the meeting yet, as they are looking at logistics of the meeting and are skeptical of how productive the meeting would be.
“She is definitely amenable to sitting down if President Ruda is able to provide answers to her questions,” Greene said.
Bradford died on Aug. 1, after GCCC’s first practice of the fall schedule. He was found unresponsive outside of the GCCC dorms about 30 minutes after the practice ended, according to medical records. He was taken to St. Catherine Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
The subsequent autopsy report concluded he had died of heat stroke, a condition that a former team physician for the University of Oklahoma, Randy Eichner, said should never occur in college football because it is identifiable and treatable.
The college announced shortly after the release of the autopsy report that it was conducting an internal review, which was “intended to ensure that the college can transparently inform the community, the media, and — most importantly — Braeden’s family of the accurate facts and circumstances surrounding Braeden’s death.”
But the review has not been shared with Atkins-Ingram or the public.
Greene said that inquiries for more information from the college have been denied at every juncture, prompting a letter from Smith to GCCC on March 25 asking for the internal review to be made public and an external investigation to also be conducted.
The college’s response to Smith, an email from Ruda to Smith sent on March 27, was similar to what the college has sent to any outside inquiries into Bradforth’s death:
“Due to the KSA12-105B Notice of Claim, the college is not at liberty to respond on the matter. Recent correspondence has gone through the college attorney, Mr. Randy Grisell. At this time, Mr. Grisell is limited in the additional comments he can make, as the claim has been turned over to the college’s liability insurance carrier to handle.”
That prompted Smith’s news conference, in which he read Ruda’s email response and expressed his dismay.
Now, the college has publicly accepted a meeting with Smith and Atkins-Ingram, which would be the first meeting for Atkins-Ingram with any GCCC representative since the release of the autopsy report.
The college stated on Friday that it has never received any request from Atkins-Ingram or Greene to have a meeting.
“Dr. Ruda has never denied the opportunity to sit down with Braeden’s mother,” Salazar said.
Greene said Friday the college has never shown any interest in having a productive meeting, so they have never asked for one.
“Every single response from the school, even to the congressman, their response has been no,” Greene said. “We can’t talk, we can’t communicate with them, so is it logical to ask for a sit-down meeting when their history was to tell us nothing?”
The college stated Friday that no strict agenda has been set for the meeting, but Ruda, as well as the college’s legal representation, will be in attendance.
“Right now, there is not an agenda set for the meeting," Salazar said. "We’ve been counseled and advised just to really not say anything about the topic at all … I wouldn’t say this is an open discussion, but we’re definitely going to be open to all topics.”
The college also said the meeting is set for April 26, but Greene said that Atkins-Ingram has not agreed to that date. Smith’s press secretary, Matt Hadro, said that the date has yet to be confirmed because they are also looking at Smith’s schedule to see if he would be available.
“If they’re not sure that’s not going to work, we’ll work to find another date,” Salazar said. “We’ll be happy to have them another time.”
Contact J. Levi Burnfin at email@example.com.