Aggies try to recover from tragedy

May, 24, 2010

The swing of emotions at Texas A&M continues to be as raw as any team is experiencing this spring.

Nothing matches the continued grief the staff is going through following the tragic death of Aggies signee Tobi Oyedeji in a car accident in which he was driving after prom. Oyedeji's car crossed the median and struck another vehicle, killing 51-year-old Gertha Augustin, a nurse in the Houston area, who had gone to her native Haiti once after the notorious earthquake earlier this year and was set to return to aid her nation.

The 17-year-old Oyedeji out of Bellaire High in Houston texted his father around 6 a.m. that he was heading home. Augustin was on her way to work, according to reports.

Nothing can duplicate the pain of all those involved.

Last week, Turgeon responded with the help of three other Aggies alumni in paying for Oyedeji's funeral expenses after a conversation with Tobi's father, Mike, on the phone. Turgeon said Mike Oyedeji was heading to the bank to see about expenses when Turgeon cut him off and said they would take care of it. The NCAA signed off on the expense, as it should.

"I just wanted to take the pressure off them," Turgeon said.

Oyedeji never played for the Aggies. Yet the Aggies are trying to make a positive out of his tragic death by setting up a scholarship in his name. The goal is to raise $100,000 for that.

"So that something good comes out of this," Turgeon said.

In the midst of the tragedy, and unrelated to it, the Aggies were recruiting Washington transfer Elston Turner. Turner, whose father, Elston, is an assistant coach with the Houston Rockets, committed to the Aggies over the weekend.

The 6-foot-4 Turner, who played high school basketball in Missouri City, Texas, averaged 5.5 points in 15.3 minutes a game, and scored 14 points in an NCAA tournament win over Marquette and 10 in a second-round win over New Mexico.

The Aggies had a scholarship available for Turner before Oyedeji's death. So this is not a replacement, even though it might appear to be the case.

Turgeon can't comment on Turner yet, but he did say that the plan is not to fill Oyedeji's scholarship for next season.

The swing of emotion was high for Turgeon just a few weeks ago when he shied away from being pursued by Oregon, a place where he once coached. Turgeon knows former Oregon booster and former athletic director Pat Kilkenny quite well and could have been a perfect fit. But there wasn't a consensus for Turgeon, and the fact that he had once been at Oregon might not have played as well with the Ducks.

Turgeon ended up getting a deal that extended his contract eight more years overall and bumped his salary at least $300,000 to put him at $1.5 million. The deal is expected to be approved at the Texas A&M board of regents' regularly scheduled meeting next week. Turgeon then suggested Creighton's Dana Altman to Kilkenny; Altman ultimately landed the job.

Amid all this tragedy, transfers, contract extension is a decision due from the NCAA on senior guard Derrick Roland.

Roland suffered a horrific broken right leg in a game at Washington on Dec. 22. The compound fracture left players on the court speechless.

But because it was a clean break of the bone with no ligament damage, Roland has made a speedy recovery. The problem for his eligibility is that he played in 10.5 games, a half more than is allowed to preserve a medical redshirt year.

"We're trying to get the year back," Turgeon said. "We're hoping to hear in a week."

If Roland can't play for A&M, he'll likely head overseas to play professionally. Roland has been cleared to work out and should be given the go-ahead for pickup games in the next 30 days.

The harsh reality is that the Aggies have to move on as they mourn Oyedeji.

A life was lost related to the program, another tragically taken away in the accident, unrelated to the school, the team or the player. It was clearly the most important event this spring and will be for quite some time. But the Aggies had to move on and continue with the daily grind of a program: Turner comes on board. Roland could be cleared. Turgeon stayed.

Andy Katz | email

ESPN Senior Writer



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