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Friday, March 13, 2009
Alden, Pinkel comment on O'Neal family settlement

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Missouri athletic director Michael Alden confirmed to two newspapers that Missouri will pay more than $2 million in a settlement to the family of linebacker Aaron O'Neal, who collapsed after a football workout in 2005 and later died.

Alden said the school did not take an adversarial role in the lawsuit filed by O'Neal's family. Fourteen current and former Missouri staff members were named in the suit.

"We didn't treat it that way," Alden told the Kansas City Star after the settlement. "We were always concerned about the needs and wishes of the O'Neal family."

The Columbia Tribune reported that both of O'Neal's estranged parents will share in the settlement. His father, Lonnie O'Neal, will receive 65 percent, or $1,306,840.10, and his mother, Deborah O'Neal, will receive 35 percent, or $703,483.85.

Missouri will pay about $600,000 of the settlement, and the remainder will come from the university's insurance company, according to a news release from the school.

Additionally, the Missouri Board of Curators will establish the scholarship to benefit an MU student "in honor of and in the name of Aaron O'Neal." Lonnie O'Neal will have sole input on criteria for the scholarship, according to the settlement document.

Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said his program will preserve and honor O'Neal's memory.

"Since the tragedy happened, for me, my whole concern has always been for Aaron's family, his teammates and his friends," Pinkel told the Columbia Daily Tribune. "That's my whole focus. So, for the family and those involved, there is closure. I think that's good.

"What's important for me is I feel really good that for three and a half years we honored Aaron here. We're going to have, one important point of this settlement was that we have a scholarship in his name. That means an awful lot to me, and I think it means an awful lot to his family. So, I'm glad that part's over with. We'll continue to honor him forever here at Mizzou."