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Tuesday, March 18, 2008
UCF freshman dies after participating in conditioning drills

Associated Press

ORLANDO, Fla. -- A Central Florida wide receiver died Tuesday after voluntary strength and conditioning drills, the day before spring practice was set to begin.

Police said there was no foul play or obvious cause for redshirt freshman Ereck Plancher's late-morning collapse. UCF athletic director Keith Tribble said the players had been lifting weights and then ran for about 10 minutes.

After the workout, the team huddled for a quick chat. As everyone was leaving, Plancher, a 19-year-old from Naples, took a knee in obvious distress, Tribble said. UCF trainers on site immediately provided CPR and Plancher was taken by ambulance to the hospital. He was pronounced dead just before noon.

"I know that I speak for our entire UCF family in saying that our thoughts and prayers are with Ereck's family on such a tragic day," Tribble said. "We offer our full support to Ereck's family, teammates, classmates and friends to cope with this unexpected loss."

An autopsy will be performed to determine the cause of Plancher's death.

Tribble said Plancher had passed a physical. The practice was inside an air-conditioned building, but the weather outside wasn't excessively hot. The National Weather Service said it topped out at about 78 degrees, with about 50 percent humidity.

High-temperature training has become an issue in college football after the 2001 deaths of Eraste Autin of Florida, Devaughn Darling of Florida State and Rashidi Wheeler of Northwestern. Also, South Florida running back Keeley Dorsey fatally collapsed in January 2007 while lifting weights at the school's athletic facility. The autopsy pointed to an undiagnosed genetic heart disorder, but DNA tests couldn't confirm it.

UCF's spring practices weren't scheduled to start until Wednesday, but Tribble said 82 players were there for conditioning. He could not say who led the practice or whether coach George O'Leary was present but said there was no concern it was not compliant with NCAA rules. Tribble said O'Leary called the player's family and told the team in a meeting.

"As you can imagine, this is family, this is a teammate, a friend, and there are a lot of emotions in there," Tribble said.

O'Leary wasn't available for comment.

Plancher, 5-foot-10 and 184 pounds, was a two-time letterman at Lely High School in Naples. He majored in business and was a high school National Honor Society member.

"There is no sign of anything that would lead us to think that something was inappropriate or improper," UCF police chief Richard Beary said. "It's just a tragedy that happened to a fine young man."