HOUSTON – They are a University of Texas tradition, the Cowboys -- a group of students known for service work and for maintaining "Smokey the Cannon" during football games.
But that organization has been suspended for six years after disturbing allegations of hazing that allegedly led to a Houston-area student's death.
Nicholas Cumberland died during one of the organization's retreats. He was a star student and graduate of Memorial High School.
A university investigation revealed “multiple forms of hazing” within the group during one of its retreats. Those forms of hazing included new members abused, forced to drink alcohol and prevented from sleeping.
One was even forced to bite the head off of a live hamster.
Cumberland's death raised concerns about hazing after the 20-year-old died in a car crash on the way back from the group's retreat last fall.
The driver of the car he was riding in fell asleep at the wheel. According to his obituary, Cumberland was the valedictorian and class vice president at Memorial High School.
At UT, he was a triple major, involved in multiple organizations, which included being a member of the Texas Cowboys and a cheerleader.
UT Austin President Greg Fenves released a statement saying in part:
"Let me make clear — there is no place for hazing at the University of Texas. The mission of this university — to educate, learn, discover and serve — can only be accomplished in an environment where we respect each other."
The Texas Cowboys Alumni Association told KXAN in Austin they were "disappointed by the university's decision."
A separate, criminal investigation is ongoing.