USC Spartanburg athletic director Mike Hall never lets the first day of classes pass without thinking of Charles Tius.
Tius, a junior basketball player, collapsed and died of a heart attack during a pickup game Aug. 28, 1995. Columbus State's Jed Bedford, who collapsed in practice Sunday and died about an hour later, became the first Peach Belt Athletic Conference athlete since Tius to pass away during the school year.
"Every year since then, the first day of class, my mind goes back and reflects on that tragedy that hit our campus," Hall said. "Whenever one of the people you're beside every day leaves you, it really hits hard."
The 21-year-old Bedford, the Cougars' team captain, suffered an apparent heart attack and was taken to St. Francis Hospital in Columbus, where he was pronounced dead at 5:03 p.m.
"One of my greatest fears as a coach was realized (Sunday)," Columbus State men's basketball coach Herbert Greene said. "These players are like family to me and to each other. It's hard to even comprehend how something like this could happen."
Peach Belt commissioner Marvin Vanover said he was shocked when he heard of Bedford's death.
"It's a tragedy that raises its ugly head every once in a while," he said. "I knew the young man and had seen him play and was looking forward to seeing him play again."
Muscogee County Coroner James Dunnavant said Monday that Bedford, whose heart was enlarged up to three times its normal size when he collapsed, died of cardiac arrest. Dunnavant said an autopsy was performed Monday to determine why Bedford's heart was enlarged. He said it might have been a hereditary ailment.
"The first thing we do in a situation like this, particularly with a young person, is check for drugs," Dunnavant said. "But all of his tests came back negative. It could be something he was born with, something he didn't even know about."
Bedford, of Leesburg, Fla., led Columbus State to a top 10 ranking last season and led NCAA Division II schools with 135 3-point goals.
Bedford scored a school-record 617 points last season as he earned All-Peach Belt Conference and All-South Atlantic Region honors. He also was named MVP of the Peach Belt tournament last season.
"Take away the fact that he's a very good player," USC Aiken men's basketball coach Mike Roberts said. "He's a member of their team. ... It's just a horrible, horrible thing to happen."
This season, Bedford was averaging 21.4 points per game. He scored 13 points with 11 assists and seven steals in his last game, a win over UNC Pembroke Dec. 6.
"I've known Herbert a long time, and I feel real badly for him, but also for the family and the team," Roberts said. "I pray they'll be able to work through it. It's something they can't change."
Columbus State has indefinitely postponed tonight's home game against North Carolina Central.
Associated Press reports were used in this article.
Reach Chris Gay at (706) 868-1222, ext. 114.