News Local/State

UPDATE: U of I Hires Outside Firm To Investigate Football Coach Allegations

Simon Cvijanovic playing for Illinois in 2012, going up against Frank Clark of Michigan.

Simon Cvijanovic (in white jersey), as a U of I offensive lineman, going up against Michigan defensive end Frank Clark, in an Oct. 13, 2012 game at Ann Arbor Michigan. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

The University of Illinois has hired a Chicago law firm to investigate allegations that the football coach and medical staff mistreated a former player and misled him about the extent of his injuries.

Urbana campus spokesperson Robin Kaler said in a statement that investigators with the firm of Franczek Radelet will conduct interviews and review documents related to the accusations made by former offensive lineman Simon Cvijanovic.

Once the investigation is complete, she said, the school will release information in a way that balances legal and privacy concerns with a need to be transparent.

The announcement comes after the National College Players Association called on the university to make public the results of any investigation.

Ramogi Huma heads the players association.

"It's a win for the university to have a credible independent investigation," he said on Wednesday afternoon."If there's not wrongdoing that's something they should welcome. And if there is, they should welcome the opportunity to correct any wrongdoing."

Huma also says the university should do more to protect student athletes. 

Simon's father, Frank Cvijanovic, lives in Ohio. He says he supports an investigation and hopes to see a major change in the overall culture of college football. But from what he's seen so far, he says he's not optimistic.

"Honestly, I don't think there will be. Unless the financial aspects of college football change there's not going to be one," he says. "There's too much money made by too few people and as a result, it's what drives it."

Frank Cvijanovic says he sees the potential for legal action, citing possible questions of medical malpractice and violations of informed consent rules. He says his son loves the University of Illinois and is passionate about the football program and hopes to change the way the system operates. He says Simon only felt comfortable speaking out now because he's set to graduate next week. He expects more players to speak out after graduation about mistreatment under Beckman. 

The Chicago Tribune reported late Tuesday that Beckman was sued in 2013 by a former player at the University of Toledo. The paper reports that Kyle Cameron sued Beckman, several members of his staff and the university for negligence and violating state hazing laws in a 2011 incident that resulted in a head injury to Cameron. That suit was dismissed on a technicality, according to the paper, but Cameron has re-filed in the proper venue. 

Two other former players have spoken of mistreatment by Beckman in recent days, including former defensive back Nick North and former wide receiver Darius Millines.

A number of current and former players have also taken to social media to defend the head coach. Beckman himself defended both programs at Illinois and Toledo when reached by the Tribune on Wednesday, telling the paper, “Both programs have been very, very successful with what they’ve done.” Beckman has released two statements this week saying, in part, that he's "disappointed" that Cvijanovic "has chosen this path to air his concerns," and that he'll "continue to treat the players in our program, current and former, like family."

Urbana Chancellor Phyllis Wise said in a statement this week, "I have confidence that (athletic director) Mike Thomas and his staff’s number one priority has always been the health and well-being of our student-athletes. Of course, we always take such matters seriously. We will follow up with a thorough review to confirm that we have taken appropriate action in this case."