Illini athletic director will review player claims vs coach
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas is supporting coach Tim Beckman while planning a full review of allegations by former offensive lineman Simon Cvijanovic that the program mishandled his injuries.
Cvijanovic complained in a series of Twitter messages Sunday that he had been pressured by Beckman and some members of his staff to play through serious injuries last season and that the school hadn't informed him of the extent of an earlier knee surgery.
''As it related to coach Beckman and the fact that he's really been personally attacked, he's put the welfare of this young man above everything else,'' Thomas told reporters Monday.
Thomas said he had talked to Beckman, but declined to detail the conversation.
''We will have a follow up, we will review it,'' Thomas said, adding that he is working with the chancellor's office at the university's Urbana-Champaign campus. ''The timeline and who's to be interviewed will be determined very soon.''
Beckman has only issued a brief printed statement in response to Cvijanovic's accusations.
Cvijanovic said he would like to be interviewed as part of the review.
''I would love to talk to Mike Thomas personally to let him know he's wrong, but have not been given the opportunity to,'' he said in a text message.
Cvijanovic said he spoke with Beckman and a campus administrator about his situation this month.
In a telephone interview earlier Monday, Cvijanovic said he is considering a lawsuit.
The 22-year-old from Cleveland, Ohio, said he felt intense pressure to play before his most recent injury, a torn labrum in a shoulder, ended his 2014 season. He said coaches regularly questioned his toughness over the injuries.
''There's a lot of times you get called names by coaches or you get called names by other players and you have no standing to fight them because you've got a scholarship to lose,'' Cvijanovic said.
Cvijanovic was a starting offensive tackle for parts of three seasons. He left the team not long after the shoulder injury Nov. 1 against Ohio State and withdrew from classes before returning this spring. He is expected to graduate this month.
Cvijanovic's father, Frank Cvijanovic, said Monday that his son was misled about the extent of a procedure on his right knee in December 2013. Simon Cvijanovic learned only recently after getting copies of medical records that he had about 40 percent of his medial meniscus and all of his lateral meniscus removed. Simon Cvijanovic had complained for months that his knee didn't feel right after the procedure.
''He told me, Dad, it feels like I'm running on a flat tire all the time,'' Frank Cvijanovic said.
Simon Cvijanovic also complained Beckman wouldn't let him attend the team banquet where seniors were honored, a decision that Thomas said was based at least in part on the opinion of teammates.
''I think there were a number of kids on the team, especially seniors, who didn't think it was appropriate that Simon attend the banquet,'' Thomas said.
In his experience, Thomas said he considered Cvijanovic a ''productive football player for us'' and a ''good kid.''
Thomas said he doesn't anticipate releasing whatever report is generated by the review because of privacy concerns.