Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas stood by coach Tim Beckman on Monday, but said he would investigate the claims made on Twitter by former Illinois offensive lineman Simon Cvijanovic.
Thomas had a press conference Monday afternoon after Cvijanovic started making allegations against Beckman on Sunday. According to Cvijanovic, Beckman "uninvited" him from the team's banquet at the end of the year and wanted him to play through a season-ending shoulder injury. Cvijanovic, the team's starting left tackle as a senior in 2014, missed the final four games of the year after suffering the labrum tear. He also had a knee injury in 2013.
He’s put the welfare of this young man above everything else,” Thomas said via the Chicago Tribune. “The feedback I get from players and our players’ families is that our coaches genuinely care for them and treat them like their own children.”
A former Illinois player, who spoke to the Tribune on the condition of anonymity, backed up Cvijanovic’s claims of being berated for suffering an injury and of witnessing Beckman physically take down a player at practice.
“He overreacted,” the player said. “We all saw it and thought it was weird.”
A former Toledo player, where Beckman was head coach before coming to Illinois, also tweeted his support for Cvijanovic, who kept up his Twitter allegations throughout Monday and used a "#BanBeckman" hashtag.
Late Sunday night, Beckman issued a statement that said Cvijanovic had withdrawn from school in the fall and had been given medical care after returning in the spring.
A former teammate of Cvijanovic told OrangeandBlueNews.com that "He has hurt his credibility a bit. Most of us want him to stop (because) it's going to hurt the program we love more than anything."
According to players who spoke to Orange and Blue News, Beckman and his Illinois predecessor Ron Zook handled injuries in much of the same fashion.
"We reviewed all medical policies and feel confident that we are following the proper communications protocol," Thomas said. "Our medical staff fully documents all our interactions with our student-athletes. We feel confident in the way our medical staff handles their business. Our student-athlete well-being and their safety is absolutely our No. 1 concern."
For more Illinois news visit OrangeandBlueNews.com.
- - - - - - -