The cost of the Illinois football and women’s basketball investigations

By Michal Dwojak, Staff writer

The University had dealt with its fair share of controversy by May of 2015. Steven Salaita was threatening to file a lawsuit against the University and James Kilgore’s job status was being hotly debated, but something else was on the horizon.

On May 10, former Illinois football player Simon Cvijanovic tweeted out accusations of player mistreatment and scholarship abuse by former head coach Tim Beckman. Not long after, Illinois women’s head coach Matt Bollant and former assistant Mike Divilbiss were accused of threatening to pull scholarships, attempting to create division in the team using racism and ignoring or minimizing injuries.

Former Chancellor Phyllis Wise announced that the University would conduct independent investigations of both accusations of each respective coach. The University hired Franczek Radelet of Chicago to conduct the football investigation while Pugh, Jones and Johnson was hired to conduct the basketball allegations.

The interaction with Pugh, Jones and Johnson was not the first for the University. On Jan. 21, 2005, the University reached an agreement for the firm to become the University’s legal counsel and was renewed on July 11, 2013. The University asked the firm to investigate the women allegations on May 21, asking to “review the processes and conclusions of an internal investigation regarding the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, including evidentiary review and information gathering additional reporting, drafting, and related advise and counsel.”

Divilbiss left the coaching staff before Pugh, Jones and Johnson released its findings on Aug. 3. The investigation, which consisted of 18,000 documents, 33 interviews, statements from eight players and reviews of game and practice video, showed there was no wrongdoing. It did recommend that the University clarify expectations for coaches’ conduct and define relationships between coaches and parents.

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Contracts received through a Freedom of Information Act show that the Illinois DIA was charged $666,408.03 for 2,146.57 hours of work.

The interaction with Franczek Radelet and the University began on July 23, 2012. The University, “employs Counsel to act as attorney for University and to represent University in connection with any matters which may be referred to Counsel by University.” The University asked the firm for an “investigation of allegations raised by a former football player at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and related issues” on May 13.

The preliminary report Illinois Athletic Director Mike Thomas received forced him to fire Beckman on Aug. 28 for player mistreatment and threatening to take away scholarships. The invoices received through a FOIA were through Aug. 31. Those invoices showed that the DIA was charged $531,610.27 for 1,735.5 hours of work.

The rest of the investigation is still being conducted as the law firm looks into if other coaches had been part of Beckman’s mistreatment.

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