Big Ten responds to Illinois allegations

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Daily Illini File Photo

Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald stands on the sidelines during the game against Illinois at Memorial Stadium on Nov. 14, 2009. 

By Charlotte Carroll and Michal Dwojak

CHICAGO — The summer for the Illinois football team — and the rest of the athletic department for that matter — has been filled with allegations. Illinois head coach Tim Beckman was surrounded by media for most of the first day of Big Ten Media Days in Chicago. Reporters crafted different ways of asking Beckman about the allegations but were left with nothing new.

The questions arose amid allegations of player abuse and medical mistreatment made against Beckman. The claims arose in May when former offensive lineman Simon Cvijanovic sent out tweets accusing the head coach of mistreating himself and other players on the team.

The allegations come amid numerous claims made by other football players, women basketball players and a soccer player, resulting in lawsuits against the University. A Chicago law firm is currently investigating the football claims.

While the allegations have shook up the Illinois programs, they have also impacted other Big Ten football teams. Most coaches and players didn’t know much about the allegations but were pensive when asked about player safety and past injuries on their teams.

Here are what a few players and coaches said on the matter:

Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern, Head Coach: 

“I haven’t studied the facts. I’ve only seen some of the facts, and that’s all I worry about. I’m not going to worry about all the other stuff. I’m always sad to see when someone doesn’t have a good experience. I don’t care if you’re playing grade school baseball, basketball or football. Then you get to the collegiate level and you hope that you put together a program, you put together resources and experience for the guys so that they can grow and get better at as far as being a person, a student and a player. Knowing that you have a 112 players, at least at Northwestern, I’m sure if you polled every guy over nine years who’s played for me, you’re going to find some guys who didn’t enjoy their experience. I would be disappointed and I would ask them why, then, didn’t they help me help them, and why didn’t we communicate better, and why we didn’t have a better relationship to make your experience better. Now, if they didn’t like that they didn’t play, because they had every opportunity to fix that, and could probably point to certain reason why a guy didn’t play. They might not like the truth, but they would go, ‘Yeah, you’re right.’ But if it’s from a structural standpoint, resource standpoint, from a developmental standpoint, a coaching standpoint. Have I shredded a guy? Absolutely. And have I gone and put my arm around him, and have I talked to him and grabbed lunch with him, because they know I’m not attacking the person, I’m attacking the action. I’ll say that. I reserve the right to coach the hell out of you, if you don’t want to be coached hard, if you don’t want to be developed the best you possibly can be, then you probably shouldn’t come here, because this window is going to go like that. Am I going to be disrespectful or demeaning? No, I’m not. Am I going to mad? Yes. Am I Irish? Yes. So do I use words I shouldn’t? Sure. But I’m going to go talk to the guy afterward and I’m going to make sure that we’re on the same page. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten more patient. I’m very critical of my coaches and my team. I look at that and wonder why is he doing that again. What drills are we doing, where’s the disconnect, what can I do so he understands. Are you teaching it or are you allowing it to happen? What are we doing here?”

Darrell Hazell, Purdue, Head Coach:

“I don’t have enough time to do research, I know Beck, I worked with Tim Beckman a year at Ohio State and I know the kind of guy he is, the kind of coach he is, but I have not dug into any of the allegations, I always hear little things, but I have no idea about the allegations.”

“We don’t talk one thing about the allegations, there’s rumors all the time that
his is happening, you don’t have time, you just don’t have time.”

“Player safety is the number one goal. We monitor it by how much tackling we do, how much hitting we do, when we do it, the weather we do it in … I’m in constant communication with our trainers (regarding) what’s safe and what’s not safe.”

Jerry Kill, Minnesota, Head Coach: 

“I’m not that savvy into the situation for me to make a comment on it. I talked to him today and Paul Kowalczyk used to be my AD, he’s an assistant there, but no I haven’t talked a lot to him about the situation. I talked to him a little bit and told him to hang in there.”

“My job’s not to be the trainer. They say you’re not going to play, you’re not going to play … If the trainer comes and pulls him out, he’s out until the trainer says he can go.”

Christian Jones, Northwestern, Wide Receiver:

On his own knee injury:

“I think they did as much as they possibly could to help us. I couldn’t be more grateful for what they have done for me. Honestly, they don’t push you any faster, they don’t make you do
anything. If you got to miss a game, you miss a game. They don’t rush you back with regards to these things. I wouldn’t say I’ve been mishandled in any way. If there is any pressure it’s pressure I put on myself. I wanna get back really hard and they have to make me stop. They have to watch me when I’m going places.”

On the coaching culture:

“I wouldn’t say it’s changed. Everybody has always been tough. It’s just everybody’s been more smart. Coaches are changing camp., camp’s not a month long, it’s a long process. It’s not two-a-days everyday. They realize you have to take players for them to make it during the season and after the season in college football. As more info and scientific evidence comes up, football changes to be more player oriented and help them out.”

Kyle Flood, Rutgers, Head Coach:

On how the Illinois allegations will impact his coaching style: “

I don’t plan to

use it in anyway, for us when it comes to injuries, we have a phenomenal medical staff and they make the medical decision. When they tell me a player is ready to be on the field, he goes on the field. If they tell me a player is not ready to go on the field, he does not go on the field.

On letting doctors decide:

“I don’t think it’s tough, because I look at every one of those players as if they were my son. If I wouldn’t be willing to put my son on the field, I would never put one of my players on the field.

“The only thing I think that’s different is now, were more knowledgeable about it. I think we have better support systems around the athletes than we’ve ever had to know exactly what the situation is we’re dealing with.”

On the coaching culture:

“I don’t think it’s changed. It’s a tough game played by tough people. To me, if you’re going to say what has changed in college football, really what has changed is training camp and there’s a reason why it changed. Thirty years ago, the football team wasn’t on campus training in the summer so training camp, you had to get the players in shape. Well now, our players will report for training camp a week from Sunday, they’ll be in the best shape of the year. They’ve had a nine week summer program and they’re in great shape. So because of that, training camp is a lot different than it was 30 years ago.”

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