The horrific details of Tim Beckman's player abuse
You knew it had to be bad.
When Illinois fired Tim Beckman a week before the season amid reports of player abuse, you knew the reports had to be scathing.
They were, to say the least.
The university announced the firing of athletic director Mike Thomas on Monday following the release of the independent Franczek Radelet reports. Those independent reports found some gruesome details about Beckman and his mistreatment of players.
Be aware. It’s awful.
On scholarship renewals:
We also investigated allegations that, to make room for players joining the Football Program in January 2015, several football players with one year of eligibility remaining were pressured in December 2014 to relinquish their scholarships during the middle of their fourth year in the program. The players at issue all stated they intended to remain scholarship students during the spring 2015 semester to complete academic pursuits, such as completion of a minor, though all were technically eligible to graduate in December 2014. During the fall 2014 football season, the coaching staff judged these students unable to contribute sufficiently to the football team from an athletic perspective. Such student-athletes were pushed to graduate and leave midyear.
A total of four students relinquished their scholarships. We determined that, because of direction from football coaches, those four players agreed in early December 2014 to leave school and give up their scholarship for the spring 2015 semester against their stated wishes and without anyone telling them they had a right to a scholarship for the entire 2014-2015 academic year. One player who sought to rescind his agreement was eventually reinstated to his scholarship for the spring 2015 semester, but he was first subjected to retaliatory treatment by Coach Beckman. Athletic Director Mike Thomas and Executive Senior Associate Athletic Director Jason Lener ensured that the one complaining player remained on scholarship and instructed Coach Beckman that his actions toward that player were inappropriate, but they took no actions with respect to the other three players.
On Beckman’s purported physical alternations:
The one troublesome incident occurred in 2012 and was addressed properly at that time by Athletic Director Mike Thomas. During practice, a player had his helmet perched on top of his head instead of wearing it properly and did not adjust it after Coach Beckman told him to do so more than once. Coach Beckman than forcefully grabbed the helmet, threw it to the ground, and directed a strength coach to have the player run stadium steps for the duration of practice. Upon learning of the incident at the time, Thomas met with Beckman, who admitted what had happened and that it was not appropriate. As memorialized in a December 7, 2012 letter of reprimand, Thomas informed Coach Beckman that such inappropriate behavior would not be tolerated, that the welfare of student-athletes is of utmost importance to Thomas, and that such actions by an Illinois coach do not meet the standards to which Coach Beckman was held accountable.
On caring about if players are hurt:
In yet another example, during a team meeting before Spring Break 2014 when many players were injured, players reported that Coach Beckman made comments to the team such as “I don’t care if you’re hurt, everyone is practicing when we get back. No one cares if you’re hurt. I don’t care. Your family may care. Northwestern doesn’t care.”
On hamstring injuries:
A team physician related a similar perspective, reporting that he heard Coach Beckman criticize multiple players for suffering hamstring injuries in ways that suggested the players should continue participating. Indeed, as discussed further below, a systemic problem with players being pushed to play through hamstring injuries (and other soft-tissue issues) developed during the eight-month tenure of Head Football Athletic Trainer Toby Harkins in 2013, who appeared more willing to follow Coach Beckman’s philosophy regarding injuries than other athletic trainers. The same doctor reported that, to protect players in such situations, he talked to players about and apologized for Coach Beckman’s hamstring injury comments. Again, belittling the existence of a common injury in the manner described above improperly discourages players and possibly athletic trainers from initiating medical assessments and thus violates appropriate sports medicine protocols.
On treatment of serious neck/spine injuries or concussions:
Coach Beckman’s encouragement of players to push on was not, however, limited to circumstances involving common, minor discomfort; rather, he reportedly made similar comments to players who had potentially suffered serious, life-altering neck, spine, or concussion problems. For instance, two physicians confronted Coach Beckman during the 2012 season after a player went down with a potential spinal injury. The sports medicine staff evaluating the player report that they did not want the player to move as they were stabilizing his spine and holding the player’s head still, but Coach Beckman reportedly inserted himself to tell the player to turn his head to look at Coach Beckman so that he could tell the player that he was going to be fine. The physicians reported talking to Coach Beckman after the game and obtaining his agreement not to repeat such conduct.66 In another incident, a team physician recalled taking a player for evaluation who was stumbling around and confused after a big hit in a game, and Coach Beckman interjecting before the evaluation was complete stating to the player “hey, you’re ready to play, you’re okay.”67
Assistant Athletic Trainer Chris Walker also reported that Coach Beckman reacted to injuries in ways that could be construed as seeking to minimize reporting. Walker stated that Coach Beckman’s reaction to an injury would vary from yelling and screaming to telling the player that he is “fine, stay positive” or “you are not hurt.”