Illinois fires athletic director in wake of player abuse reports
Perhaps it was inevitable.
When the University of Illinois fired coach Tim Beckman a week before the start of the 2015 season, it was believed to be a proactive move. Independent findings of reports of player abuse were expected to be released in the middle of the football season that the university expected would’ve resulted in his firing.
On Monday morning, they made the other inevitable firing.
Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas was axed by the university for his association with the independent reports by Franczek Radelet. The final reports for the player abuse alleged by the football team, women’s basketball team and sports medicine department were released on Monday.
The report found Beckman guilty of the following:
“Examples of the issues we uncovered include: (1) coach interference with player reports of injuries to athletic trainers and doctors through demeaning criticism in public settings, belittling commentary regarding injuries and injured players, preaching perseverance through injuries to an inappropriate extent, and encouraging players to minimize reports of injuries; (2) coach interference with and failure to defer to physician decisions by exerting excessive pressure on athletic trainers that led some head athletic trainers to leave, one athletic trainer to prioritize football team goals over student-athlete medical concerns, and physicians to intervene multiple times; and (3) administrative oversight deficiencies regarding the response to reports of concerns from team physicians and athletic trainers. Coach Beckman created pressure on sports medicine staff and players in incremental fashion, building a culture that tended to blame players for being injured, dissuaded reports of injuries, and favored athletic trainers who pushed medical decision- making boundaries. Student-athletes received proper medical care when sought, but Coach Beckman’s leadership did not prioritize student-athlete welfare with respect to injury management in accordance with applicable standards.”
Thomas said the following in a statement from the university.
“I understand the administration’s decision to turn the page and turn the focus of this organization back on the success and welfare of our student-athletes. The reports indicate that I acted appropriately and immediately whenever I learned of any issues related to the safety and well-being of our students. However, I understand the chancellor’s viewpoint that my continued presence may create an ongoing distraction for our students, coaches and staff, and I accept the situation.
I am honored to have served in this role for the past four years and I am proud of the accomplishments of our students during this time – on and off of the field. They have excelled in competition, in the classroom and in the community, and they exemplify the humility, dedication and work ethic that are hallmarks of this university.
My tenure has always been guided by the simple idea that my job is to do whatever is best for the University of Illinois.
It has been my privilege to be part of this storied program and this great university. I will always cherish my time at this institution and in this community.”
Interim AD Paul Kowalczyk and interim chancellor Barbara Wilson are expected to address the findings at a press conference today at 11 a.m. CT.