Former Illinois starting tackle Simon Cvijanovic, who left the program midway through the 2014 football season, went on an extended Twitter rant Sunday, accusing Illinois coach Tim Beckman and the Illini program of mistreating players.
He also ripped the NCAA and the current scholarship system, and called for college athletes to unionize, an issue particularly pertinent to Northwestern.
On Twitter and in an interview with Shannon Ryan of the Chicago Tribune, Cvijanovic specified his allegations. Here they are:
Mishandling of injuries
- Cvijanovic claims that a knee injury he sustained in 2013 was mishandled by team doctors. From the Tribune:
Cvijanovic, a four-year starter, alleged that he was told he underwent a simple scope procedure for a knee injury as a junior in December 2013 but wasn't told that he had had 40 percent of his medial meniscus taken out until he demanded answers at preseason camp in August 2014. He said he more recently learned that all of his medial meniscus and much of his lateral meniscus had been removed.
My knee had a tear in the meniscus. Takes 6 months to heel if repaired. Ask @drose Instead I was told it was no big deal. Back in two weeks— Simon Cvijanović (@IlliniSi) May 10, 2015
8months later I found out my meniscus is almost completely gone. No MRI's no surgery pictures for 8months— Simon Cvijanović (@IlliniSi) May 10, 2015
Toby Harkins worked for months as our head trainer and was not a licensed medical professional in the state of Illinois. He was fired.— Simon Cvijanović (@IlliniSi) May 10, 2015
@coachbeckman and coach bratton sat me down and told me the pain in my knee is in my head the day before I left the team.— Simon Cvijanović (@IlliniSi) May 10, 2015
I have to see therapy for the rest of my life because I wasn't given an option to have my knee repaired.— Simon Cvijanović (@IlliniSi) May 10, 2015
- Cvijanovic was injured again this past season, and, he claims, he was again mistreated. From the Tribune:
As a senior last season, Cvijanovic tore a labrum in his shoulder against Ohio State on Nov. 1 but alleges he quickly was pushed back into practices despite claiming that he told coaches he was physically unable to even perform a push-up.
The first drill he was instructed to perform, he said, forced him to primarily use his injured shoulder, which aggravated it and upset Beckman.
Beckman berated him, Cvijanovic said, asking, "Do you want me to call your dad and tell him you're done?"
He said he was asked to move to right tackle because of a lack of depth instead of allowing him to recover from his injury.
When another offensive lineman was injured at practice, he said, Beckman blamed Cvijanovic for it, citing poor leadership. Cvijanovic then decided, he said, not to play on the team.
I stopped playing football because of my physical health. I was asked to push myself past pain until I didn't want to play anymore. #truth— Simon Cvijanović (@IlliniSi) May 10, 2015
- Cvijanovic and his family claim that his younger brother, who has diabetes and also went to Illinois to play football, was mistreated. From the Tribune:
Peter Cvijanovic, Simon's younger brother, also was mistreated, the family contends, and has now been placed on a medical scholarship. He entered the program with Type 1 diabetes under control and weighing 290 pounds but now weighs 250 pounds.
Frank Cvijanovic said Beckman would punish Peter by making him run, which only made him lose more weight. He said Beckman also said Beckman and the Illini staff didn't understand the way insulin levels affect the weight of those with diabetes.
- Cvijanovic criticized Beckman's general attitude towards injured players:
Why does @coachbeckman have is wear a purple jersey and call us "cats" when we are hurt? He's literally calling us pussies for being hurt.— Simon Cvijanović (@IlliniSi) May 11, 2015
And I have been called a "pussy" for being hurt so my interpretation of the practice jerseys doesn't really matter.— Simon Cvijanović (@IlliniSi) May 11, 2015
From the Tribune:
Beckman, he said, routinely threatened to disparage Cvijanovic's and other players' characters to NFL scouts if they disobeyed him or suffered an injury that Beckman didn't think was serious.
Cvijanovic said he was punished for losing weight after consistently throwing up from anxiety.
Offensive coordinator Bill Cubit, he said, told him to stop taking his antidepressant medication.
- From the Tribune:
Cvijanovic said Beckman once kneed a player in the back of the knee at practice to bring him down after a team fight had been defused. He also said Beckman berated him for confronting a teammate who had stolen and pulled a knife on him and once had players wearing shorts and T-shirts practice in minus-12 degree weather.
I'm not the only horror story of abuse and misuse of power by @coachbeckman— Simon Cvijanović (@IlliniSi) May 10, 2015
Cvijanovic calls for change
- Cvijanovic not only went after Beckman, but went after the NCAA and college athletics in general. Specifically, he attacked the idea of a scholarship, and called for college athletes to unionize to receive better protection:
The coach has complete control over scholarship. If he doesn't want you he can make any rule for you to break.— Simon Cvijanović (@IlliniSi) May 11, 2015
Or make you hate football. This is @coachbeckman 's coaching strategy, conform or you'll really hate it.— Simon Cvijanović (@IlliniSi) May 11, 2015
"Sore loser" you say, I say abused. Our edu isn't free. We have to belittle ourselves to the ranks of livestock. Or our "free" edu goes away— Simon Cvijanović (@IlliniSi) May 10, 2015
I want change. Players aren't cattle and our scholarship isn't a reason for us to have no representation. https://t.co/YHZmXyOetC— Simon Cvijanović (@IlliniSi) May 11, 2015
Speak up and unionize. There is NO loss for you unless your coach is a violator https://t.co/0YJYnzmSJg— Simon Cvijanović (@IlliniSi) May 10, 2015
There is no one to speak on the behalf of the student athlete— Simon Cvijanović (@IlliniSi) May 10, 2015
Only a union would save my public display of hatred. I'm tired of turning circles. WE'RE ON AN ISLAND https://t.co/NOSYJs5zmE— Simon Cvijanović (@IlliniSi) May 11, 2015
That's the biggest reason! https://t.co/pGvPfcrisQ— Simon Cvijanović (@IlliniSi) May 11, 2015
I still have a project due in the morning. But here is what I ultimately hope to see from all this...— Simon Cvijanović (@IlliniSi) May 11, 2015
1. Beckman's resignation as head coach of the University of Illinois. As he has created a hostile and abusive environment.— Simon Cvijanović (@IlliniSi) May 11, 2015
2. Increase in players will to speak out about the injustices done to them. Current or former. Anonymous or public.— Simon Cvijanović (@IlliniSi) May 11, 2015
3. A system of checks and balances where athletic programs and universities are held accountable for their mistakes.— Simon Cvijanović (@IlliniSi) May 11, 2015
I don't want the NCAA, any conference, or any university to take advantage of a student athlete ever again. #goodnight— Simon Cvijanović (@IlliniSi) May 11, 2015
Before reacting to Cvijanovic's accusations, it's important to note a few things. First of all, we have no idea whether or not these accusations are true. Clearly there is something here, but until proper investigations are carried out, or until others confirm Cvijanovic's claims, we can't indict Beckman or Illinois.
Secondly, Beckman released a statement through Illinois Athletics:
"He chose to leave the team during the 2014 regular season and withdrew from the university before the end of the semester. Upon his return for the spring semester, we have continued to support him with medical care, an academic scholarship and academic advising. We cannot make any student accept our support."
And third, and most interesting, there were the reactions of teammates, both current and former players. Some players opposed Cvijanovic and supported the program:
Simon quit on his brothers when we needed him most. These coaches let him stay on scholarship to finish his degree. #truth— Teddy Karras (@_teddy_k) May 10, 2015
All I have to say is that, coming to U of I is easily the best decision I have ever made!! #Illini— CJ (@cjdilauro67) May 10, 2015
However, Cvijanovic tweeted the following:
I have plenty of currently players texting me to keep going so I'm not gonna stop.— Simon Cvijanović (@IlliniSi) May 10, 2015
And naturally, no current players are going to support Cvijanovic, because if they did, at the very least, they would be reprimanded internally by the program, and at the most, they might have their scholarships taken away.
One former player did tweet this though:
One thing is certain: we haven't heard the end of this story. There will be investigations, both by journalists and possibly by officials, and it will be interesting to see whether or not Illinois can emerge from this relatively unscathed. It seems unlikely.