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Former Illinois lineman blasts Tim Beckman, program on Twitter, calls for NCAA reform

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Simon Cvijanovic, a starter who left the program during the 2014 season, accused Beckman of abusive behavior and much more.

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

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.

- 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.

- 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:

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.

Abuse

- 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.

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:

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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:

However, Cvijanovic tweeted the following:

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.