Big Ten

In radio interview, ex-Illini Cvijanovic expands on Beckman's culture

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In radio interview, ex-Illini Cvijanovic expands on Beckman's culture

Simon Cvijanovic has made some pretty harsh allegations over the past two days about the Illinois football program on Twitter.

Monday, he took to the airwaves to expand on the 140-character comments he's made, comments that have accused head coach Tim Beckman of being an abusive bully who mistreats his players, threatens to take away their scholarships and vilifies them for being injured.

Cvijanovic joined Lon Tay and Jeremy Werner on ESPN 93.5 in Champaign and spoke further about the accusations he's been making on social media and why he chose to speak out now.

“It’s really hard for people who aren’t in the system to understand how the propaganda of team and family and all that stuff, it’s not real,” Cvijanovic told the hosts. “You don’t realize that until after you’re out of the system, that it’s not real, that those things are just holding you back, holding your voice back. For so long, I’ve had a lot to say. And a lot of other players have had a lot to say, and I’ve heard a lot from other players. But it’s just hurt me even more hearing those stories and knowing how bad I want to speak out. I had to go and find some help, and there is none. There’s no one that will speak for you, there’s no one that’s going to vouch on behalf of the student athlete.

“There’s guys on the team that are bullies and are also terrified of what coach Beckman might do to their scholarship or their leadership status or their draft stock, so of course they’re going to follow blindly and do whatever he says. I was the same way my last year there. I hurt a lot of guys, and I had to apologize to a lot of guys outside of football. It was hard for me to come to terms with the fact that all these things happened to me and then reorganize my thoughts and say, ‘This is going to happen to more people unless I stand up and do something.’”

[MORE BIG TEN: Ex-Illini OL Simon Cvijanovic blasts Tim Beckman on Twitter]

Cvijanovic has accused Beckman, his coaching staff and his medical staff of lying about surgical procedures, forcing him to play while injured, telling him to stop taking medication and demonizing him for refusing to play hurt.

Monday, he expanded on his departure from the program and his view of the culture Beckman has created.

“I left the team because I was being accused of making up pain," Cvijanovic said. "I was being accused of lying about pain in my knee even though they know how much debilitating surgery they did to it. And they knew how many reps I’d taken, I took more reps than any player on the field at that point. And it’s really, really disheartening to be disrespected like that.

“There’s a lot on a student athlete’s plate in one day. There’s a lot that we need to take care of, especially when Beckman harps on us the way he does about grades. We have to be on top of our stuff. We don’t have time to worry about our own bodies, especially when we’re told that our bodies being hurt isn’t real, when we’re told that when you’re hurt, you’re the enemy by wearing a purple jersey. That all plays into the propaganda that, ‘You’re not a person, you’re a teammate. And what you do is only for the team, and you shouldn’t ever act on what you think is right but what the team is thinking right.’

“There’s some guys who are not on the team anymore who are even afraid of not getting their diploma from the university. It’s gotten that far. The fear is that deep. It’s clear that there’s an issue. Every player should’ve said something to tell me to shut up by now if they really believe that it’s not an issue.”

[MORE BIG TEN: In report, ex-Illini Cvijanovic details Beckman accusations]

Cvijanovic’s tweets continued Monday, and in one — which was promptly deleted — he compared Beckman to North Korea’s Kim Jong-un.

When asked about that in the radio interview, Cvijanovic stood by that comparison.

“The Kim Jong-un comment I think is very fitting,” he said. “If you put world leaders next to college football coaches, Tim Beckman is running a propaganda-ridden football program. There’s a player manual as thick as a phone book the first year he came, and we went through the whole thing.

“I’m relating it to the propaganda and the fact that they don’t see how bad they’re being treated. They do see, and they just don’t want to speak up and they’re afraid. Obviously we’re not afraid of being put in prison camps or something, but is a fear nonetheless and it is abuse nonetheless.”

[MORE BIG TEN: Illini AD Mike Thomas responds to Simon Cvijanovic's claims]

During the interview, Cvijanovic said that athletics director Mike Thomas doesn’t care about the situation and that after meeting with a dean at the university, he never heard back, which prompted him to start this conversation on Twitter instead of through other channels.

It’s for this reason he also brought up the topic of unionization, an issue that’s been a talking point in college football for more than a year ever since former Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter’s failed attempt to unionize the players at Northwestern. Cvijanovic said that there’s no voice for a student athlete, echoing the criticisms he made of the NCAA on Sunday.

One of the things Colter was fighting for more than a year ago was better medical treatment, and if Cvijanovic’s claims are true, certainly he’s a sad example of what Colter was talking about.

“I have disabilities now. I have chronic knee pain, and that’s a disability,” he said. “I limp, I limp around. I should have that be taken care of with worker’s compensation for the rest of my life. That’s how it works in the real world. Why because I chose to play football do I get screwed?”

But in the end, the culture of the program was Cvijanovic’s main target, and he implicated the entire university in allowing Beckman to carry on in the fashion Cvijanovic claims.

“Right now, they seem to not care that they have an abusive coach.”

Check out the entire interview here.

Pat Fitzgerald, Lovie Smith in top 10 of an intriguing college coach list

Pat Fitzgerald, Lovie Smith in top 10 of an intriguing college coach list

Northwestern and Illinois’ college football programs are ranked in the top 10 this year.

Kind of.

One esteemed name in the college football ranks has placed Wildcats head coach Pat Fitzgerald atop the list of the all-time greatest college coaches…ranked as players. Illini coach Lovie Smith ranks at No. 10.

Rich Cirminiello, Director of College Awards for the Maxwell Football Club, compiled the list and he is an excellent follow on Twitter. He has several other noteworthy lists of interest, including the top college football players who are now coaches in the NFL. Psst…spoiler alert: several local connections are on that particular list as well, including Saints head coach Sean Payton (QB, Eastern Illinois) and Ron Rivera (LB, California).

But back to Coach Fitz, who bleeds purple and has emphatically put the NU football program on the map since the mid-90s. He was a two-time All-American in addition to receiving consecutive Bronco Nagurski, Chuck Bednarik and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors as a linebacker (1995-96). He helped guide the Wildcats to the ’96 Rose Bowl. Since becoming the team’s head coach in 2006, he has led the program to nine bowl games (four wins).

We all know Lovie Smith’s coaching legacy with the Bears and his rebuilding of the Illinois football program, but did you know how much he dominated as a college player? He played for Tulsa from 1976-79, racking up 367 career tackles primarily as a safety. He was a three-time All-Missouri Valley Conference award winner and earned a second-team All-America mention in 1978. He was also named MVC Newcomer of the Year after he tallied 90 tackles as a freshman.

[MORE: Lovie Smith, Mike Tirico discuss systemic racism 

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, who passed for over 11,000 yards in seven seasons as a Chicago Bear, ranked No. 2 on Cirminiello’s list. In a follow-up tweet, Minnesota’s P.J. Fleck, who dominated as a wide receiver at NIU and at nearby Kaneland High School, came in at No. 20. Western Michigan’s Tim Lester —a star player at Wheaton Warrenville South HS— is in at No. 7.

Who said that the Land of Lincoln didn’t have top college football talent?

Northwestern Wildcats athletic department begins phased return to campus

Northwestern Wildcats athletic department begins phased return to campus

Professional, collegiate and prep sports have been on hold in Illinois since mid-March but it looks like there may be more light at the end of the tunnel. This time, in Evanston.

Northwestern University announced Thursday that a phased reopening of the athletic department, in tandem with NU’s overall policy for a return to campus, will include student athlete workouts on Monday June 22.

The relaunch of athletics at Northwestern during the COVID-19 pandemic comes as the state of Illinois is progressing in its own planned reopening, as dictated by Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

The sports medicine staff, athletic trainers and student-athletes with post-injury needs were welcomed back earlier this month and other select groups will be admitted back to campus next week.

Athletes will be required to complete a full physical upon arrival in Evanston on June 22. They will be screened before entering on-site facilities by means of a wellness check and a no-touch temperature scan.

Facility access will be managed through one entrance and exit. Locker facilities and lounges will remain closed, though, along with dining centers.

[MORE: Shortened NFL preseason puts big group of players at a disadvantage]

The Wildcats football team, along with both the men’s and women’s basketball programs, are penciled in to begin those voluntary workouts a week from Monday. Each unit should have plenty of motivation once they hit the playing surface.

Head coach Pat Fitzgerald and company are eager to put last year’s 3-9 mark behind them. On the hardwood, Chris Collins’ group needs a quick bounce-back after an 8-23 mark last season while the women’s team, under the tutelage of Big Ten Coach of the Year Joe McKeown, are looking to build off a stellar 2019-20 campaign. They won the their first conference championship since 1989-90 and boasted a school record 26 wins.

 

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