Tim Beckman was fired as a the Illinois head football coach a week before the season started, when an investigation into the program initially found that Beckman made efforts to deter injury reporting and influence medical decisions that pressured players to avoid or postpone medical treatment and continue playing despite their injuries.
That all lined up with the accusations that kicked off the entire saga, when former Illinois offensive lineman Simon Cvijanovic tweeted in May that Beckman was an abusive bully who forced players to play hurt, demonized injured players and threatened to take players' scholarships away.
Monday, Illinois released the investigative report from the law firm Franczek Radelet, and the details of Beckman's behavior made the situation even uglier.
The investigation found that Beckman routinely convinced players to play through injuries, interfered with their reporting of injuries and publicly used derogatory language to belittle players who sought medical attention during practice.
"Coach Beckman told us that, during practice, he called players 'pussy,' 'sissy,' or 'soft' when they left practice to seek assistance from an athletic trainer. He explained this mainly happened in team drills or during 7-on-7 portions of practice, when many players were together and could hear his displeasure. Coach Beckman stated that, 'in the heat of the moment,' he would yell at players and call them out publicly in this fashion for removing themselves from practice because it made him angry that they were quitting on their teammates; though at the time he knew very little about the extent of their injury. As he explained, when he saw that a player appeared generally able to walk or remove himself from the field, he thought that the player should stay and keep practicing. By Coach Beckman’s estimation, this occurred as often as once per month. According to Coach Beckman, such comments are part of teaching players how to fight through 'dings' (aches and pains) to make the players better. Coach Beckman acknowledged that his practice of calling players out publicly, with derogatory labels, because they sought athletic trainer assistance could have deterred other players from reporting problems to the athletic trainer.
"Coach Beckman routinely encouraged players to keep practicing or competing after the player experienced a potential injury, asking 'are you sure you are hurt?' or making comments such as 'you’re OK, try to get up' to players.
"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. 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 OK.'
"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.'"
Other details from the report include Beckman's pressuring of head athletic trainers, and there were five during his three-year tenure. Three of those five were interviewed and all reported they felt constant pressure from Beckman.
Scholarship issues surrounding Beckman's tenure included telling four graduating players to leave campus when they were considering plans to pursue further education, as they were all redshirt juniors and had one year of scholarship remaining. But because they did not contribute on the field, Beckman wanted them gone as to free up scholarships for other players. In one instance, a player changed his mind about agreeing to leave campus and leave the team following his graduation, and Beckman reacted in an inappropriate manner.
"In mid-December 2014, one of the players contacted Coach Beckman seeking to rescind his agreement to leave or graduate and to resume coursework during the spring 2015 semester. This request was met with anger and retaliation by Coach Beckman. Specifically, Coach Beckman reportedly: (1) called the player a 'liar' for changing his 'agreement'; (2) had the player’s locker cleared out, which caused some contents to be thrown away; (3) barred the player from traveling with the team to the Heart of Dallas Bowl game; and (4) instructed the player to tell his roommate (a walk-on football player) that the scholarship the roommate expected to receive was no longer available because of the player’s decision not to graduate. Coach Beckman indicated during interviews that he did not recall taking such actions. Jason Lener reported that when he addressed these issues with Coach Beckman in January 2015 as explained below, Coach Beckman admitted to mishandling the situation."
Not only were the players convinced to give up their scholarships and leave the school, but Beckman and his coaching staff pressured them to do so.
"Although advised by compliance and academic staff to seek written agreements from players, it appears that the coaches obtained such signatures by inappropriately pressuring the students. The coaches used what could be viewed as intimidating tactics (three coaches meeting with one player and directing another player 'don’t be difficult'). Contrary to any instruction from DIA personnel, they also pressed players for their signatures even after the students said they did not want to leave the University until after the spring 2015 semester."
As for the threats of scholarship removal to players who weren't wrapping up their academic careers, the investigation found Beckman did that, as well.
"During our interviews, we asked several witnesses whether Coach Beckman threatened to revoke players’ scholarships. Several players reported that they had been subjected to such threats for not playing well, under suspicion of violating team rules, or after they were injured. Coach Beckman readily confirmed that he threatened players with potential removal of their scholarships, in many different situations, as a way of motivating them to work harder. This included threats to send student-athletes “back to their home state.” He also explained that he has never removed a scholarship before graduation and never intended to do so. However, players reported not taking such threats lightly, including situations when they were injured, because they believed Coach Beckman had the power and inclination to follow through."