A pair of investigations into Illinois athletics programs is dealing a blow to the athletics department's reputation. It's also reportedly dealing quite a blow to the department's bank account, too.
According to a Thursday report from the Champaign News-Gazette, two Chicago law firms hired to independently investigate accusations toward the Illinois football and women's basketball programs are charging the athletics department up to $425 an hour for their services.
Franczek Radelet is the name of the firm conducting the investigation into the football program, an investigation spurred by the social-media allegations of former offensive lineman Simon Cvijanovic, who accused head coach Tim Beckman of being an abusive bully who forces players to play injured, demonizes injured players and threatens to take players' scholarships away.
Chicago firm Pugh, Jones & Johnson is reviewing the university's internal investigation into the women's basketball program, which found no rules or laws were broken after letters from families of former players accused head coach Matt Bollant's coaching staff of many similar things Cvijanovic accused Beckman of, including forcing players to play injured. Those allegations also included racially themed ones, such as the suggestion of separate practices for African-American players.
And those firms are not cheap.
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From the News-Gazette's Julie Wurth:
The university will pay Franczek Radelet $310 to $420 an hour for legal work by its partners, $240 to $300 for work by its associates, and $180 for paralegals, according to documents released through a Freedom of Information Act request.
At Pugh, Jones & Johnson, the rates will be $375 to $425 an hour for partners, $215 to $300 an hour for associates/staff attorneys, and $110 to $115 an hour for paralegals.
The Division of Intercollegiate Athletics will foot the bill, according to campus spokeswoman Robin Kaler. The athletic department has an $81.8 million budget, most of which comes from its own revenue or gifts and grants, according to the UI budget book.
UI officials have said it's too early to say how much the investigations will cost, as that will depend on the length of the inquiries. The arrangements do not include a payment cap, Kaler said.
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Athletics director Mike Thomas has supported his coaches throughout these firestorms and asked that people not rush to judgment. Though in a social-media world where opinions are formed a lightning speed, that's been a difficult ask.
Thomas announced earlier this week steps his department has taken and will take to better serve student-athletes in situations where they feel mistreated by their coaches. Measures to increase the ability for student-athletes to communicate with Thomas and the rest of the athletics department were adopted, as were measures to better educate coaches about how they should behave. The department will also hire an ombudsman.