Riverside, CA – After an explosive CNN investigation into allegations of athlete mistreatment and abuse across three sports at the University of Illinois, the NCPA is calling on the university to fire football coaches Tim Beckman and Bill Cubit, women’s basketball coach Matt Bollant, women’s soccer coach Janet Rayfield, women’s basketball trainer Sam Laingen, and women’s soccer trainer Brittany Scott.
Eight former women’s basketball players asserted and backed various accusations that their coaches treated black players worse than white players, segregated practices and room assignments based on race, made derogatory comments about black players such as calling them “Westside ghetto”, regularly bullied many players on the team, and frequently threatened to terminate athletic scholarships against university policy.
One former women’s basketball player says that her athletic trainer Sam Laingen successfully pressured her into playing after an X-ray revealed she had a broken foot.
Former Illinois women’s soccer player Casey Conine said that after she was diagnosed with a concussion, her coach Janet Rayfield and athletic trainer Brittany Scott returned her to play without approval from a doctor. She asserts that this action was against university policy and that she has suffered significant health consequences as a result.
Former Illinois football players Simon Cvijanovic and Nick North say that their coaches pressured them into playing on significant injuries. Cvijanovic says coaches Beckman and Cubit threatened to disparage his character to NFL scouts and North says he was told his scholarship would be terminated if he did not play while his knee was injured.
Former Illinois football player Kenny Knight says that Beckman physically attacked him while Kenny was having a verbal altercation with a teammate witnesses say landed a cheap shot on Kenny during a practice. Multiple players who witnessed this event backed Kenny’s claim.
CNN spoke with seven former football players that backed various allegations that Beckman mistreats players and regularly threatens to terminate players’ scholarships against university policy.
NCPA Executive Director Ramogi Huma sent University of Illinois Chancellor Phyllis Wise a letter calling for the terminations and to meet with the NCPA to discuss much needed reform measures. Huma stated, “It would be negligent and indefensible to allow the current players on these teams to remain at risk of similar mistreatment and abuse. The University of Illinois must act now.”
Cvijanovic stated, “I agree with the NCPA that athletic director Mike Thomas and coaches Beckman and Cubit should be fired. Until that happens, I believe Illinois football players will remain at risk of abuse. Also, Illinois and NCAA sports as a whole need to take steps toward making rules that protect players from abuse.”
Seven former Illinois women’s basketball players have filed a civil rights lawsuit against the university and key athletic staff. Terry Ekl, the lawyer who filed the case on their behalf stated, “We completely concur with the NCPA’s recommendation of the termination of both Matt Bollant and Mike Thomas. I believe this will be a step in the right direction toward cleaning up the problems associated with the Illinois athletic department.”