A former Oregon offensive lineman is suing the university, the NCAA and former Ducks coach Willie Taggart, alleging that he sustained lifelong injuries after controversial workouts in 2017.
Doug Brenner is seeking $100 million in punitive damages from the NCAA and $25.5 million in damages from all defendants, according to USA Today. He filed the lawsuit in March in Oregon state court, and the trial is set to begin on Tuesday.
“For decades, the NCAA has refused to outlaw these remarkably dangerous workout drills – drills designed for punishment rather than conditioning,” one of Brenner’s attorneys, Greg Kafoury, told USA Today. “They have refused to do so out of concern for their own organization’s interests, rather than the safety of young athletes. We seek a punitive damage award large enough to force them to change their mind.”
the lawsuit, according to ESPNwas initially filed in 2019 but was amended last month after discovery — which included deposits from NCAA president Mark Emmert and the NCAA’s chief medical officer.
Doug Brenner hospitalized after workouts
According to the lawsuit, per ESPN, Brenner accused Taggart and former Oregon strength and conditioning coach Irele Oderinde of negligence, said they imposed physical punishments on players, and that they failed to ensure that Oderinde was trained properly. Oderinde, the lawsuit claims, wasn’t certified to hold the position that he did.
Taggart, who was hired in 2016 and then left after one season for Florida State, said he was going to focus on discipline in strength and conditioning and that they were “going to find the snakes in the grass and cut their heads off,” per the report. Workouts in question reportedly started at 6 am four days a week and lasted for 60 to 90 minutes, and water wasn’t made available for at least the first day of the workouts. Players in a group of about 40 had to do “10 perfect push-ups in unison” and had to restart if anyone was slightly off.
“Student athletes vomited, passed out or collapsed during the workouts,” the lawsuit said, and Oregon’s medical staff “acknowledged that the workout went beyond the student athletes’ natural limits after the first day, but rather than stop the workouts, university staff brought in oxygen tanks on the second day.”
Brenner was one of three students hospitalized in 2017 as a result of the workouts. He was diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis, which causes skeletal muscle tissue to rapidly break down and causes permanent kidney damage. His life expectancy was reduced by 10 years, per the lawsuit.
Oderinde was suspended for a month as a result, and Taggart issued a public apology at the time.
Emmert and the NCAA said that the lawsuit “failed to articulate what rule or bylaw should have [or could have] been adopted by the NCAA or its members” in an effort to combat this.
“I’ve never talked to a president that they think that the responsibility is of a sport association to tell them how their medical professionals and training professionals should behave on campus,” Emmert said, according to a transcript of his deposition, via ESPN. “Rather the association’s role is to provide them with guidance and advice and understanding of where the best science is and medical advice is, but not to police their local behavior. That’s not been a role that the association in 115 years has ever considered was the appropriate thing for an athletic association to do.”
Taggart issued a statement in response to the lawsuit and said he disagreed with Brenner’s claims.
“I care about every one of the players I’ve coached like they are my own sons, and I want each of them to be successful on and off the field,” Taggart said in a statement, via ESPN. “I would never want any of them to suffer any injury. I disagree with the things Doug Brenner has said in his complaint and am sorry we’re involved in this lawsuit. But I still wish him the best.”
Oregon issued a similar statement, and said it responded quickly to Brenner’s injury at the time.
“The health and safety of our students is our highest priority,” an Oregon spokesman said in a statement, via ESPN. “There was a quick response to Doug Brenner’s injury, and he was provided the best care possible. We are grateful that he made a full recovery and was able to play during the 2017 season and also graduate from the University of Oregon. We disagree with the claims made by Mr. Brenner’s attorneys in their lawsuit and will address those in court.”