Former Oregon football offensive lineman Doug Brenner is suing the University of Oregon, the NCAA, former head coach Willie Taggart and former strength coach Irele Oderinde for “abusive” offseason workouts that caused Brenner to be hospitalized for rhabdomyolysis in January 2017.
Brenner is seeking $11.5 million in damages for past and present severe injuries, shortening his life span by upwards of 10 years and an increased risk for kidney disease or failure, among other issues, according to the lawsuit. Rhabdomyolysis is “an acute clinical syndrome of major muscle breakdown and leakage into the bloodstream of muscle contents,” according to the NCAA.
The lawsuit, filed on Wednesday in Multnomah County and initially reported by The Oregonian/OregonLive, claims that the defendants failed to adequately manage the workouts.
Current Ducks tight end Cameron McCormick and offensive lineman Sam Poutasi were also hospitalized but are not involved in the lawsuit.
According to Brenner’s lawsuit, “Taggart and Oderinde planned to subject the student-athletes to an extreme physical regimen on the first day back from winter break as part of the coaches’ efforts to, in Taggart’s words, ‘find the snakes in the grass and cut their heads off.’”
The first day of four days of early-morning workouts consisted of dividing the team into groups and making them do “perfect” push-ups in unison, which according to the lawsuit, Oderinde admitted was not possible. The players were then subject to “up-downs” and more push-ups when they went out of unison. The lawsuit also states they did not make water available on the first day of workouts.
The lawsuit states “over the course of several days, student-athletes vomited, passed out, or collapsed during the workouts.” It also states that when Oderinde was approached about shoulder pain by one of the players, he yelled, “I don’t give a fuck about your shoulders. Do you think Stanford gives a fuck about your shoulders?”
Following the report of the workouts and hospitalization, UO suspended Oderinde for a month without pay and apologized to the three players.
"As the head football coach, I hold myself responsible for all of our football-related activities and the safety of our students must come first," Taggart said in a news release following the suspension.
“Defendants Taggart and Oderinde knew, or had reason to know of the type of severe consequences that could result from the exercise drill, and knowingly conducted the exercise drill with conscious disregard to the detrimental health consequences for the student-athletes,” the lawsuit states.
Taggart later left Oregon to become the head coach at Florida State. Oderinde joined him at Florida State.
The lawsuit claims that the UO failed to adequately regulate and supervise the workouts. It also states that the NCAA has failed to assist in similar situations throughout college football.
"The well-being and safety of our students are our top priorities at the University of Oregon," Unverisity spokesperson Molly Blancett said. "We have been advised of the litigation filed today but have not been served a copy of the complaint, at which point we will respond appropriately in the court proceedings. In light of the pending litigation, we don’t have any additional comment at this time."
“A key goal of this lawsuit is to force the NCAA to ban these kinds of punishing, abusive workouts. These workouts are contrary to NCAA guidelines for protecting players from injury and death,” attorney Mark McDougal said in a statement.
As for Brenner, he said in a statement: “Nothing would make me happier than to have this case save other football players from serious injury.”
This post has been updated to include a comment from the UO.
The Emerald will continue to report on this story as more information becomes available.
Follow Jack Butler on Twitter @Butler917