Oregon’s new football strength and conditioning coach Irele Oderinde has been suspended following the hospitalization of three players three days into off-season conditioning workouts, the UO Athletic Department announced Tuesday.
Oderinde, whose official hire was announced Jan. 11, is suspended without pay for one month.
According to the press release, Oderinde will no longer report to Willie Taggart, the new head football coach. Instead he will report to Andrew Murray, the director of performance and sports science. Additionally, workouts moving forward have been modified.
“The university holds the health, safety and well-being of all of our students in high regard,” said UO Athletic Director Rob Mullens. “We are confident that these athletes will soon return to full health, and we will continue to support them and their families in their recoveries.”
On Jan. 14, three days into off-season conditioning workouts, one player “complained of muscle soreness and displayed other symptoms of potential exercise-related injury,” according to the press release. The medical staff examined the player and informed the coaching staff of its diagnosis. Two other players were identified with similar symptoms.
According to the Oregonian, offensive linemen Doug Brenner and Sam Poutasi and tight end Cam McCormick remained at PeaceHelth Sacred Heart Medical Center at Riverbend in Springfield and were in fair condition following the grueling workouts.
The Oregonian wrote that some players described the workouts as “akin to military basic training,” including up to an hour of continuous push-ups and up-downs. Poutasi’s mother, Oloka, told The Oregonian that her son had been diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis, a syndrome in which “leakage into the blood stream of muscle contents” breaks down muscle tissue, according to the NCAA medical handbook. It can lead to kidney damage.
“I have visited with the three young men involved in the incidents in the past few days and I have been in constant contact with their families, offering my sincere apologies,” Taggart said. “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. I have addressed the issue with our strength and conditioning staff, and I fully support the actions taken today by the university. I want to thank our medical staff and doctors for caring for all of our young men, and I want to apologize to the university, our students, alumni and fans.”
The football team began its off-season conditioning program Jan. 12 after being away from football-related activities for six weeks. Oderinde led the workouts, which were supervised by the training staff.
Some players expressed on social media that the intensity of the workouts had been exaggerated in media reports. Offensive lineman Shane Lemieux tweeted: “Coach O[derinde] is getting us right. I don’t think anyone INSIDE this program would disagree.”
The athletic department said as part of a statement Monday: “While we cannot comment on the health of our individual students, we have implemented modifications as we transition back into full training to prevent further occurrences.”