Sunday evening, former Illinois football player Simon Cvijanović went thermonuclear on Twitter, accusing Illini head coach Tim Beckman of “misuse and abuse of power” and also, most damning, of attacking — physically, emotionally or mentally wasn’t specified at the time — a former teammate of Cvijanović’s.
Cvijanović, who had started 33 games along the offensive line during his time in Champaign, and his brother, also a former Illini football player, “developed mental-health issues, Simon said, as a result of their medical problems and the staff’s neglect,” ESPN.com wrote. In a statement released after his former player’s damning accusations, Beckman stated that “we have continued to support [Simon Cvijanović] with medical care, an academic scholarship and academic advising,” adding “[w]e cannot make any student accept our support.”
Monday evening, Illini athletic director Mike Thomas backed his beleaguered head coach while at the same time promising a review of the accusations.
“The feedback I get from the players and our players’ families is that these coaches genuinely care for them and treat them like their own children,” Thomas told reporters. “It’s been very positive from the kids and the families. They talk a lot about the family atmosphere. They talk about the culture. They talk about the caring of our coaches as it relates to their well-being. …
“We will have a follow-up. We will review, and the timeline and who’s to be involved will be determined very soon.”
The father of the two ex-Illini players, though, is coming from a different point of view. Much, much different as Frank Cvijanovic laid any future blame for a failed NFL career at the feet of the coaching staff.
“It’s really just ridiculous,” the dad told ESPN.com. “[Simon] is a kid who’s been looking to play in the NFL since he was 8 years old. Now that this has happened, he’s just been filled with anxiety — almost an identity crisis.”
And then there’s this, from the Chicago Tribune:
A former Illinois player, who spoke to the Tribune on the condition of anonymity, backed up Cvijanovic’s claims of being berated for suffering an injury and of witnessing Beckman physically take down a player at practice.
“He overreacted,” the player said. “We all saw it and thought it was weird.”
Andrew Weber, a kicker who played at Toledo under Beckman, also said on Twitter he had similar experiences with the coach as Cvijanovic.
“We had the exact same issues,” he tweeted to Cvijanovic on Monday. “Thanks for standing up! Be proud!”
Beckman saved his coaching skin by seeing his Illini to a bowl berth in 2014. Under fire for his team’s on-field performance, and now under fire for his reported treatment of his players? That’s a potentially crippling combination for any head coach.