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Depending on who you ask, a series of workouts imposed by then-new Oregon football coach Willie Taggart in January 2017 were either "a physically impossible exercise regimen of squats and told the student athletes that the workout 'would demonstrate who wanted to be on the team,'" or "akin to military basic training, with one said to include up to an hour of continuous push-ups and up downs," and not all that strenuous.
For three of the players subjected to the workouts, however, they were potentially life-threatening. Offensive lineman Doug Brenner, tight end Cam McCormick, and offensive lineman Sam Poutasi were hospitalized with rhabdomyolysis, a condition that causes byproducts of rapidly breaking down skeletal muscle to be released into the bloodstream, possibly damaging the kidneys. Brenner is now suing Taggart, strength and conditioning coach Irele Oderinde, the University of Oregon, and the NCAA after suffering permanent kidney damage that reduced his life expectancy by ten years.
At the time, Taggart issued an apology after the workouts, saying, "I hold myself responsible for all of our football-related activities, and the safety of our students must come first." According to the lawsuit, however, Taggart told players he and the other new coaches were going to use an intense training regimen "to find the snakes in the grass and cut their heads off." The lawsuit also claims Oderinde at the time did not carry industry-required certification to be a strength and conditioning coach.
After one year coaching the Ducks, Taggart took the head job at Florida State University and brought Oderinde with him. Neither have commented yet on the lawsuit. "The well-being and safety of our students are our top priorities at the University of Oregon," the school said in a statement. "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," according to Mark McDougal, one of Brenner's attorneys. "These workouts are contrary to NCAA guidelines for protecting players from injury and death. Guidelines, however, are only suggestions. The NCAA needs to enact and enforce binding regulations that outlaw these practices."
Brenner is seeking $11.5 million in damages based on claims that Taggart and Oderinde were negligent in imposing the workouts, the school failed to regulate or supervise them, and that the NCAA has failed to address such practices.
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