USA Today // Andrew Weber

Illini settle with Beckman, women's players

Settlements mark end to yearlong saga centered around alleged player abuse

CHAMPAIGN - The University of Illinois has finalized settlements with Tim Beckman and seven women's basketball players, ending yearlong scandals surrounding alleged player mistreatment in two athletics programs.

The university will pay Beckman, the former football coach, a one-time payment of $250,000 to be paid by funds from the university's self-insurance policy. Illinois dismissed Beckman in late August for discoveries made by an independent investigation into alleged player abuse and medical mistreatment.

The university said it "considers the matter closed" and that it "stands by the decision to terminate Coach Beckman for cause."

The university also will pay a one-time settlement of $375,000 to be distributed among seven women's basketball players who alleged Matt Bollant's women's basketball program of player abuse and racism -- which were deemed unfounded by a separate independent investigation. Bollant remains the head coach, but the university parted ways with assistant Mike Divilbiss, who was named in many of the allegations.

"While the university sincerely apologizes for the events that resulted in the filing of this lawsuit, the settlement of this matter in no way constitutes an admission of wrongdoing on the part of the university," the university said in a statement. "The university maintains that independent investigations concluded the evidence did not support the student-athletes’ grievances."

In a statement through their attorney, Terry Ekl, the plaintiffs said: “We are very happy to see that actions have been put in place so that no other student athlete may have to experience what we have. We believe the current administration has acted with the best interest of the student athlete and for that we are grateful.”

Joint statement from both parties in football case

“The University of Illinois and former Coach Tim Beckman announced today that they have reached a negotiated resolution of potential legal claims relating to Coach Beckman’s termination in August 2015. In resolving these matters, the university and Coach Beckman seek to avoid protracted and costly litigation that would by necessity require the involvement of a number of current and former student-athletes, as well as coaches, staff, trainers, and team physicians. This resolution allows the university to avoid the distraction of pending litigation and to focus instead on the well-being of student-athletes in the program. At the same time, Coach Beckman can resume his career without protracted litigation. The resolution involves a one-time payment of $250,000 to Beckman, who will release all claims he may have had against the university.

The university stands by its decision to terminate Coach Beckman for cause, but recognizes that terminating him without cause was another possible alternative. In deciding to terminate Coach Beckman, the university relied on preliminary findings that were eventually included in the Report issued by Franczek Radelet, an independent investigating law firm, concerning the management of sports injuries and scholarships in the football program. Throughout the investigation, Coach Beckman cooperated with all requests for information and answered all questions. During the investigation and in the wake of the Report, the university made a number of programmatic changes focused on safeguards for student-athletes in football and other sports. 

In addition, as stated on page 25 of the Report, “[m]any players interviewed reported positive experiences with injury assessment, treatment, recovery periods, and return-to-play decisions.  In addition, Coach Beckman attempted to help players stay healthy and avoid injuries by repeatedly discussing health topics.  When players were seriously injured, Coach Beckman made efforts to assist them by visiting players in the hospital after surgery and taking time to console players about the challenge of being unable to play.” Further, the Report found no evidence that any student-athlete suffered the loss of a scholarship for poor performance during Coach Beckman’s tenure. 

Coach Beckman states unequivocally that, during his tenure as head football coach, he made a substantial contribution to the lives of student-athletes he coached and to the university’s football program. The university concurs that Coach Beckman implemented many initiatives that achieved positive student-athlete experiences, including improved academic performance and leadership training. From the fall of 2012 until the spring semester of 2015, for example, the players’ average grade point average increased from 2.60 to 2.90. On the field, the team showed improvement, going from a 2-10 record in his first season to a 6-7 record and bowl appearance in his final season.

The university wishes Coach Beckman well, and Coach Beckman wishes the university, the football program, and the university’s student-athletes continued success.”

Illini Inquirer Top Stories