EUGENE Former Oregon Ducks football players Doug Brenner and Sam Poutasi are seeking $100 million in damages from the NCAA and $25.5 million in damages for the injury sustained by the University of Oregon, former UO football coach Willie Taggart, and former strength coach Irele Oderinde in a trial that starts Tuesday in Eugene.
After long offseason workouts that resulted in rhabdomyolysis and subsequent wounds, former players are seeking damages for negligence.
The trial of Lane County Circuit Court will be heard before Judge Clara Rigmaiden, who is scheduled for three weeks.
Following the discovery, attorneys for the former players filed an amended complaint on March 24. These include depositions from NCAA president Mark Emmert, chief medical officer Brian Hainline, UO associate athletic trainer Travis Halseth, Oderinde, and others, seeking punitive damages against the NCAA, $20 million for pain and suffering, and $5.5 million for previous and future medical expenses.
The lawsuit alleges that Taggart and Oderinde were negligent in imposing and carrying out the workouts, because of Taggart not ensuring Oderinde had adequate training to lead such exercises, Oderinde is underwent the "necessary" training, and that the NCAA has failed to regulate or prohibit "extreme physical regimens" established by coaches at its member schools.
The players claim that the NCAA "acted with malice or has shown a reckless and outrageous indifference to a serious danger" and that it has acted with a conscious indifference to athletes' health, safety, and welfare in failing to effectively regulate workouts.
Plaintiffs argue that a law adopted by member institutions itself would have prevented Plaintiffs' alleged injuries on the battlefield. Plaintiffs argue that a law enforcement body in Indiana would be used to compensate former athlete athletes and team medical personnel.
The Oregonian/OregonLive commented on Doug Brenner's injury, stating, "The health and safety of our children is our highest priority." We are grateful that he made a fantastic recovery and was able to play during the 2017 season and also graduated from the University of Oregon. We disagree with Mr. Brenner's arguments in his defense, and we will address those in court."
Taggart was drafted by Oregon in December 2016, but left a year later for Florida State. He was then fired during his second season in charge of Florida Atlanta. Oderinde, who after the incident, came to UO with Taggart from South Florida and followed him to Florida State before returning to the USF.
Officials at Florida Atlantic and South Florida did not respond to a request for comment from Taggart and Oderinde.
Both parties are expected to attend the trial in person.
The NCAA did not respond immediately to a request for comment.
According to the lawsuit, shortly after Taggart was hired by Oregon, he told the team that he and his coaching staff were going to concentrate on strength and conditioning, implying that they were "going to discover the snakes in the grass and cut their heads off."
The January 2017 workouts lasted several days when the team was reconvened following the winter break, with one describing it as akin to military basic training. When players could not finish the warm-up perfectly, they started over, with some groups repeating the process for up to an hour.
Safeguards were in place, according to reports, with water available and players were permitted to ask out of the workouts if necessary. However, the plaintiff claims that players were not permitted to drink water during the first day of the workouts.
At the time, some Oregon players underestimated the severity of their workouts on social media.
According to the NCAA sports medicine manual, Brenner, Poutasi, and tight end Cam McCormick were diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis, a syndrome in which muscles break down with 'leakage into the blood stream of muscle contents.'
In February 2018, which state the first four days of "transition periods" such as training resumed following an academic weekend as the ones in this case "should be separate-day workouts," which are documented, with an intentional and progressively increase in volume, intensity, and duration of activity.
Brenner continued to play for the Ducks during his senior season in 2017, but had hip surgery in October 2017 and missed the remainder of the season. He has since graduated from UO with both his bachelor's and master's degrees.
Poutasi remained on the team until the 2020 season and graduated from the UO that day.
McCormick, who is still a member of Oregon's football team, has chosen not to file a lawsuit.