The University of Oregon has reached a $500,000 settlement with one of their former offensive linemen, Doug Brenner, ESPN’s Heather Dinich reported on Friday night. The former Duck offensive lineman was originally suing the NCAA for $100 million in punitive damages after Brenner alleged he sustained lifelong injuries during a series of controversial workouts in 2017.
Doug Brenner sues NCAA in massive lawsuit
“The law firm of Kafoury & McDougal first filed the suit on behalf of Brenner in January 2019 in circuit court in the state of Oregon and sought $11.5 million from the NCAA,” wrote Dinich. “According to documents obtained by ESPN, Brenner increased the claim for pain and suffering from $6 million to $20 million, and has added the claim against the NCAA for punitive damages.
“The firm filed the amended complaint on March 24 following discovery, which included depositions from NCAA president Mark Emmert and chief medical officer Brian Hainline. Brenner also names former Oregon strength and conditioning coach Irele Oderinde as a defendant. Taggart, who was hired at Oregon in December 2016, is expected to attend the trial in person, along with Oderinde.”
Taggart, who left Oregon after one season for Florida State, is currently the head coach at Florida Atlantic. According to Dinich, the lawsuit alleged negligence against all defendants, accusing Taggart and Oderinde of imposing physical punishment on the players, failing to prohibit it and failing to ensure that Oderinde had adequate training to do his job. Additionally, ESPN reported that the lawsuit stated Oderinde did not carry industry-required certification to be a strength and conditioning coach at Oregon.
In light of the news, Taggart provided a statement to ESPN vehemently denying any wrongdoing.
“I care about every one of the players I’ve coached like they are my own sons, and I want each of them to be successful on and off the field,” Taggart told ESPN a few weeks ago. “I would never want any of them to suffer any injury. I disagree with the things Doug Brenner has said in his complaint and am sorry we’re involved in this lawsuit. But I still wish him the best.”
A university spokesman at Oregon issued a statement to ESPN a few weeks ago.
“The health and safety of our students is our highest priority,” an Oregon university spokesman told ESPN. “There was a quick response to Doug Brenner’s injury, and he was provided the best care possible. We are grateful that he made a full recovery and was able to play during the 2017 season and also graduate from the University of Oregon. We disagree with the claims made by Mr. Brenner’s attorneys in their lawsuit and will address those in court.”
Moreover, ESPN reported that Brenner’s legal team was seeking massive punitive damages from the NCAA, believing the defendants “acted with malice or has shown a reckless and outrageous indifference to a highly unreasonable risk of harm” because there wasn’t a specific rule or bylaw regarding overexerting players during workouts. Meanwhile, the NCAA argued that it didn’t have the authority to pass health and safety bylaws — the member schools and conferences are responsible for players’ health and safety, Dinich wrote.
“Plaintiffs appear to contend that the dozens of guidelines and best practices found in the 140-page Sports Medicine Handbook relating to the conduct of workouts should be subject to monitoring, investigation, and enforcement,” the NCAA wrote in its opposition, via ESPN. “This is unworkable.”
According to the lawsuit via ESPN, Taggart told his team when he took over Oregon that the team was going to focus on strength and conditioning, also stating that the Ducks were “going to find the snakes in the grass and cut their heads off.”
“The document states that the workouts took place every morning on four consecutive days, and Brenner was in a group that began at 6 a.m.,” wrote Dinich. “The lawsuit stated that Taggart and Oderinde didn’t review the training program with the school’s sports medical staff, and Oregon failed to require them to do so.”
Continuing, Dinich wrote the lawsuit contends the controversial workouts lasted 60-90 minutes each day, and there was no water available in the room for the first week. Players were made to do ridiculous amounts of exercises, and to restart if one athlete wasn’t doing things in perfect unison. During the workouts, players were vomiting, passing out or collapsing — but Taggart decided to bring in oxygen tanks instead of doing away with the workouts, according to ESPN.
Oderinde was actually punished at the time, as ESPN reports he was suspended by Oregon in 2017 for a month without pay after tight end Cam McCormick and offensive lineman Sam Poutasi were hospitalized with Brenner and suffered from rhabdomyolysis as a result of workouts conducted shortly after Taggart was hired at Oregon.
“The condition, in which skeletal muscle tissue is rapidly broken down and products of that process are released into the bloodstream, caused permanent damage to Brenner’s kidneys, and his life expectancy has been reduced by about 10 years, according to the lawsuit,” wrote Dinich. “Depending on the severity, rhabdomyolysis can be harmful to the kidneys and might lead to kidney failure, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.”
Later, Brenner, McCormick and Poutasi rejoined the team, but Dinich wrote the incident prompted Oregon to change its reporting system, as the strength and conditioning coach began answering to the Ducks’ director of performance and sports science instead of the head coach. Additionally, Taggart issued a public apology at the time, saying, “I hold myself responsible for all of our football-related activities, and the safety of our students must come first.”
“According to the NCAA’s opposition to the inclusion of punitive damages, which was filed on March 1, the NCAA argued Brenner’s proposal ‘would attempt to replace the on-the-field medical judgments of experienced athletic trainers, coaches and team medical staff in Oregon with the administrative staff of a non-medical sports associated located in Indiana.’
“The NCAA stated that Brenner and his attorneys ‘failed to articulate what rule or bylaw should have (or could have) been adopted by the NCAA or its members,’” wrote Dinich.
On3’s Stephen Samra also contributed to this article.