Florida state

Former Florida State head coach, strength coach embroiled in $125.5 million lawsuit

A lawsuit filed against the University of Oregon, former football coach Willie Taggart, former strength coach Irele Oderinde and the NCAA by a former player in 2019 is back in the news this week after the start of the trial Tuesday in Eugene.

Former Oregon offensive lineman Doug Brenner recently added $100 million in punitive damages to the lawsuit in an amendment filed March 24 in Oregon State Circuit Court. Brenner is also seeking $25.5 million in total damages from all defendants involved.

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According to USA Today, Brenner’s suit details a 2017 practice that resulted in his and two other players being hospitalized for rhabdomyolysis. According to the CDC, it is a serious condition that can be fatal or lead to permanent disability. Rhabdo occurs when damaged muscle tissue releases its proteins and electrolytes into the blood. These substances can damage the heart and kidneys and lead to permanent disability or even death.

Taggart was hired by Oregon to replace former coach Mark Helfrich after the 2016 season. He brought in Oderinde as a strength coach after working with him for several seasons at USF. According to the lawsuit, Taggart advised the Ducks players that the new staff would “focus on the discipline of strength and conditioning and that they would ‘find the snakes in the grass and chop off their heads.'”

The lawsuit goes on to allege that the practice began with Oderinde and his team asking a group of players to perform 10 perfect push-ups in unison. This progressed into coaches pushing players to perform hundreds of push-ups and dips without proper rest. At least on the first day, it is alleged that they were prevented from drinking water during practices.

Brenner claimed he suffered permanent kidney damage as a result of his condition and saw his life expectancy cut by ten years. One of the other hospitalized players, former offensive lineman Sam Poutasi, is also involved in a lawsuit surrounding the same parties.

“For decades, the NCAA refused to ban these remarkably dangerous training drills — drills designed to punish rather than condition,” Kafoury told USA Today. “They refused to do so out of concern for the interests of their own organization, rather than the safety of young athletes.”

“We are asking for a punitive indemnity large enough to force them to change their minds.”

Oregon suspended Oderinde for a month without pay following the hospitalizations. Further, the lawsuit states, Oderinde did not hold the certification required by the industry to be a strength and conditioning coach for the school.

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A spokesperson for the University of Oregon released a statement to ESPN on Sunday disagreeing with Brenner’s claims.

“The health and safety of our students is our top priority. There was a quick response to Doug Brenner’s injury and he received the best care possible. We are grateful that he has made a full recovery and is was able to play in the 2017 season. and also graduated from the University of Oregon. We disagree with the assertions of Mr. Brenner’s attorneys in their lawsuit and will address them in court.”

Brenner played seven games under Taggart in 2017 before suffering a career-ending hip injury. Poutasi contributed in a reserve role in 2017 and for each of the following three seasons before graduating at the end of 2020.

After a year at Oregon, Taggart accepted a head coaching position at Florida State. He went 9-12 in Tallahassee before being fired before finishing his second season with the Seminoles following a home loss to Miami. Since then, Taggart has landed at Florida Atlantic, going 10-11 in his first two years with the Owls.

Taggart, who will be present for the proceedings, released a statement to ESPN ahead of Tuesday.

“I care about each of the players I have coached as if they were my own sons, and I want each of them to succeed on and off the pitch. I would never want any of them to suffer an injury. I don’t agree with the things Doug Brenner said in his complaint and I’m sorry that we’re involved in this lawsuit. But I still wish him the best.

Oderine joined Taggart at Florida State in the same position. After Taggart’s layoff, Oderine returned to USF, where he is now the head strength and conditioning coach for the women’s basketball team and the men’s golf program.

The Seminoles are paying Taggart an annual buyout of more than $4.25 million a year through 2024.

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