Doug Brenner, a former Oregon offensive lineman, is suing the NCAA for $100 million in punitive damages in a trial that begins on Tuesday in Eugene and also names the University of Oregon and its former head football coach, Willie Taggart, as defendants.
Brenner alleges in the lawsuit he sustained lifelong injuries during a series of controversial workouts in 2017.
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. 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 left Oregon after one season to become the head coach at Florida State, where he was fired during his second season. He is now the head coach at Florida Atlantic. The lawsuit alleges 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.
According to the lawsuit, Oderinde did not carry industry-required certification to be a strength and conditioning coach at Oregon.
“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 said in a statement to ESPN. “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.”
The NCAA declined comment when reached by ESPN on Sunday night.
A university spokesman at Oregon issued the following statement to ESPN: “The health and safety of our students is our highest priority. 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.”
Brenner’s legal team is seeking massive punitive damages from the NCAA, arguing it “acted with malice or has shown a reckless and outrageous indifference to a highly unreasonable risk of harm” because there isn’t a specific rule or bylaw regarding overexerting players during workouts. The NCAA argues that it doesn’t have the authority to pass health and safety bylaws — the member schools and conferences are responsible for players’ health and safety.
“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. “This is unworkable.”
According to the lawsuit, Taggart told players when he was hired that he and the new coaches were going to focus on discipline in strength and conditioning and that they 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. The lawsuit states 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.
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