A former University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign football player, and southwest suburban Tinley Park native, filed suit against the university, former athletic director and former head coach Friday for allegedly forcing him to return early from an injury, eventually causing him to lose his scholarship.
Former Illini offensive lineman Anthony Durkin first experienced shoulder pain during practice in early 2013, according to the suit. As the team doctors discussed potential surgery, he was ordered to keep playing, further aggravating his injury. In Sept. 2013, he underwent Bankart repair, an operation for habitual shoulder dislocation.
Durkin was advised by team doctors to rehabilitate from the operation through spring 2014, the suit said. However, former head coach Tim Beckman and former coach Alex Golesh, growing impatient with having so many players injured, ordered the doctors to clear him for practice.
Beckman was fired from his post at Illinois in Aug. 2015 for his “efforts to deter injury reporting influence medical decisions that pressured players to avoid or postpone medical treatment and continue playing despite injuries,” the Chicago Sun-Times previously reported.
Golesh is now a tight ends coach at Iowa State University.
Durkin returned to practice in spring 2014, worsening his injury until he dislocated his shoulder in August 2014, the suit said. In Dec. 2014, team doctors determined that he could no longer play for the team. On Dec. 7, 2014, Golesh told him he “needed to sign a release from his scholarship or risk other repercussions.”
The release, which Durkin signed, relieved the university from paying his scholarship and a second costly surgery, the suit said.
In Nov. 2015, he underwent a second surgery, and was told by doctors not employed with the university that he “should expect issues with his shoulder… [to] recur for the rest of his life.”
The suit alleges that three team doctors, Beckman, Golesh and the former athletic director were negligent in not ensuring Durkin’s safety. It also alleges that Beckman and Golesh were negligent in forcing him to return early to practice and later “sign a release of his scholarship against school policy.”
The suit further alleges that the university failed to ensure Durkin’s safety and breached their contract by cancelling his scholarship “for an improper purpose.”
As a result, Durkin has and will continue to suffer physically and mentally, as well as past and future wages and medical expenses, the suit said. The five-count suit seeks damages in excess of $250,000.
“We learned of the complaint [Friday] evening,” Vice Chancellor for Public Affairs at University of Illinois Robin Kaler said Friday night. “It appears to involve circumstances that allegedly happened about two years ago. We will review the complaint thoroughly, but I want to make clear that the health and well-being of our student-athletes is our first and foremost priority.”
Beckman did not respond to request for comment via phone and his Facebook page by Saturday afternoon. Golesh also did not respond to request for comment via email and phone by Saturday afternoon.
Durkin graduated from Victor J. Andrew High School in Tinley Park in 2011, according to Illinois’ website. He was ranked one of the top 12 centers in the nation by Scout.com during his senior year of high school.