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Ex-Illini player Simon Cvijanovic hits Tim Beckman with abuse allegations

Former Illinois offensive lineman Simon Cvijanovic took to his Twitter account — @IlliniSi — Sunday and leveled an hours-long barrage of charges against the school and the football program, most of them focusing on coach Tim Beckman.

Among other things, Cvijanovic — a 22-year-old senior from Cleveland who started 29 games for the Illini — claimed Beckman and his staff pressured him to play despite injuries to his knee and shoulder and mocked him and other players for being injured. Cvijanovic, who didn’t play again after an injury suffered Nov. 1 against Ohio State, tweeted he was forced to shut himself down because of severe pain and was
labeled a ‘‘quitter’’ for doing so.

‘‘I quit football because the pressure to get back on the field was too much from [Beckman] and his staff,’’ he wrote. ‘‘I was too injured to continue.’’

Cvijanovic expressed disappointment that he wasn’t included in the team’s trip to the Heart of Dallas Bowl or in its postseason senior banquet. More pressingly, he used his sudden social-media podium to call for unionization among college football players.

He also was challenged directly by some current and former Illini players, including offensive lineman Teddy Karras, who tweeted that Cvijanovic had ‘‘quit on his brothers when [they] needed him most.’’ Cvijanovic responded by describing Karras as a ‘‘bully.’’

Beckman issued the following statement through the university:

‘‘Simon Cvijanovic was a valued member of the University of Illinois football team. He chose to leave the team during the 2014 regular season and withdrew from the university before the end of the semester. Upon his return for the spring semester, we have continued to support him with medical care, an academic scholarship and academic advising. We cannot make any student accept our support. We wish him success in completing his degree, and we wish him the best of success in whatever he pursues after he graduates.’’

The school said Beckman ‘‘will not be conducting any in-person or live interviews on this subject. The statement will stand.’’

Surely, though, Beckman will be asked in the coming days and weeks about his dealings with Cvijanovic, who has a younger brother, Peter, in his second year as an offensive lineman in the program.

Email: sgreenberg@suntimes.com
Twitter: @SLGreenberg