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The lawsuit against Willie Taggart, his former strength coach and the NCAA is getting real

If found negligent, a ruling against the defendants could result in yet another watershed moment against the college sports establishment amid a time when watershed moments seemingly arrive by the hour.

“I feel like I owe him a public apology,” Oderinde said. “Doug, to you, your mother, your sister, to Sam (Poutasi), to Cam (McCormick), I’m sincerely sorry. It was not my intent. Not by any means. The person that I am and I think you know. That wasn’t my intent and I’m sincerely sorry for that.”More than five years after the workout that sent three Oregon football players to the hospital, a day of reckoning could be approaching.

Former Ducks offensive lineman Doug Brenner has sued his former head coach Willie Taggart, his former strength coach Irele Oderinde, the University of Oregon, and the NCAA for $125.5 million for what he says are life-altering injuries suffered during a winter workout in 2017.

The workout, conducted shortly after Taggart landed the job from South Florida, were supposed to be on-boarding to Taggart and Oderinde's offseason program. The workout was supposed to be a team-building exercise as part of a warmup before the overall workout, where groups of three players would have to be in sync as they moved from push-ups, sit-ups, planks and up-downs.

“We didn’t get it right. It was a thing where you had to be in sequence, you had to move together. If somebody counted at the wrong time we’d start over, if somebody went down at the wrong time we’d start over," Oderinde testified Thursday, via The Oregonian. "There was a lot of that; we weren’t in unison. We weren’t a team. In hindsight, if you live life backwards it’ll get a lot simpler, but you can’t. I own my mistake, it never should have happened. It was too much, too soon, especially for those three young men.”

“It went too far,” Oderinde said. “The intent was to do warm-ups, do it right. If we didn’t do it right, we were going to do it again, then to go down and to start working on (weight lifting), but we never got there because we didn’t do it right.”

Brenner testified that players were required to repeat the circuit of exercises for more than an hour, then 

Alongside Brenner, offensive lineman Sam Poutasi and tight end Cam McCormick were also hospitalized. Poutasi also sued and has since settled. McCormick, heading into his redshirt freshman season at the time, remains on Oregon's roster.

Brenner said his NFL future was permanently altered by the workouts, and an expert for the plaintiff testified he lost 40 percent of his kidney function, that he's on a path to have "chronic kidney disease," and that his lifespan was shortened by "probably about 10 to 15 years." 

“They made it very clear to us very quickly that no matter what, no matter how hard we tried, they weren’t going to let us move on (from the exercises),” Brenner said. “... They made it clear that quitting would be negative on you and they were trying to see who would last.”

Brenner's $125.5 million suit breaks down as follows: $100 million from the NCAA for punitive damages, $20 million from the NCAA for pain and suffering, and $5.5 million for past and future medical expenses from Oregon, Taggart and Oderinde.

Oderine apologized in court on Thursday.

“I feel like I owe him a public apology,” Oderinde said. “Doug, to you, your mother, your sister, to Sam (Poutasi), to Cam (McCormick), I’m sincerely sorry. It was not my intent. Not by any means. The person that I am and I think you know. That wasn’t my intent and I’m sincerely sorry for that.”

For his part, Taggart defended himself during his court experience on Thursday, his second time on the witness stand.

“I’m here because for the first time in my life my character has been attacked,” Taggart said. “I’m here because I’ve never been attacked in my life. Everyone that knows me knows that I’m a good person. I don’t intend to hurt anyone. That’s something that I’m prideful for and it’s something that I’m going to fight for for the rest of my life because that’s my intent, is to help these young men reach their dreams, goals and aspirations. The first time in my career, in my life, I’ve been accused of hurting our players and punishing our players and I can’t allow that to happen because that’s not me.”

There was also this exchange:

“I remember meeting with Doug and I remember Doug said that Coach O is getting us right in the weight room,” Taggart said. “I was like, ‘How is that, you’re in the hospital?’ He was like, ‘This is something that we’ll get over, Coach.’ I absolutely remember that. I’ll put that on my family. I remember that.”

Taggart also said he “had a great relationship” with Brenner during the 2017 season.

“He’s a great young man, great leader and everything we all characterize,” said Taggart, while Brenner again shook his head.

It's in dispute whether Taggart visited the players in the hospital. A quote he gave to NBC Sports Northwest in 2017 was part of Taggart's cross-examination, when he said Oregon's players “are ticked off because they were enjoying the workouts. Even the guys that were in the hospital.”

As part of its defense, Oregon cited a photo of Brenner, Poutasi, and McCormick smiling in the hospital. Brenner testified the players were smiling because it was the first time they'd seen each other and the first time they'd been able to walk since being hospitalized.

Taggart left Oregon after one season, returning to his home state as Florida State's head coach. He was let go after two seasons, and is now heading into his third season as the head coach at Florida Atlantic. Oderinde returned to USF as the head strength coach for the women's basketball team, but he testified he has since been fired. Oderinde's bio has been removed from USF's athletics website. 

If found negligent, a ruling against the defendants could result in yet another watershed moment against the college sports establishment amid a time when watershed moments seemingly arrive by the hour