Former Ducks Player Doug Brenner Settles With the University of Oregon, Loses Lawsuit Against NCAA

Former University of Oregon football player Doug Brenner. Photo Source: Former University of Oregon football player Doug Brenner testifies during a civil trial in Lane County Circuit Court in Eugene, OR, file photo, April 25, 2022, in Eugene.(Sean Meagher/The Oregonian)

A former Oregon ducks offensive lineman settled with the University of Oregon after four weeks of testimony in a jury trial over civil allegations against two former coaches and their workout techniques and strategies.

Doug Brenner filed a lawsuit against Willie Taggart, the former football coach, and Irele Oderinde, the former strength coach, related to controversial workouts in early 2017. The original lawsuit was for $125.5 million against the two coaches and the NCAA; $20 million in non-economic damages against the University, $5.5 million in economic damages due to medical expenses caused by the University, and $100 million in punitive damages against the NCAA.

Earlier in the year, Lane County Circuit Court Judge Clara Rigmaiden granted a request by the University’s attorneys to direct the jury to remove “any damages related to the NFL” from Brenner’s claim of lost earning capacity. In her opinion, she reasoned that no jury “could find that Mr. Brenner had a chance of going to the NFL.”

After coming to the University of Oregon in late 2016, Brenner and two other players were hospitalized after workouts led by the two coaches. Brenner was suspended without pay for one month while he was in the hospital. In the lawsuit, Brenner claimed that he and the other players were required to perform hundreds of pushups and up-downs without rest and denied water during the first full day of conditioning.

While in the hospital, the three players, including Brenner, were all diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis, a potentially life-threatening condition that causes muscle tissue to break down and be secreted through urine which releases myoglobin into the bloodstream, potentially damaging the kidney. Rhabdo can be caused by anything from a crush injury, or heat stroke, to intense exercise.

Both coaches during the trial confessed that the workouts were excessive; however, they stated that there was no intent to be punitive. The attorneys for both sides didn’t agree on who was responsible for the hospitalization. Attorneys for the University of Oregon and the two former coaches acknowledged “mistakes were made” but that Brenner shared the responsibility for his “serious but temporary” injuries.

Mr. Brenner and the University of Oregon reached a $500,000 settlement in return for dismissing claims against his former coaches. Samuelu Poutasi, another one of the players hospitalized with Brenner filed a similar lawsuit but settled for $300,000 before the trial was set to begin. The third player, Cam McCormick, chose not to file a lawsuit.

The NCAA’s Sport Science Institute provides a “Sports Medicine Handbook” on its website as guidance to “promote a safe environment for college athletes.” Interestingly, the downloadable handbook has not been updated since 2014. The association also published recommendations for preventing catastrophic injury in collegiate athletics. Their third recommendation in the guidebook covers conditioning that touches directly on rhabdomyolysis. According to their data, only 57 NCAA athletes have been diagnosed with rhabdo since 2007; 51 of those athletes required hospitalization.

On Friday, May 6, Brenner lost his case against the NCAA, but Brenner’s legal team says they plan to appeal the decision. An attorney for Mr. Brenner lambasted the NCAA for decades of inaction in protecting athletes from coaches who “are willing to squeeze the last ounce of competitive juice out of student-athletes."The jury found the NCAA negligent in their oversight but did not award Mr. Brenner any of the $100 million in punitive damages.

Haley Larkin
Haley Larkin
Haley is a freelance writer and creator with a focus on law and politics. She has a Master’s from American University in International Relations and currently works in labor relations and collective bargaining rights.