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Wheelers File Suit Vs. Northwestern

August 24, 2001

CHICAGO (AP) _ The mother of Northwestern University football player Rashidi Wheeler, who collapsed and died during a preseason conditioning drill, filed a lawsuit Thursday against the university and football coach Randy Walker.

Also named as defendants in the lawsuit filed in Cook County Circuit Court by Linda A. Will were Northwestern athletic director Rick Taylor, head football athletic trainer Terrence ``Tory″ Aggeler, and four other members of the school’s football staff: Larry Lilja, Thomas Christian, Justin Chabot and Michael Rose.

Wheeler, a chronic asthmatic, collapsed during an Aug. 3 preseason conditioning drill involving a series of wind sprints. He was pronounced dead a short time later at Evanston Hospital.

Bronchial asthma was listed as the cause of death.

In a news conference Tuesday, one of Will’s attorneys, James Montgomery, said Walker and Taylor would not be named in the lawsuit. But Thursday night, another of Will’s attorneys, Randall Schwartz, said Walker was named because ``the thought is that the coach is the captain of the ship and these things, the practice ... the things that were associated with that practice were set up under his watch.″

He said Taylor was named for the same reason.

Schwartz said the action does not seek a specific amount in damages.

``Basically, it talks about the failure of Northwestern to have proper equipment and properly trained people, and various things happened that day,″ Schwartz said.

The attorney maintained that at one point either Aggeler or one of his assistants gave Wheeler a bag to breathe into, thinking that he was hyperventilating.

``If you’re having an asthma attack that’s the last thing you need,″ Schwartz said. ``That sped him to his death.″

At Tuesday’s news conference, Will, of Ontario, Calif., said it took as long as 40 minutes for paramedics to be called after her son collapsed. She also said there was no doctor present, no oxygen on the field and no ambulance standing by.

While Will has questioned whether the workout was truly ``voluntary,″ the core of her lawsuit was the alleged lack of medical attention.

A Northwestern official confirmed Thursday night that the school had received a copy of the lawsuit.

``Obviously, we are disappointed by this action, but it does not alter the university’s sympathy for Rashidi’s family for their loss,″ Northwestern spokesman Alan Cubbage said.

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