Former UCF football player Cody Minnich testified coach George O'Leary ordered athletic trainers to remove water from the indoor practice facility during Ereck Plancher's final workout.
Minnich told a jury that the athletic trainers were not near the players when they went through an obstacle course and no one helped Plancher when he was in distress.
Minnich said the coaches reaction to Plancher's distress and poor performance during the workout as, "More they were looking at him, like, what's wrong with you, why couldn't you do that? You know, not what's wrong with you? Can we help you?"
Video footage of Minnich's testimony was played for the jury on the fifth day of the Plancher wrongful death trial. Circuit Judge Robert M. Evans instructed the jury to give Minnich's testimony the same weight as any other witness appearing in person.
Evans also set strict time rules for the Plancher family and UCF Athletics Association attorneys to make sure the civil trial is completed in three weeks. Both sides began Friday with 32 hours apiece for questioning of their witnesses, cross examination of the opposing side's witnesses, objections and closing arguments. After a lunch break, Evans told the attorneys to let him know if they needed more time and he would try to secure overtime pay for the court staff to work late or on Saturdays.
Minnich was a member of the UCF football team and present for Plancher's last workout on March 18, 2008. Plancher collapsed and died following the offseason conditioning drills supervised by the UCF coach George O'Leary and his staff.
After Minnich's testimony was completed, UCFAA attorney Dan Shapiro told the jury Minnich was dismissed from the team as punishment. Evans previously ruled the jury could not hear the reason Minnich was dismissed. Minnich was removed from the team after he was charged with driving while intoxicated.
Minnich described the workout as extremely difficult. He recalled throwing up, suffering from blurred vision and feeling dizzy. Minnich said other players were throwing up and struggling to get through the workout.
When the UCF Athletics Association cross examination of Minnich resumed following a lunch break, he said players often threw up after running through Bright House Networks Stadium. "It's fairly common," he said. "It's something that might happen every day, people throwing up from fatigue."
The UCF football team had just completed a nine-day break and Minnich said most of the players were out of shape. During cross examination, Minnich agreed he couldn't speak for the conditioning of the other players.
Minnich said offensive coordinator Tim Salem told the players they would be doing mat drills, which was something Minnich said the team had never done before. Minnich said the workout included an obstacle course the team had never done before.
"The reason that, that workout happened the way it did, in my mind, in my opinion, was because the day before we had to work out -- and Cliff McCray, Ereck's roommate, and he was our starting left guard or right guard," Minnich said. "He was one of our starting guards -- 12 he could not make an 18-second run in time. He had finished too slow. We had just run one only one after the weights, and he couldn't make it. So I felt that, that day was, like, a punishment by Coach O'Leary to prove, like, to put us back in shape."
During cross examination, Minnich agreed no one on the coaching staff told him the workout was punishment. When he was asked whether he was just making an assumption about the workout, Minnich responded, "Well, the way I'd have to answer it is every time you've ever been punished in your life, have you always been told you're being punished, or can you sense if you're being punished or not? And I took it as I was being punished because I sensed I was being punished."
Minnich described the team lifting weights, then moving into the fieldhouse to do agility drills. He said the fans were not on and the doors to the indoor practice facility were closed.
"We used to describe it as a human microwave because it pretty much felt like it was cooking you," Minnich said. "It would be hotter in there than it was outside."
Minnich said it was not unusual for O'Leary to order water to be removed from the fieldhouse during a workout. He said he saw the athletic trainers exit the fieldhouse with the water and he wasn't sure when they returned.
During cross examination, Minnich agreed he didn't know what Plancher was thinking during the workout. Minnich had testified that Plancher had no choice but to finish, but he agreed with a UCFAA attorney when asked he could have called an athletic trainer for help.
Minnich stressed he thought all players faced negative repercussions if they did not follow the coaches' rules, including the coaches potentially deciding not renew a player's scholarship.
Minnich described seeing Plancher show signs of distress during conditioning drills inside the fieldhouse. He said the first time he saw athletic trainers move forward to treat Plancher was when he was being carried out of the facility by his teammates.