News Local/State

Beckman Fired as Illini Football Coach; Cubit Named Interim Coach

Former Illinois head coach Tim Beckman speaks during the Big Ten Football Media Day, Thursday, July 30, 2015, in Chicago.

Former Illinois head coach Tim Beckman speaks during the Big Ten Football Media Day, Thursday, July 30, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)

Tim Beckman has been dismissed as the University of Illinois’ head football coach, in connection with allegations involving the football program.  U of I Athletic Director Mike Thomas announced the dismissal Friday, citing preliminary results of an external review.

The review was conducted by Franczek Radelet, a Chicago law firm hired to investigate allegations that Beckman and the football team's medical staff mistreated a former player and misled him about the extent of his injuries.

Former starting lineman Simon Cvijanovic complained first on Twitter on May 9 and in numerous interviews that Beckman and his staff had tried to shame him into playing hurt and misled him about medical procedures following a knee injury.

Thomas says the review of the football program continues, and a final report has yet to be issued.

"I was shocked and angry when I became aware of the preliminary findings, and certainly that’s what led to me making this decision swiftly before the final report was completed," said Thomas to reporters Friday.  "I want to be clear that the health and well being of students is our top priority and this decision was based on the health and well being of our student athletes.   The findings do not reflect the culture we are building in Illinois athletics."

Offensive coordinator Bill Cubit has been named interim head coach for the U of I’s 2015 football season. Thomas says the external review had no findings related to Cubit, and that his appointment would come before the university's Board of Trustees at their September 10 meeting.

In a press conference Friday afternoon, Cubit said it was an easy decision for him to accept the interim head coaching position.

"I really love this university," Cubit said.  "I really love these student athletes, and for me it was a no-brainer to take it over, and that's what I'm going to do."

Cubit also expressed an interest in holding the permanent job, a search Thomas said would start in a few months.  Cubit has previously been the head coach at Western Michigan University.

In the words of a university news release: “During a preliminary briefing from the external reviewers, Thomas said he learned of efforts to deter injury reporting and influence medical decisions that pressured players to avoid or postpone medical treatment and continue playing despite injuries. He also said in some instances student-athletes were treated inappropriately with respect to whether they could remain on scholarship during the spring semester of their senior year if they weren’t on the team.

“ ’Both of those findings are unsettling violations of University policy and practice and do not reflect the culture that we wish to create in athletic programs for our young people,’ Thomas said. ‘I expect my coaches to protect players and foster their success on and off the field.’ ”

Cvijanovic posted a message on Twitter Friday afternoon.  "I appreciate all the support I have received," he said.  "Huge step in bettering athletics and in helping us prevent future wrongdoings."  In a later post, he said, "I am calling for a meeting with the University of Illinois, the Big Ten, and the NCAA to address the lack of student athlete protection."

In a statement issued late Friday to the Associated Press, Beckman said the findings indicating he interfered with medical procedures and pressured players to play hurt are "utterly false'' and suggested he might take legal action. 

Beckman also said the decision to fire him violated his contract. He said he will "vigorously defend both my reputation and my legal rights.''  His dismissal comes one week before Illinois' first game, against Kent State on September 4th at Memorial Stadium.

According to the news release, Thomas says the timing of the dismissal is "unfortunate". But he said that based on the preliminary findings of the investigation, it was in the best interest of Illini football players to act now, instead of when the final report was issued, likely in mid-season.

Tim Beckman’s record in three years as U of I head football coach was 12-25 overall, 4-20 in Big Ten Conference games. He led the Fighting Illini to the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl in December 2014.