URBANA – University of Illinois Director of Athletics Mike Thomas dismissed head football coach Tim Beckman on Friday, citing preliminary results of an external review into allegations involving the program.
Thomas said the timing is unfortunate with the season one week away. But based on preliminary findings, he said, it was in the best interests of student-athletes to act now rather than when a final report is issued and publicly released, which likely will occur during the season.
“The preliminary information external reviewers shared with me does not reflect our values or our commitment to the welfare of our student-athletes, and I’ve chosen to act accordingly,” Thomas said. “During the review, we have asked people not to rush to judgment, but I now have enough information to make this decision in assessing the status and direction of the football program.”
Thomas said he has met with players and staff to inform them of the decision and reiterated that the health and well-being of student-athletes is the top priority throughout the athletic department’s 21 programs.
Watch: Tim Beckman in Action
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.”
He said the review continues and a final report has not yet been issued. To date, more than 90 individuals have been interviewed by the Franczek Radelet law firm and 200,000 documents have been reviewed, along with a large volume of practice and game video from Beckman’s three years as head coach.
Thomas said Bill Cubit, who joined the Illini coaching staff as offensive coordinator in 2013, has been named interim head coach for the 2015 season. The appointment will be submitted to the Board of Trustees for approval at their September 10 meeting. Thomas said the external review did not indicate any findings related to Coach Cubit.
Beckman will not receive the $3.1 million remaining on the last two years of his original five-year contract or the $743,000 called for if his contract had been bought out.
Beckman’s record in three years as head coach was 12-25 overall, 4-20 in Big Ten Conference games. He led Illinois to the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl in December 2014.
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