Illinois' football season starts in eight days.
Tim Beckman expressed his excitement about this fact at 12:35 on Friday afternoon.
Not forty minutes later, Tim Beckman was fired by Illinois AD Mike Thomas. Again, eight days before the season opener.
Dismissals with this kind of timing are rare, and for good reason—it means the athletic director determined that the coach's presence was worse than the chaos of no permanent head coach at all, that the head coach had become a bad agent and the program's security depended on him being gone immediately. That's a hell of a charge, way beyond the Xs and Os or Ws and Ls, and one the vast majority of athletic directors who fire their coaches don't make.
Well, lo and behold:
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."
The student-athlete welfare Thomas alludes to was an issue raised by former Illinois offensive tackle Simon Cvijanovic, who first blew the whistle on mistreatment by Beckman in May. More former players quickly followed suit. It seems a little odd that it took Thomas three and a half months—time that's very valuable to a head coach preparing his team for a season—to corroborate the very serious and specific allegations made by Cvijanovic and others, but if that's the price of diligence then so it is.
This might not even be good news for Iowa; former Western Michigan head coach (and current offensive coordinator) Bill Cubit steps in as interim head coach for the season, and Cubit can coach. He left WMU with a winning record and made three bowls in his eight years, and he's probably the reason (moreso than Beckman) that Illinois turned its offense around and made a bowl game last year.
Former Illini player Akeem Spence, your thoughts?
Illinois just got better !!!#illini.— Akeem spence (@AkeemSpence) August 28, 2015
We didn't know it at the time, but this is the last we ever saw of Beckman, and lord, what a way to go out:
A thousand weird faces in fifteen seconds as he's asked about how poorly he treated his players. That's his enduring legacy, as it should be. May he never set foot in the B1G again. Deuces.