If you believe Illinois football Coach Tim Beckman is in over his head, then you got a lot of further validation today. If you’re in the Tim Beckman must go camp, well your camp will soon have company. Michigan State beat Illinois 42-3 today, in a game that ended in the second quarter.
The look of disgust/concern/discontent on the face of University of Illinois Athletic Director Mike Thomas when time expired around 5:35 Central on Zuppke Field conveyed everything you need to know. The final decision is up to Thomas, pundits and reporters like myself will have no bearing on the future of Tim Beckman. And if you read Thomas’ body language, like I did, you would not feel very confident in Beckman returning next season.
Of course, there is the matter of the contract buyout, and how much money that would cost. So that changes the game entirely.
According to the Chicago Tribune’s David Haugh, in a column this summer, Illinois already explored the possibility of replacing Tim Beckman before this college football season began and Beckman extended the Illinois Big Ten losing streak to 17 and counting. Remember what Thomas said at his presser when he dismissed Ron Zook? He ousted a guy because he could not win in conference.
That’s also what Thomas wanted in Zook’s successor: somebody who could win Big Ten games.
Tim Beckman has not done that as he is 0-11 thus far.
At Big Ten Media Day, a journalist from downstate who covers this team daily told me one of the main reasons Offensive Coordinator Bill Cubit was brought to Champaign was…yes as a possible successor to Beckman. Obviously, regime change in house is preferable to regime change from the outside. At least for continuity and cohesion sake. It certainly would not help Illinois recruiting to have three different head coaches since 2011.
Cubit himself certainly did not look good either today.
(UPDATE: exact same journalist tells me on Halloween, Big Ten Basketball Media Day that Beckman will get a third season after all; unless of course he goes 0-5 down the stretch, then all bets are off)
How much pain is enough?
Nearly 46,000 showed up at Memorial Stadium for Homecoming today, and most left well before the 3rd, let alone the 4th quarter ended. They were right to do so. The program of Tim Beckman was embarrassed both on national television (this was an ABC/ESPN mirror game) and in front of the one crowd a year highly concentrated with alumni (read: donors and boosters). If there’s ever a game you NEED to look good in at Illinois, it’s Homecoming. After all, UI was one of the schools that lays claim to founding the Homecoming tradition.
But that’s history.
As are the Illini bowl hopes.
As are the feelings of optimism felt for this team in September. Tim Beckman had a cool seat after a 3-1 start.
However, it’s radioactive now.
That win over Cincinnati and the “meh, but not THAT bad” showing versus a then ranked Washington team turned out to be “fool’s gold” of sorts. Both games conveyed promise and progress; two words you won’t find many people saying about Illini football now. Both UW and Cincy are not even close to being as good as we thought they were when they met Illinois.
“We are 3-4, not 0-7, we’ve felt success,” Tim Beckman said during his postgame presser, an occasion that was anything but ebullient. Beckman appeared deflated and disturbed. His trademark visor, an inanimate piece of clothing, seemed to have a sharper brim in September. Even the visor doesn’t seem like itself now. He is right though. They are just one game under .500
Still being outscored 137-54 in conference play; with each Big Ten game getting progressively worse…that can’t help job security can it?
Now Beckman and the Illini must soldier on with a very much depleted receiving corps. That position wasn’t even very deep to start with. Steve Hull left with a head injury (likely concussion). Ryan Lankford, the team’s best wideout, is done for the year.
“I think he will be a tough loss, anytime you lose a starter like that, but that’s just the game of football,” Tim Beckman said after the game about the injury.
So things have gone from worse to even more worse. It’s very easy to project Illinois not winning a conference game this year. And it’s very difficult to imagine Tim Beckman keeps his job if that scenario plays out. If he wins two or more of these next five he’ll definitely be back. If he wins one…could go either way. Although I’m sure Thomas doesn’t want to be paying four coaches money not to coach. How does he explain a fourth buyout? That’s extreme circumstances. Then again these are extreme times.
Catch me every Tuesday at 10:30 AM Central talking Northwestern and Illini for 1620 The Zone Omaha
Paul M. Banks is the owner of The Sports Bank.net, an affiliate of Fox Sports. He’s also a regular analyst on news talk radio stations across the world; with weekly segments on NBC and Fox Sports Radio. Follow him on Twitter (@paulmbanks) and RSSFollow paulmbanks