Illinois co-defensive coordinator and defensive line coach Mike Phair will the Fighting Illini’s new defensive coordinator under head coach Bill Cubit, according to a source. Co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach Tim Banks is not being retained, per the source.
Phair came to Illinois before this season from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he was the assistant defensive line coach last year. Under Phair, the Illini’s defense made great strides this season, improving from 456.4 yards allowed per game (last in the Big Ten) in 2014 to 350.8 this season. Illinois also gave up 11.3 fewer points per game this year.
Phair has spent 14 seasons in the NFL with the Buccaneers, Chicago Bears and Seattle Seahawks. He was the Bears’ defensive line coach from 2011–13 after working with the Seahawks for six seasons. Phair joined Seattle as an area scout in ’05 and gradually worked his way up to a defensive assistant coach.
The Mesa, Ariz., native was a linebacker in college, first at Mesa Community College before transferring to Arizona State. He got his start in coaching as a graduate assistant with the Sun Devils in 1999. After two years, he moved to Tiffin University to coach linebackers and special teams for a year before shifting to the NFL as a college scout for the Buccaneers in 2002.
Banks had been with Illinois since 2012, serving as defensive coordinator and coaching safeties in ’12 and the secondary for the past three seasons. He arrived in Champaign from Cincinnati, where he served as co-defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach for two seasons. Banks has spent the entirety of his 20-year coaching career in college, working at Bowling Green, Ferris State, Memphis, Maryland, Central Michigan, Cincinnati and Illinois.
Phair will coach the Illini defense under Cubit, who led the Fighting Illini to a better than expected 5–7 record this season in an interim capacity after being promoted from offensive coordinator in late August.
Cubit's interim tag was removed last month. He arrived in Champaign in 2013 as offensive coordinator. Before that, he was head coach for eight seasons at Western Michigan, where he had a 51–47 record with three bowl appearances, one more than the school had ever had.