LM Otero, File
August 24, 2016

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) Former Illinois coach Tim Beckman, fired last year amid allegations of player mistreatment, is working as a volunteer assistant with No. 22 North Carolina's defense.

Speaking after Wednesday evening's practice, Tar Heels coach Larry Fedora described the decision as helping a friend while also gaining Beckman's expertise as a former head coach and defensive coordinator. Fedora and Beckman were assistants together at Oklahoma State in 2007.

''Let me make something clear so everybody understands: I'm the one that sets the expectations on our culture and how our student-athletes are treated,'' Fedora said. ''I'm at the top, I set it for everybody.

''So Tim's here doing what the NCAA allows him to do as a volunteer assistant: studying film, scouting, all those kind of things. And so I'm glad we're able to give him this opportunity until he's able to find employment.''

In an email to The Associated Press on Wednesday, team spokesman Kevin Best said Beckman can interact with players but cannot instruct them as a coach.

The News-Gazette of Champaign, Illinois, first reported Beckman's role.

Illinois fired Beckman shortly before the 2015 opener after a law firm hired by the university concluded he interfered in player medical decisions and pressured players to play through injuries. Beckman denied the accusations and said he was considering legal steps to defend himself before receiving a $250,000 settlement from the school.

Fedora said Wednesday he conferred with athletic director Bubba Cunningham before bringing Beckman on as a volunteer assistant at the start of training camp.

''If I wouldn't have known Tim, it may not have happened,'' he said.

Asked about the perception of bringing Beckman into the program, Fedora responded: ''I don't believe everything I read, all right? I know Tim. I know his side of the story also. So I was comfortable with it.

''If I wouldn't have been, obviously I wouldn't have brought him. I wouldn't allow him to be in our program, but I was very comfortable with it. I don't have any issues with it at all.''

Fedora said rules allow Beckman to be on the sideline for games or travel this season, but said no decisions have been made on whether that will happen.

The Tar Heels beat the Illini 48-14 at home last season with Bill Cubit serving as Illinois' interim coach. UNC visits Illinois, now led by former NFL coach Lovie Smith, on Sept. 10.

The Tar Heels open the season Sept. 3 against No. 18 Georgia in Atlanta.

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AP Writer David Mercer in Champaign, Illinois, contributed to this report.

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Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap and the AP's college football site at http://collegefootball.ap.org

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