Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas announced Beckman’s firing in a statement that cited preliminary results of an external review into allegations involving the program’s alleged pressuring of players to play through injuries. Thomas said the preliminary briefing revealed “efforts to deter injury reporting and influence medical decisions that pressured players to avoid or postpone medical treatment and continue playing despite injuries.”
In an emailed statement to reporters, Beckman denied the “implications” in Thomas’s statement.
“I am shocked and extremely disappointed by the decision Mike Thomas and the University of Illinois made today regarding my employment as Head Coach of the football team,” Beckman said. “First and foremost, I firmly deny the implications in Mike’s statements that I took any action that was not in the best interests of the health, safety and well-being of my players. The health and well-being of our student athletes is of paramount importance to me, and any statement made to the contrary is utterly false.”
Beckman also refuted a portion of Thomas’s statement that said the external review also found some instances where players 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.”
“Additionally, in connection with scholarships for student-athletes, I have complied with the policies and regulations of both the University and the NCAA and I have fully supported the University’s compliance office,” Beckman said. “Moreover, all of the actions that I took regarding individual scholarships were in lockstep with the University's appointed personnel and the directions and approvals I received from the University officials.”
Beckman added that he sat down for two “lengthy” interviews for the investigation and fully cooperated. Calling the “entire process ... nothing more than a rush to judgement [sic],” Beckman vowed to continue defending himself.
“Furthermore, the University’s actions today are in violation of the procedures mandated under my employment agreement. As such, I will vigorously defend both my reputation and my legal rights.”
Beckman, 50, coached Illinois for four seasons, leading the Fighting Illinois to a 12–25 record (4–20 Big Ten) and one bowl berth, a loss in the 2014 Heart of Dallas Bowl.
By firing Beckman with cause, Illinois will not pay out the remaining $3.1 million on the last two years of Beckman’s five-year contract or his $743,000 buyout.
Thomas named offensive coordinator Bill Cubit interim head coach for the 2015 season.
Illinois begins the season Sept. 4 vs. Kent State.
- Mike Fiammetta