Tim Beckman, who was fired Friday as the head football coach at Illinois, is not going away quietly.
Beckman was fired, according to athletics director Mike Thomas, after initial findings in an investigation into allegations of his mistreatment of players supported those claims. Thomas said that Beckman made efforts to deter injury reporting and influence medical decisions that pressured players to avoid or postpone medical treatment and continue playing despite their injuries. Initial findings also included Beckman mistreating players in regards to their scholarship status.
Beckman released a statement hours after his firing, calling the preliminary findings in the investigation "utterly false."
[MORE BIG TEN: Tim Beckman saga shows importance of student-athlete voice]
“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 in the statement. "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. 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 compliance office. 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 university officials.
“I fully cooperated with the university’s investigation, having sat down for two lengthy interviews and turning over all documentation requested of me. The fact that the university did not even complete its investigation in this matter is evidence that this entire process was nothing more than a rush to judgment and confirms the university’s abject bad faith. 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.
“I am very proud of my career at the University of Illinois. Off-field incidents involving my players have been essentially non-existent while academic performance and graduation rates have been extraordinary. The love and support I have received today from my players means everything to me.”
Beckman's defiant statement signals that Thomas' wish to turn the page will not at all be easy. Many of his words seem to indicate that legal action is forthcoming.
This whole thing started when former offensive lineman Simon Cvijanovic sent out a string of tweets in May alleging that Beckman is an abusive bully who forced players to play hurt, demonized injured players and threatened to take away players' scholarships. Thomas' statements Friday after firing Beckman seemed to indicate that those allegations were supported by the investigation.
In this statement, Beckman denies it all.
It's true that Beckman's tenure came with much academic success and none of the off-the-field legal issues players at Power 5 conference schools typically find themselves in, and Thomas praised that aspect of the Beckman Era on Friday. Thomas also pointed out that Beckman's firing had nothing to do with his win-loss record and everything to do with the report's initial findings.
It is also worth noting that this was a part of Friday's release announcing Beckman's firing:
Beckman will not receive the $3.1 million remaining on the last two years of his original five-year contract or the $743,000 called for if his contract had been bought out.