New Illinois athletics director Josh Whitman made a big move on his first official day on the job.
Whitman announced the dismissal of head football coach Bill Cubit on Saturday morning, ending Cubit's brief tenure as the head coach of the Fighting Illini. Offensive coordinator Ryan Cubit was also dismissed.
Cubit served as the interim head coach during the majority of last season after Tim Beckman was fired a week before the season opener. Cubit led the Illini to a 5-7 record, and he was named the permanent head coach before the season finale against Northwestern, receiving a two-year contract.
“I appreciate the leadership that Bill Cubit provided our football program during what has been, unquestionably, a very tumultuous time,” Whitman said in the announcement. “He accepted the challenge on an interim basis under incredibly difficult and unusual circumstances, and he has continued to work diligently for the betterment of our student-athletes. Through his efforts, he has kept the program moving forward. Bill is a good man and a good football coach. All of us in the Illini Nation owe him a debt of gratitude for his work leading our team these last months. At this juncture, however, I think it is most important that we position our program for long-term success by creating a more stable environment for the coaches, players and prospective student-athletes.”
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It's another shock to the program's system, as spring practice was scheduled to begin March 11. The announcement said that the start of spring practice will be delayed until a new coach is in place and that there will be information in the future regarding the spring game, scheduled for April 16.
Cubit joined Beckman's staff as offensive coordinator ahead of the 2013 season and with the help of quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase transformed the Illini into one of the more explosive offenses in the Big Ten. The numbers took a dip, however, in the first year with quarterback Wes Lunt in 2014, and the Illinois offense continued to struggle a season ago with Cubit as the head coach.
Cubit joined the Illini after eight seasons as the head coach at Western Michigan, where he compiled a 51-47 overall record.
That head-coaching experience along with his familiarity with the program made Cubit as good a choice to take over for Beckman as there could have been under those circumstances. Many felt Cubit was dealt a bad hand with that two-year contract, which could have negatively impacted recruiting in addition to show that an athletics department in flux wasn't committed to him.
Now with a new leader in that department, obviously things are moving in a different direction.