Big Ten

Illini interim AD: Decision on Bill Cubit will come by Sunday


Illini interim AD: Decision on Bill Cubit will come by Sunday

A decision on Bill Cubit’s future at Illinois will come no later than 24 hours after Saturday’s regular-season finale against Northwestern.

During a Wednesday interview on "The Tay and J Show" on ESPN Radio 93.5, Illinois interim athletics director Paul Kowalczyk was asked if a decision on the interim head coach's future needs to be made this weekend, and he said that indeed it does.

"In my mind, we need to make that call and figure out which way we’re going for everybody’s sake," Kowalczyk said. "To me, it’s post haste, absolutely.”

Cubit has served as interim head coach since former head coach Tim Beckman was fired a week before the start of the season, but it has not been known whether Cubit — who's done an admirable job holding the team together and winning as many games as he has under difficult circumstances — will be able to stick around as the team's permanent head coach or if the school will bring in a new coach to lead the program.

It seems, though, that we'll find out the answer this weekend.

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Kowalczyk was complimentary of the job Cubit has done, praising his ability to focus on the football team with all the uncertainty swirling around him in Champaign. Beckman fired a week before the season after initial findings of an investigation into the program determined he was behaving horribly and with little care for the safety and well-being of student-athletes. Then, just a few weeks ago, athletics director Mike Thomas was removed from his role as more ugly details of Beckman's behavior were included in the release of the full investigative report. There's also an interim chancellor at the school.

Cubit, though, has maintained a positive attitude and displayed a passion for the job and his players, all while leading the team a win away from a second straight bowl appearance.

“It’s a challenge for everybody to focus on what’s going on, but he’s been laser-like focused in trying to do right by the university, by our kids," Kowalczyk said. "I can’t praise him enough for what he’s been able to accomplish this year. And if we go up and get another one against Northwestern, that’d really be an awesome way to end the regular season.”

Cubit has repeatedly expressed his desire to stay on as the team's permanent head coach, and he has some credentials. He was the perfect choice to take over so quickly in the wake of Beckman's firing. He provided stability and brought head-coaching experience. His dedication has been evident, as he's become emotional at times when talking about his players and has been vocal and active in trying to earn the community's support for the team.

But is it enough to keep him around full time? Particularly if the Illini should finish with a 5-7 record?

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“There’s a body of work there, let’s put it that way, so the evaluation is based on that body of work," Kowalczyk said. "I don’t know that one game here or there matters as much. But it’s the whole body of work, and we’ll know more Saturday.”

There's no doubting the decision is a tough one. While Cubit has plenty of positives on his side, the Illini — despite playing with enthusiasm — just haven't played very well in most of their games this season. Losses have come in nearly every game against a good opponent, and the offense has been generally ineffective, an important point, as the offense is Cubit's area of expertise.

Plus, there is an above-average number of FBS head-coaching vacancies this offseason, meaning a lot of teams will be competing for top candidates. And though Illinois is a Big Ten job with plenty of attractive attributes, it won't be among the highest-profile openings.

Players supported removing the interim tag and keeping Cubit on as the permanent head coach following the team's final game in Champaign this season, a loss to Ohio State. Whether the administration will fulfill those wishes will be determined this weekend.

Former Illini champion Kevin Anderson upsets Roger Federer in Wimbledon quarterfinal


Former Illini champion Kevin Anderson upsets Roger Federer in Wimbledon quarterfinal

Former University of Illinois tennis star Kevin Anderson completed a marathon upset against an all-time great on the highest stage of professional tennis.

Anderson came back from two sets down to beat Roger Federer in Wimbledon’s quarterfinals 2-6, 6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 13-11 on Wednesday morning. He will play in the semifinals of the tournament for the first time in his career.

As a native of South Africa, Anderson played three seasons with the Fighting Illini and won the NCAA doubles championship during the 2005-06 season as a sophomore. The 32-year-old was a three-time All-American in singles at Illinois.

Now, as the eighth ranked singles player on the ATP World Tour, Anderson is a force to be reckoned with at the professional level. He made it all the way to the US Open final in 2017.

The former Illini star will look to keep his recent success going when he represents Illinois in the semifinals of Wimbledon this Friday.

Northwestern set to play Wisconsin at Wrigley Field in 2020

Northwestern set to play Wisconsin at Wrigley Field in 2020

Weeks will separate a perfect 10-year anniversary where Northwestern will play at Wrigley Field for one of its regular season games in the upcoming years.

Back on Nov. 20, 2010, the Wildcats battled it out with Illinois, known as the “Wrigleyville Classic,” which saw the Illini take a 48-27 win.

Even though it’s still two years out, Northwestern still planned ahead and announced its opponent for its game at Wrigley Field on Nov. 7, 2020, against Big Ten rival Wisconsin.

“Obviously an exciting opportunity for our football program to come back to Wrigley Field, one of the Cathedrals of sporting venues in the world,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “When I announced it to our team, they were absolutely ecstatic.”

“The opportunity to play at Wrigley field is unique to us, being Chicago’s Big Ten team, and to have the chance to come down and play in an atmosphere like we did a few years back was a bowl game type atmosphere, and I look forward to this special opportunity.”

This game though will be a little different than it was back in 2010. Both the Wildcats and Illini played toward the west end zone due to a tight squeeze near the right field wall due to box seats that were added down the third base line.

Now, Northwestern and Wisconsin do not have to worry about that problem because the bullpens have since moved to the outfield.

Cubs president of business operations Crane Kenney spoke at a news conference earlier on Tuesday at Wrigley.

“So excited to welcome back Northwestern to Wrigley Field to talk about football again,” Kenney said. “We had an incredible experience with them back in 2010."

Kenney also mentioned new seating is on a temporary platform that can all be removed and the dugout tops can be removed as well, and the field will expand west, to allow for a longer field.

With a sellout crowd in the last go around for the Wildcats, don’t be surprised for another sellout at the Friendly Confines.