Bill Cubit's future at Illinois is still yet to be determined, but one Wednesday-night report indicated the school could be leaning toward keeping Cubit on a bit more permanently.
The Tribune's Shannon Ryan reported that Illinois is "exploring" a two-year contract for Cubit, which would elevate him from his current interim status.
Cubit took over as the team's interim head coach after Tim Beckman was fired a week before the start of the season. Cubit has led the team to a 5-6 record with one regular-season game left to play Saturday against a Northwestern. A win in that game would send the Illini to a bowl game for the second straight season.
Interim athletics director Paul Kowalczyk said in a radio interview Wednesday that a decision would be made on Cubit's future no later than Sunday.
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According to Ryan, however, a decision to keep Cubit on would have more to do with an unorganized search for a new athletics director and a short amount of time in which to make that hire.
According to sources, Cubit's future hinges less on the outcome of Saturday's game and more on the program's pressing time frame to make significant hires.
The search for a permanent coach and athletic director is unorganized, the sources said, with program donors taking it upon themselves to attempt to contact candidates with Illinois ties. Interim Chancellor Barbara Wilson is also taking the lead on vetting candidates, a source said.
Mike Thomas was removed as the team's athletics director on Nov. 9 when more ugly details of Beckman's behavior were made public with the release of a full investigative report on the program.
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Cubit has brought stability, passion and positivity to a program that could have been torn apart by the firing of Beckman, who was found to have behaved horribly as the team's head coach with a disregard for the safety and well-being of student-athletes. Cubit has displayed emotion when talking about his players — who have played with noticeable enthusiasm this season — and been vocal and active in trying to rally the community around the team.
Cubit has prior head-coaching experience from his days at Western Michigan and has voiced a desire to remain Illinois' permanent head coach, at one point saying it will be difficult for Illinois administrators to find someone who loves the school as much as he does.
However, for all the great work Cubit has done under challenging circumstances, the team has not played particularly well this season, failing in most every test against quality competition and displaying complete ineffectiveness on offense, Cubit's area of expertise.
If the Illini lose to Northwestern on Saturday, it will be the third time in the past four seasons they've missed a bowl game.