When the Illinois Fighting Illini hired Tim Beckman to be their head coach in December of 2011 they were coming off a season that saw the previous coach, Ron Zook, jump out to a 6-0 record and the Illini ranked at number 16. Zook’s tenure in Champaign saw various highs and lows, capped with a Rose Bowl berth in 2007. Zook finished his career at Illinois with a 34-51 record. For whatever reason, the Illinois fan base and athletic department did not think that going to three bowls in seven seasons was good enough.
Exit Ron Zook and enter Tim Beckman. Beckman came to the Illini after coaching at Toledo for three seasons where he compiled a 21-16 record and led the Rockets to berths in the Little Caesars and Military Bowls. The hire was a head scratcher even though Beckman had some success in the MAC.
Beckman’s first season was a huge disappointment as the Illini went 2-10 and winless in the Big Ten. Of course when a new staff comes in a little drop off is expected, but it is not as if Zook left the cupboard bare as the Illini returned Nathan Scheelhaase, Donovon Young, and Ryan Lankford on offense as well as defensive standouts Johnathon Brown, Akeen Spence, and Michael Buchanan. The 2012 team just did not live up to expectations.
2013 saw the Illini bring in a new offensive coordinator and some improvement. The team went 4-8 and finally won a Big Ten game albeit against a historically bad Purdue squad. Coming in to the 2014 season the Illini had high expectations, especially with the addition of quarterback Wes Lunt and playing in the much easier Big Ten West. It seemed that anything less than six wins would bring an end to the Beckman Era at Illinois. This season started off well if you only looked at the records and scores on paper, but the 3-1 slate was not as impressive as it could have been as Illinois struggled in each of their wins against lower tier opponents.
Illinois still had a shot to save Beckman’s skin heading into the matchup with Purdue, a team that has been adjusting to a new coach and had one win the year before. By the time the game was over Purdue had given coach Darrell Hazell his first Big Ten win and potentially put the final nail in Beckman’s coffin.
The loss to the Boilermakers will ultimately cost this coach his job. Illinois has a long, storied history playing Big Ten football and potentially going 1-23 in the Big Ten during his three years is well below Illinois’ standards. Tim Beckman’s seat is no longer hot, his chair likely no longer exists, and Beckman will be left standing until the 2014 season comes to a close in late November and the offseason coaching carousel resumes.
*Section Photo credit to Michael Hickey, Getty Images; Featured Photo (above) credit to Bruce Thorson, USA Today Sports