In a surprise to many Illini faithful, the University of Toledo's Tim Beckman will be the new head coach at Illinois. This morning Beckman told his players that he would be going to the Illini.
The Toledo Blade has reported that Toledo athletic director is holding a press conference this afternoon where it is expected that he will name offensive coordinator Matt Campbell to lead the Rockets. The University of Illinois will be holding a press conference this afternoon to introduce Beckman as the 23rd head coach of the Illini football programs.
Earlier this week Beckman's name was not even amongst the names being widely speculated as taking over the Illini. The Chicago Tribune's Shannon Ryan had Houston coach Kevin Sumlin, Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Todd Monken and Pittsburgh Steelers running back coach Kirby Wilson being the main candidates.
While the News-Gazette had Beckman on their list, he was a 20-1 longshot, behind Temple's Steve Addazio, Wyoming's Dave Christensen, Wisconsin's Paul Chryst and the Steeler's Wilson and on par with Sumlin and Iowa State's Paul Rhoads.
As the coaching search unfolded, the Illini faithful have seen that athletic director Mike Thomas stayed clear of candidates with baggage like Mike Leach. Efforts to lure the "hot" coaching candidates like Sumlin or Southern Mississippi's Larry Fedora were rejected. The desire for a coach with head coaching experience left fan hopefuls Monken and Wilson on the sidelines.
Is Beckman a good hire for the Illini?
After the smoke cleared, that left Beckman as the man being named to lead the Illini into the 2012 season.
About the Coach
In three seasons at Toledo, Beckman compiled a 21-16 record. He has led the Rockets to a 8-4 mark this season and the program's second consecutive bowl appearance.
Prior to moving to Toledo, Beckman served as the defensive coordinator at Oklahoma State. Beckman has Big Ten ties as he spent two seasons with Ohio State, serving as the cornerbacks coach.
Beckman has stated that, "I've been around football and football coaches all my life. I was born with a football. My dad coached high school ball and up to college ball and the pros, so I've had a chance to see it all."
In addition to his father being a football man, he has worked under three successful coaches during his coaching tenure. Beckman has been mentored by Jim Tressel at Ohio State, Urban Meyer at Bowling Green and Mike Gundy at Oklahoma State.
The coaching trees he is attached to will hopefully serve him with the Illini faithful as well as the high scoring offense that the Rockets had late this season, posting 60+ points in consecutive games in November.
The University of Toledo can hang their hat on the changes in mentality that took place under Beckman's watch. Not only were there successes on the field, but off it as well as student GPA rose from 2.370 to 2.922 and the team's four-year Academic Progress Rate (APR) has risen to a school-record 943.
Should the Illini keep Vic Koenning as defensive coordinator?
It has been reported that Beckman has had success in recruiting, as he has he has brought the top recruiting class in the MAC the past to Toledo according to the Toledo Blade.
However, Chicagoland recruiting guru Tom Lemming says, "Toledo doesn't recruit Chicago." With that being the case, it will be seen if his success in the MAC will translate to success in the competitive Big Ten.
The Chicago Tribune reported that Athletic director Mike Thomas doesn't seem to be concerned about this as Beckman has the Midwest recruiting strengths and the head coaching experience he desires in a candidate
The Road Ahead
The new coach has an uphill battle to succeed at Illinois. Since Ray Eliot retired at Illinois, no coach has lasted longer than eight years and only two (Mike White and John Mackovic) posted winning records.
Beckman will have to make the right hires as soon as possible to help assure those concerned about this selection. Though he is a defensive-minded coach, he needs to find a strong defensive coordinator.
This will help reduce concerns about his Toledo defense that is 89th in the nation, allowing 30.9 points a contest. A hire that would go a long way with the Illinois faithful and players is in Illini's fold already, interim coach Vic Koenning.
The new coach is going to have to reach out to the fan base and the community as Ron Zook lost them in recent years. The hard work he put in at Toledo will have to be done here to get the Illini faithful to accept what can be done and that he is the right man to move things forward.
It is a concern that Beckman will not fire up the masses as Zook did upon his arrival to Champaign. However, if he replicates the positives he did with Toledo, the fans will come. If not, he will join the growing list of coaching disappointments for the Illini.
Let the clock on the Beckman era (and Thomas's legacy) begin. Go Illini