Which Big Ten Coach Will be Next to Go? It's Tim Beckman, Right?

By Michael Citro on May 22, 2014 at 1:00p

Darrell Hazell is new at Purdue. Kevin Wilson has made Indiana fun to watch (on offense, anyway). Jerry Kill has Minnesota competitive. Iowa is improved and can’t afford to fire Kirk Ferentz anyway.

So which Big Ten coach is next to go? Tim Beckman of Illinois? 

Could be.

Beckman was a pretty successful coach at Toledo before accepting the head coaching position for Illinois. I say “pretty” successful because he was just 21-16 in three years there (17-7 in the MAC). Then he moved to Champaign to take over the Illini.

His first year at was an unmitigated disaster. The “Fighting” Illini went 2-10 and failed to win a single conference game (0-8).

“I didn’t do a good enough job the first year. Bottom line,” Beckman said. “It’s not the kids’ fault. It was my fault.”

It appeared to be a bad hire. After all, Ron Zook had won six games with the team in 2011, winning the first six games before Ohio State started the Illini’s 0-6 skid to end the regular season. After Zook was fired, the team beat UCLA in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.

But first-year coaches often take a step backward before turning things around. And it did seem that Illinois was improving.

Where are 6-7 Wins?
Date Opponent
8/30 Youngstown St.
9/6 W. Kentucky
9/13 @ Washington
9/20 Texas State
9/27 @ Nebraska
10/4 Purdue
10/11 @ Wisconsin
10/25 Minnesota
11/1 @ Ohio State
11/15 Iowa
11/22 Penn State
11/29 @ Northwestern

Last year, Beckman’s squad won four games and finally grabbed his elusive first B1G win — a 20-16 barn burner over Purdue at West Lafayette. One of the losses came in overtime on the road at Penn State.

Beckman still hasn’t gotten his first home conference win in the Big Ten.

However, there were other positive signs than just a few extra wins. Beckman’s team posted the no. 22 passing offense in the country (second in the B1G) with 288 yards per game, and the 46th ranked total offense (fifth in the B1G), with 427 yards per contest.

Illinois scored 24 points or more in eight of its 12 games. The Illini averaged just under 30 points per game. That side of the ball was not too shabby, aside from a struggle at times to run the football.

It was the defense that let the team, and Beckman, down. Illinois finished the 2013 season with the No. 110 total defense (11th in the B1G), the 116th rushing defense (12th in the B1G), and the 104th ranked scoring defense (10th in the B1G).

I figured all Beckman had to do to save his job this season was to shore up the defense and improve the running game a bit.

Then I looked at the schedule.

It’s hard to say how many victories would save Beckman from the axe in 2014, but even a conservative estimate of six — which would show another two-game improvement and likely add some conference wins — is difficult to see.

I have a hard time projecting more than five Illinois wins in 2014 based on the schedule.  In the non-conference slate, Youngstown State, Western Kentucky and Texas State could all be wins.  All three are at home in the Memorial Stadium wind tunnel.

But two of those are no gimmies. Youngstown State went 8-4 last year and has given FBS teams problems before. Western Kentucky also went 8-4 under Bobby Petrino last year. He’s gone back to Louisville, leaving Jeff Brohm as head coach, but WKU may not be a pushover. Texas State was 6-6 and even a bad B1G team should be able to handle the Bobcats.

The other non-conference game is at Washington. The Huskies beat the Illini last season by 10 on a “neutral field” in Chicago. I don’t see a win in Seattle for Illinois.

The B1G schedule is unkind to Beckman in 2014. The Illini start at Nebraska. That’s not optimal. A home game follows against Purdue, which is one of two potential conference wins I see. A trip to Wisconsin is next and that doesn’t seem promising.


A home date against Minnesota may have been an easier task a few years ago, but Kill has the Gophers playing better each year. This might have to become a win to get Beckman’s team to six for the year. I’m not sure six will save him, but five almost certainly won’t.

The Illibuck game in Columbus comes next. Unlikely.

Two home games follow, but the opponents are Iowa and Penn State. Illinois will likely be heavy underdogs in both. The regular season ends at Northwestern in a rivalry game that might be a must-win for Beckman.

My first instinct after thinking about Illinois’ 2013 year was that Beckman might be getting things turned around. This may even be true, but without surviving 2014 we’ll never know. And the truth is that the schedule just doesn’t set up well for that to happen.

That said, Beckman may not be the next B1G coach to get fired. But it would probably take some kind of NCAA violations, a very bad start by Indiana or an unexpected collapse by one of the “better” teams for someone else to beat him to the punch.

Good luck, Coach Beckman. You’ve got a difficult job ahead of you.


Comments Show All Comments

Barnsey69's picture

He gone.

Thank the Maker that I was born in Ohio, cradle of coaches, US Presidents, confederate-stomping Generals, and home of The Ohio State University Football Buckeyes- 2014 UNDISPUTED National Champions!

+4 HS
MarkC's picture

Tim Beckman was a terrible hire. He was adequate at a MAC school and played the worst OSU team in a century tough. He was never a Big Ten caliber coach. He inherited a cupboard that was not bare and turned a bowl-caliber team with decent returning talent into a 2-10 team, getting waxed often. This article after his first couple games pretty much sums it up: http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2012/09/25/wisch-the-truth-about-illinois-fo...

So, who would be a good hire for Illinois after this season? Mike Leach running his air raid with talent from Chicago, St Louis, and Texas would have been an inspired hire two years ago. Think you could pluck him out of Pullman WA? If Ball State's Pete Lembo can replace QB Keith Wenning and WR Willie Snead (both now in the NFL) and win 9+ games for a third straight year, he may be your guy. How about a Butch Davis kind of guy with proven recruiting and program building success? He could do well with the talent in Chicago, St Louis, Florida, and the mid-Atlantic region. I'm sure there is a big time NFL guy with Illinois ties I am forgetting about. 

HilltopHustle's picture

I'll be nice and give Illinois wins against YSU and TX State. WKU should be a win, so we'll say they squeak that one out. Purdue and Minnesota could be wins—somewhat even match-ups—but even still, that's only 5. I'm not seeing that bowl game here, and I think Tim's the one B1G coach we see fired next offseason.

Remember when some Buckeye fans wanted Beckman to be the next head coach if we needed a back-up plan? Those were the days.

HilltopHustle's picture

Let me add to my reply that I think Beckman's seat is hotter than Hoke's, who we mostly agree needs to get to 10 wins and/or a win against MSU and/or OSU. I do think Hoke has a better chance of survival based on talent than what Tim's working with at Illinois, but we'll see.

+1 HS
ShowThemOhiosHere's picture

I see 4 wins there.  YSU, WKU, Texas State, Purdont.

Class of 2010.

+1 HS
Hovenaut's picture

Honestly don't even know who he has back from last year's team - if that would even matter.

Didn't they take Cincinnati to the woodshed early last season?

3-9, can't say for certain he makes it to the NW game.

+1 HS
Buckeye in Illini country's picture

By the time of the Penn State game, I would be surprised if 15,000 people were in the stadium (it holds about 60,000) with 5,000 wearing blue and white. 

The win total will be a maximum of five.  He will be canned by the end of season and so should the athletic director.

Columbus to Pasadena: 35 hours.  "We're on a road trip through the desert looking for strippers and cocaine... and Rose Bowl wins!"


A winning record is the only thing that will save him unfortunately. Illinois posts a winning record against that schedule it will be one of the big stories of the year. I don't see it happening.

"Sherman ran an option play right through the south" - Greatest Civil War analogy EVER.

ziplock007's picture

The Sept. 27th Game @ Nebraska is the Hot Seat Bowl...

Losing Coach gets fired!

+1 HS
ScarletArrow's picture

Beckman can't complain the institution is not supporting him... The Illini were 2nd (2011), 2nd (2012) and 3rd (2013) in amounts spent on recruiting.

As we saw with RRod at TSUN, it's so hard to find a coach that is able to synthesize recruiting, player development, game day coaching and institutional obligations into one magical fit.

Beckman, like so many other MAC coaches before him, was probably a decent coach who could have built a solid, decade long career if he had decided to stay at Toledo.

+1 HS
ToetotheFace's picture

I don't know if I would compare a guy who was a mediocre coach in the MAC to someone who had 3 top 5/10 finishes with WVU including one that was incredibly unlucky not to make the national championship(07). Also have to include the fact that WVU was terrible before RR took over. Now he is in Arizona and has had that(terrible) program at 8-5 the last two seasons including a blowout win over Oregon. 

RR wasn't a very good fit for Michigan. He was unable to carry over his def coordinator(a very good one), the climate/league style didn't necessarily work out in favor of his offense, and the roster he inherited was a terrible fit for both of the schemes he ran at WVU. Now it is on him that he was unable to adapt, and recruit well enough to have success, but I don't think that exactly puts him in the league of a Tim Beckman when he has already proven he can produce high level BCS bowl success. I realize you were comparing the difficulty of a coach's transition to a higher level and completely different school(which is true), but I thought the difference needed to be pointed out.

ScarletArrow's picture

It's cool.  I agree with everything you said.  I was making 3 independent points (1. Institutional support is present, 2. Success in one place doesn't guarantee a fit someplace else, 3.  Beckman is a decent coach, in the MAC.) that did not necessarily relate to one another.

SilverBullet-98's picture


If the Univrsity of Illinois has a Jim Tressel :"build a fence around the states talent" the last 3 years their roster could be this.

I think the B1G would have another Top 10-15 Power. Just food for thought.

1)*2015- Terry Beckner Jr. DE-----5star-----?
1) 2012- Tommy Schutt      DT-----4star(OSU)-B1G
1) 2014- Clifton Garrett MLB----- 5star(Lsu)-SEC
2) 2014- Nyles Morgan MLB/SAM---- 5star(ND)-ACC
15)2014- Nile Sykes OLB-----------3star(ND)-ACC
4) 2014- Parker  Westphal S-------4star(NU)-B1G
4) 2012- Faith Ekakitie DE--------4star(IA)-B1G
5) 2012- Jaleel Johnson DT--------4star(IA)-B1G
6) 2014- DeWayne Hendrix DE-------4star(Tenn)-SEC
9) 2013- Josh Augasta DT----------4star(Missou)-SEC
9) 2014- Dylan Thompson DE--------3star(OSU)-B1G
12)2013- Darius Mosely CB---------3star(ILL)-B1G ******

1) 2013- Laquon Treadwell WR----- 5star(Miss)-SEC
2)*2015- Miles Boykin WR----------4stars------?
16)2014- Clayton Thorston QB------3star(NU)-B1G
4) 2013- Kyle Bosch---------------4stars(tsun)-B1G
2) 2012- Jordan Diamond-----------4star(AUB)-SEC
3) 2013- Ethan Pocic OL-----------4star(Lsu)-SEC
3) 2014- Jamarco Jones OT---------4star(OSU)-B1G
12)2014- Tanner Farmer OT---------3star(Neb)-B1G
3) 2015- Gabe Megginson-----------4star(ILL)-B1G******
2) 2013- Ty Issac RB--------------5star(USC)-Pac-14
5) 2014- Justin Jackson RB--------4star(NU)-B1G
6)*2015- Dre Brown RB-------------3star(ILL)-B1G******
7) 2014- Daniel Helm TE-----------4star(Tenn)-SEC
8) 2014- Brian Allen C------------3Star(MSU)-B1G
22)2014- Mike Dudek WR------------3star(ILL)-B1G******
8) 2014- Brian Allen C------------3Star(MSU)-B1G

"The Past Builds the Future"

+4 HS
Buckabroad's picture

That is an impressive list. Hard to argue your point, too.

"The minute we stop expecting greatness, we become Wisconsin."