Chicago Sun-Times
With Sun-Times sports reporter Herb Gould

December 2011 Archives

There was no boycott of the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl on Saturday by Illinois assistant coaches, who were on the field during pre-game activities. They planned to carry out their in-game responsibilities, their former boss, Ron Zook, said.
Offensive-line coach Joe Gilbert had told Sports Illustrated's online edition that he, offensive coordinator Jeff Brohm and tight ends coach Chip Long were considering not coaching.
They wanted university officials to restore--or improve, depending on the interpretation--their severance-pay benefits. They originally were hired at Illinois with two-year contracts, but the two-year deals were not rolled over when they signed new contracts.
``If they want the bowl game to be coached,'' Gilbert said to this week, ``they better decide they want to treat us the right way.''
After speaking with some of his former assistants, Zook, who was fired on Nov. 27, told that there would be no boycott.
``They're going to coach,'' Zook said. ``They're frustrated. But they're going to coach. They know it's about the kids. But they were trying to make a point. They've got careers, family, all of those things. They're class guys. And it's important that everyone knows they're really good people.''
SAN FRANCISCO--It was already among the strangest bowls in the world.
Illinois (6-6) enters the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl Saturday (2:30 p.m., ESPN) with a six-game losing streak, which might be unprecedented for a bowl team. UCLA (6-7) needed a waiver from the NCAA to play in a bowl with a losing record.
And the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, which pits two teams that have fired their coaches, keeps getting stranger.
Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas said Friday he was unaware of a threat by four assistant coaches to boycott the game if the university doesn't resolve issues in the exit language of their contracts.
Assistant head coach/offensive line coach Joe Gilbert told Sports Illustrated's online edition that he, Jeff Brohm, Chip Long and DeAndre Smith--the entire remaining offensive staff--are considering not coaching when the Illini play UCLA Saturday (2:30 p.m., ESPN).
However, Smith said through an Illinois spokesman that he is not involved with any possible boycott or the contract squabble..
``If they want the bowl game to be coached,'' Gilbert said on, ``they better decide they want to treat us the right way.''
The coaches are reportedly upset that a late change to their contracts--which they didn't notice before signing--eliminates what would have been a full year of severance pay.
The situation is adding to the headaches for interim coach Vic Koenning. who's trying to stay out of the controversy.
``If they don't [coach], we'll figure out what the next thing is,'' Koenning said. ``I'm not going to worry about something that hasn't happened yet. I'm trying to worry about how we're gonna stop No. 8 and No. 83 and stay in our gaps.''
No. 8 is junior tight end Joseph Fauria, who has caught six touchdowns, the most by a UCLA receiver since 2005. No. 83 is senior receiver Nelson Rosario, who's fifth in the UCLA record book in career catches (143) and receiving yards (2,307).

Score another shrewd move for Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany.
The plan to strengthen ties with the Pac-12 by increasing athletic competition is a nice subtle response to the expansion mayhem that is sweeping the nation. It will give the two leagues a way to grow the audiences of their television networks without the complications and headaches.
The Big East's frantic trans-continental expansion plans to keep its football league alive are fraught with peril. Even the rock-solid SEC, with its additions of Texas A&M and Missouri, has created the potential for scheduling and geography issues.
Having covered an early-season game in the Rose Bowl--a 6-3 UCLA win over Illinois on Sept. 13, 2003--I can tell you a game like that can be a mere step-child to the Granddaddy of Them All. But it also has the potential to be good stuff--Illinois and Arizona State put on a good show in Champaign in September--if the teams are right.
And a series of Big Ten/Pac-12 nonconference matchups will beat the stuffing out of those endless tuneups in which Northeast Southwest State picks up a guarantee for getting pounded.
It's also a nice tip of the cap to the conferences' Rose Bowl partner and other bowl-system proponents who don't want a Plus-One or playoff system shoved down their throat. By further solidifying ties with the Pac-12, the Big Ten, which has been the conference most concerned with protecting the bowl system, has added a stronger potential ally.
Adding more competitive early-season games to the basketball schedules also seems promising.
The recent additions of Nebraska to the Big Ten, and Utah and Colorado to the Pac-12, are looking like solid moves that give the two leagues conference-championship-game symmetry and television benefits without reaching too far.
This new partnership also seems like a good next step because it allows the leagues to remain flexible.
If Notre Dame ever reverses its field and wants to join the Big Ten, that would be irresistible. In the meantime, since the Irish have given every indication they're not interested, the Big Ten has found a way to turn on more television sets, and enhance recruiting, throughout the vast Pac-12 West.
It's a good move for the Big Ten, another careful advance by Delany in the changing world of big-time college athletics.


Leading rusher Jason Ford will miss the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl because he is academically ineligible, Illinois announced Friday. Redshirt freshman wide receiver Jake Kumerow did not qualify academically.
Ford ran for 600 yards on 155 carries, a 3.9-yard average, and seven touchdowns this fall. He finishes his career 1,962 career rushing yards, which ranks 16th on the all-time Illinois rushing list, and 26 career rushing touchdowns, which is second in the Illinois record book behind Howard Griffith (31).
Senior Troy Pollard and freshman Donovonn Young will be Illinois' experienced running backs for the bowl game.
Kumerow had three catches for 15 yards this season, all in the finale vs. Minnesota.

Defensive coordinator Vic Koenning turned down an offer from new Illinois coach Tim Beckman to remain in Champaign on Wednesday.
Koenning, who will remain at Illinois as interim coach for its Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl game vs. UCLA on Dec. 31, is expected to join newly hired North Carolina coach Larry Fedora as the Tar Heels' defensive coordinator.
Defensive coach Keith Gilmore, who has solid recruiting ties in Florida, has accepted Beckman's offer to remain at Illinois.
``When a head coaching change occurs, there are many emotions to deal with,'' Koenning said. ``The support of Illini Nation has been tremendous. I was very honored to be [asked] to remain at Illinois, [but] I feel it is best to explore other opportunities.
Recognizing that Koenning, who headed up a unit that was seventh in total defense and 21s in scoring defense this fall, was very popular as well as successful, Beckman tried to keep him. But it apparently would have been awkward for the two to work together. In addition, Koenning's wife, Tracey, wanted to be closer to her family in Alabama.
``We wish Vic nothing but the best,'' Beckman said. ``He has done fabulous work over the last two seasons, and I know he will remain focused on helping the Fighting Illini prepare for the [bowl] game.''
Beckman, who also was denied his top offensive coordinator candidate when Toledo named Matt Campbell to head coach, will continue to search for his two most important hires.
Retaining Gilmore, who has developed All-America Whitney Mercilus and first-round NFL pick Corey Liuget the last two seasons, is a positive for Illinois' new coach.
``I'm very happy to have Keith Gilmore,'' Beckman said. ``The defensive line was the strongest area of the team and Coach Gilmore did a great job. He's a strong recruiter and will be a great asset for the program.''


New Illinois coach Tim Beckman has asked Vic Koenning, who has ratcheted up Illinois' defense in his two years in Champaign, to continue in his position as defensive coordinator, Koenning said Tuesday.
Koenning, who is serving as the Illini's interim coach for its Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl appearance, said he plans to make a decision by Wednesday.
``He said he'd like me to stay,'' Koenning said after practice. ``There's a lot of things to consider. I'm so humbled by the amount of people that have called or e-mailed, all the attention that's been put on me. We set every record at Clemson and didn't have this kind of support.''

Here's the official news release that Illinois has put out to introduce its new football coach. . . 

Tim Beckman Chosen to Lead Illini Football

Becomes 23rd Head Coach in Illinois History


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Tim Beckman was named the 23rd head football coach at the University of Illinois by director of athletics Mike Thomas Friday. Beckman comes to Illinois after three years as head coach at Toledo, where he led the Rockets to two bowl appearances and a Mid-American Conference West Division co-championship.


"I am very excited to introduce Tim Beckman as the new head football coach at the University of Illinois," Thomas said. "He brings an impressive resume to Illinois and is highly regarded within the entire coaching community. Coach Beckman sold me on his vision for Illinoisfootball throughout the interview process. He is a proven recruiter, has worked alongside some of the nation's top coaches, will have high standards for academic and athletic success, and is a great fit for the Fighting Illini."


"I certainly want to thank Mike Thomas, Chancellor Wise and President Hogan for this outstanding opportunity at the University of Illinois," Beckman said. "We will work tirelessly in building the football program to compete for Big Ten and national championships, and be a source of pride for Fighting Illini fans across the nation. We will recruit the very best student-athletes to represent the University and will work extremely hard to develop strong relationshipswithin the state of Illinois."


"We're excited to welcome Tim Beckman into the Illinois family," Illinois Chancellor Phyllis Wise said. "He understands that excellence, in academics and athletics, is both a tradition and an expectation here. Coach Beckman's proven ability to help student athletes achieve great success on the field, in the classroom and after graduation established him as the clear choice to lead our football program."


Beckman engineered an impressive turnaround at Toledo in his three years at the helm after inheriting a team that went 3-9 in 2008. The Rockets improved to 5-7 in 2009 before going 8-5 with a 7-1 record in the MAC, and a berth in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl in 2010. Toledo posted an 8-4 record this season, including another 7-1 MAC record, a share of the MAC West Division title and a berth in the Military Bowl. In the last two seasons, Beckman has compiled a 14-2 record in MAC games, second-best in the conference over that span.


He has learned under some of the finest coaches in America, including Pat Dye,Urban Meyer, Mike Gundy and Jim Tressel. When he guided the Rockets to an 8-4 regular-season record and a bowl appearance in 2010, it was UT's first since 2005. In addition, his last two recruiting classes have been widely praised, earning a No. 1 ranking among MAC teams by in both seasons after landing two of the three four-star prospects signed by conference schools.


Beckman sent a pair of Toledo players to the NFL in defensive back Barry Church andreceiver Stephen Williams in 2010, and had three players earn first-team All-MAC honors in 2011, including Eric Page, who earned first-team honors as a receiver, kick returner and punt returner.


Before accepting Toledo's head coaching position, Beckman had 21 years of experience as an assistant coach. He served as the defensive coordinator at Oklahoma State (2007-08), the cornerbacks coach at Ohio State (2005-06), the defensive coordinator/assistant head coach at Bowling Green (1998-2004), the defensive coordinator at Elon (1996-97), the secondary coach/recruiting coordinator at Western Carolina (1990-95) and as a graduate assistant at Auburn (1988- 89).


Beckman's two seasons as the defensive coordinator at Oklahoma State were successful, as the Cowboys posted a 16-10 record, including a 9-4 mark in 2008 and an appearance in the Holiday Bowl. In 2007, the Cowboys went 7-6, including a win over Indiana in the Insight Bowl.


At Ohio State, Beckman mentored the Buckeye cornerbacks. During his stay at Ohio State, the Buckeyes were 22-3 and played in two BCS bowl games. Along the way, he coached six All-Big Ten defensive backs and five future NFL players. His final game as a coach withOhio State was the 2007 BCS National Championship Game against Florida, where Beckman faced his former boss from his days at Bowling Green, Urban Meyer.


At Bowling Green, Beckman was a three-time nominee for the Frank Broyles Award, presented annually to thenation's top assistant coach. He was a finalist for the Broyles Award in 2001 and College Football News named him one of the country's top defensive coordinators. During his stay at Bowling Green, the Falcons won two bowl games, a MAC East division title and finished ranked in the national polls in 2003.


Beckman began his coaching career in 1988 as a graduate assistant at Auburn, where he earned his master's degree in education. His first full-time coaching job came at Western Carolina, where he coached the secondary and served as recruiting coordinator from 1990-95. Beckman then served as the defensive coordinator and recruiting coordinator at Elon College from 1996-97 before moving on to Bowling Green.


Beckman started his collegiate playing career at Kentucky but transferred to Findlay and excelled under Hall of Fame head coach Dick Strahm. A 1988 graduate of Findlay, Beckman majored in physical education and lettered in 1984 and 1985 on Oiler teams that qualified for the NAIA playoffs both seasons. Prior to that, he attended Forest Park High School in Beaumont, Texas, for two years before completing high school at Berea (Ohio) High School near Cleveland.


Beckman is a native of Berea, Ohio. He and his wife, Kim, have three children: Tyler (20), Lindsay (18), and Alex (14). Tyler is a sophomore quarterback at the University of Findlay, while Lindsay is a freshman at Toledo.

Head Coach Tim Beckman

Beckman Head Coaching Record

Year           School                                  Record                        MAC               Highlights

2009          Toledo                                  5-7                               3-5

2010          Toledo                                  8-5                               7-1                 Little Caesars Pizza Bowl

2011          Toledo                                  8-4                               7-1                 MAC West Co-Champ/Military Bowl

Career       3 Years                               21-16                           17-7


Beckman's Coaching Experience

Year           School                                  Position                                                                                           

2011-         Illinois                                  Head Coach

2009-11     Toledo                                  Head Coach

2007-08     Oklahoma State                  Defensive Coordinator

2005-06     Ohio State                            Cornerbacks                                                                                                 

1998-04     Bowling Green                     Defensive Coordinator/Asst. Head Coach                                                 

1996-97     Elon                                      Defensive Coordinator/Recruiting Coordinator                                        

1990-95     Western Carolina                Secondary/Recruiting Coordinator                                                             

1988-89     Auburn                                  Graduate Assistant                                                                           


Bowl games participated in as a coach

2010 Little Caesars Pizza Bowl

2007 Insight Bowl

2007 BCS National Championship Game

2005 Fiesta Bowl

2004 GMAC Bowl

2003 Motor City Bowl

1989 Hall of Fame

1988 Sugar Bowl


NFL players coached by Tim Beckman

Barry Church, Toledo (Dallas Cowboys)

Stephen Williams, Toledo (Arizona Cardinals)

Tyler Everett, Ohio State (Dallas Cowboys)

Brandon Mitchell, Ohio State (Houston Texans)

Nate Salley, Ohio State (Carolina Panthers)

Donte Whitner, Ohio State (Buffalo Bills)

Donovan Woods, Oklahoma State (Pittsburgh)

Ashton Youboty, Ohio State (Buffalo Bills)

Playing career

University of Kentucky, 1983

University of Findlay, 1984-87



B.S. degree, physical education, University of Findlay, 1988

M.S. degree, education, Auburn University, 1994


Personal information

Date of Birth: Jan. 19, 1965

Hometown: Berea, Ohio

Family: Wife: Kim; Children: Tyler (20), Lindsay (18) and Alex (14).


Rejected by Houston's Kevin Sumlin, Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas is closing in on Toledo coach Tim Beckman, a defense-oriented coach who has worked for Mike Gundy, Jim Tressel and Urban Meyer, multiple sources said Thursday morning.
Beckman is in his third year at Toledo, which was 8-4 this year, including losses to Ohio State, Boise State, a wild 63-60 loss to Northern Illinois and a controversial 33-30 overtime loss at Syracuse. 
Beckman, 46, fits Thomas' leanings toward hiring someone with head-coaching experience and looking to his Mid-American Conference roots. The MAC has been a fertile league lately, spawning Meyer, Michigan coach Brady Hoke and Missouri coach Gary Pinkel, among others.
Toledo, which will play Air Force in the Military Bowl on Dec. 28, was 8-5 last year and 5-7 in 2009, Beckman's first season as the Rockets coach.
Beckman was Oklahoma State's defensive coordinator in 2007-08 and cornerbacks coach at Ohio State in 2005-06. He was defensive coordinator at Bowling Green in 1998-2004.
Many Illini boosters were enthusiastic about Sumlin because of his dynamic Houston offenses and because Illinois and Purdue are the only Big Ten schools that have not had a black head coach in football or men's basketball.
Beyond Sumlin, Cincinnati coach Butch Jones reportedly turned down the Illinois job. And a source said others also were said no.

Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Todd Monken looks like he'd be a very good fit at Illinois. But Monken, a Wheaton native who recruits well in Illinois and is in charge of the nation's second-highest scoring offense, said Tuesday that he has not talked with Illinois officials.
And there indications that Houston coach Kevin Sumlin is the apple of Illinois' eye. Sumlin, who has assembled an impressive offense at Houston, has head-coaching experience, which athletic director Mike Thomas favors.
Beyond being an exciting hire from a football standpoint, he would be the first African-American head coach of a major sport (football/men's basketball) at Illinois, one of only two Big Ten schools (along with Purdue) that have not had a high-profile minority head coach.
With Texas A&M, North Carolina and other schools trying to hire coaches, it appears that there was a lot negotiating going on, which made it difficult to see where Illinois was headed.
Monken, who'd probably jump for a chance to coach at Illinois, acknowledged that his agent has communicated with Illinois officials, but said he has not spoken with anyone from the Illinois athletic department. 
``I have not been interviewed by Illinois and I have no interview set,'' Monken told the Tulsa World.
Cowboys coach Mike Gundy has not been asked by Illinois officials for permission to talk with Monken, an Oklahoma State spokesman said. 
``I'm in Houston recruiting for Oklahoma State University and I have not heard from anyone about that job,'' Monken told the Daily Oklahoman.
It's not clear if this means Monken is not a candidate--or if he and Illinois officials are trying to keep a lid on things while negotiations go on behind the scenes.
Athletic director Mike Thomas could unveil Illinois' new football coach as early as today, and signs point toward Monken.
Signs also point away from Monken. If he's not Thomas' choice, Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst, Houston coach Kevin Sumlin or a surprise candidate can't be ruled out.
Chryst doesn't have the flair for recruiting that Illinois needs, a source said. And Sumlin, who has far more options than Monken, would command a higher salary and might not want to come to Illinois, which has proven to be a difficult place to be successful. Monken currently earns $400,000 at Oklahoma State; Sumlin is in position to command at least $2 million, whether he remains at Houston or leaves.
On the other hand, Illini fans were trumpeting a Tweet from a Florida Panhandle radio station saying, ``Houston's Kevin Sumlin looks to be in as head coach at Illinois.''
Details, let alone confirmation facts, were conspicuously absent.
Whether Monken, who has turned down interest from Tulane and Memphis, is hired at Illinos or elsewhere, he would be the fifth in the last six Oklahoma State offensive coordinators to become a head coach, following Les Miles (LSU), Gundy , Larry Fedora (Southern Miss) and Dana Holgorsen (West Virginia).
Sources familiar with the offense of Monken and Sumlin say Monken's offensive upside compares very favorably with Sumlin's.
``Monken uses a spread attack, with a commitment to the running game,'' a source said. ``That's why he and Dana will be good head coaches. They're not gimmick guys. They have much more balance than most spread coaches.''
Under the quickest scenario, Illinois could announce its new coach after the 5 p.m. window for applications closes later today, and introduce him at a press conference on Wednesday.
If Thomas hires an offense-oriented head coach, there's a strong possibility defensive coordinator Vic Koenning would remain at Illinois. Koenning, who's serving as interim coach for Illinois' Kraft Bowl meeting with UCLA on Dec. 31, has expressed interest in remaining in Champaign, and has done an impressive job with the defense in his two years there.
Monken has received an oral commitment from Downstate quarterback Wes Lunt, who led Rochester, near Springfield, to the Class 4A title last month.
``He said he received no contact from Illinois,'' Lunt, who was in Stillwater last weekend for the Cowboys' 44-10 rout of Oklahoma, told the Springfield Journal-Register. ``I believed him when he said that. He's been offered some jobs. He said Illinois would be an amazing gig for him, but he had no contact from them.''
Under Monken, who's in his first season as the Cowboys' offensive coordinator, Oklahoma State is averaging 49.3 points a game, second in the nation, and finished third in the BCS standings behind LSU and Alabama. A 37-31 double-ovetime upset loss at Iowa State on Nov. 18 is the only defeat for the Cowboys (11-1).
Before returning to Stillwater, where he was passing game coordinator in 2002-04, Monken had spent two years at LSU's passing game coordinator (2005-06) and four years as receivers coach for the NFL Jacksonvill Jaguars (2007-10).
Monken, a 1989 graduate of Knox College in Galesburg, where he was a quarterback, comes from a long line of Illinois high school coaches.
Twelve Monkens have gone into coaching. They include Monken's father and four uncles, who all became high school head coaches, and seven sons of those five brothers. Monken's cousin, Jeff Monken, is head coach at Georgia Southern.

If Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Todd Monken ends up as Illinois' next coach, his family alone could be a big boost to ticket sales.
The Wheaton native comes from a long line of coaches in the state.
Twelve Monkens have gone into coaching. They include Monken's father and four uncles, who all became high school head coaches, and seven sons of those five brothers. That group includes Todd Monken, who played quarterback at Knox College, and his cousin, Georgia Southern head coach Jeff Monken.
``Six of them were coaching Illinois high school football at one time,'' recruiting analyst Tom Lemming told me. ``I kept running into Monkens in the '80s.''
Todd Monken, who has strong recruiting ties in the Chicago area, has shown his flair for offense at Oklahoma State this fall.
``They were OK last year,'' Lemming said. ``This year they're an elite team. He's brought them to the next level. If Illinois is going to to go for an assistant, there's not many better than him.''
Under Monken, the Cowboys' offense is averaging 49.8 points a game, second in the nation. A Jacksonville Jaguars assistant in 2007-10, Monken was LSU's passing game coordinator in 2005-06, a position he also held at Oklahoma State in 2002-04.

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