The University of Illinois, located in Champaign, Ill., fired their football team’s head coach, Bill Cubit on March 5, 2016. The decision was made by the university’s newly hired Athletic Director, Josh Whitman. Cubit spent one year with Illinois and led the team to an overall record of 5-7 last season.
According to WFTV, Whitman fired the first-year football coach in hopes of building long-term success in what has been a troubled athletic program. The university has had various coaches throughout their other athletic teams. Both the women’s and men’s basketball teams have had two different coaches since 2011. Whitman was hired in February of 2016 to replace the previous Athletic Director, Mike Thomas. Whitman decided to let Cubit go on his first official day, and according to ESPN, the meeting lasted only five minutes. He chose to keep the university’s men’s basketball coach, John Groce, for another season.
The players and Cubit were in shock of the decision. Mikey Dudek, Illinois wide receiver posted on Twitter that he “loved” finding out about this through social media. Ke’Shawn Vaughn, a running back, also expressed on Twitter that he has had three different coaches within one year. Chayce Crouch, their quarterback, tweeted that it is “crazy” he has to refresh his Twitter feed to receive updates on his football team.
Cubit worked alongside the former Fighting Illini head coach, Tim Beckman, as his offensive coordinator. Beckman recruited him after he was fired from the head coach position at Western Michigan University in 2013. Cubit replaced the former football coach after he was fired in August 2015, prior to the start of the college football season. Cubit was announced as the official head coach that November and was offered a two-year contract.
With an overall record of 5-7, the Fighting Illini also finished the season with a record of 2-6 in the Big Ten Conference. The University of Illinois has had unsuccessful seasons within the past eight years. The last time the football team attended a major bowl game was in the 2007 season and participated in the Rose Bowl. Cubit will be paid $985,000 as part of his buyout contract. His offensive coordinator, who is also his son, will receive $361,000.
Even though the University of Illinois fired Cubit from their football organization, Cubit’s termination may be a beneficial move for the university. According to NBC Chicago, the Fighting Illini may be making moves to hire Lovie Smith, who is the former head coach of the NFL’s Chicago Bears.
Smith coached the Bears for eight yeas (2004-12). He led the team to a Super Bowl appearance in 2006. Chicago also won three division titles under Smith. The Bears released him in 2012 but was hired by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2014. He was released last season by the Bucs.
While Smith has NFL coaching experience, he spent most of his years coaching college football. He spent 21 years at the Ohio State University as the defensive backs coach for their football team.
Cubit, being fired from the University of Illinois’ football organization, may be setting up Smith for a comeback in his coaching career. He could be the answer that the entire Illini community may have been looking for and could bring an improved outlook to Big Ten football.
Smith has been known for being strong-minded in defense. As he is coming from the NFL, college players may have a stronger respect for him and his coaching abilities. He coached the Bears for almost a decade led them to Super Bowl XLI. With these credentials, the Fighting Illini should be thinking positively about the possibilities of having the leadership of an NFL coach.
Opinion by Tricia Manalansan
Edited by Cathy Milne
Chicago Tribune: Lovie Smith buzz booms after Illinois dumps football coach Bill Cubit
ESPN: Fighting Illini fire football coach Bill Cubit
Sports Illustrated: Bill Cubit’s firing a necessary move for Illinois
WFTV: New Illinois AD fires football coach Cubit after 1 season
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Featured Image Courtesy of Tuscola Joe’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License