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November 27, 2012
Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas supported Illinois head football coach Tim Beckman on Tuesday night during an in-studio appearance on the "Tay and J Show" on ESPN Radio 93.5/95.3 in Champaign.
Asked to respond to rumors that Illinois was considering replacing Beckman after just one season at Illinois, Thomas said, "At the end of the day, Tim Beckman's going to be our coach in the future. He'll be our head football coach next year.
"When a coach has been on a campus 10 months or so, I think someone deserves more of an opportunity to put their system in place, their culture in place, their kids in place that fit that system to provide stability for the future."
Beckman has come under fire after a 2-10 season, which included an 0-8 slate in the Big Ten. Illinois had appeared in back-to-back bowl games the previous two seasons, but Ron Zook was fired after the 2011 Illini became the first FBS team to win its first six games and lose its last six.
Thomas said "a lot of things" went into the disappointing season, including lack of depth, injuries, and "buy in from the student athletes."
Rumors had spread quickly through cyberspace and Twitter about Beckman's status following a season-ending 50-14 defeat at Northwestern. Thomas, who hired Beckman last December, said he paid little attention to the gossip.
"I'm not an Internet person," Thomas said. "I'm not a message board person. I certainly pay attention to people when they attach their name to something. I don't think that happens much in that way. I don't know. I don't pay attention to it. At the end of the day, what matters to me is people that I work with and the fact that we have confidence in what we're doing and feel good about the future of not just our football program but also our other 18 sports."
Thomas has not yet met with Beckman to talk about any possible staff changes. Beckman is on the road recruiting.
"Tim and I will have discussions," Thomas said. "It'll be a comprehensive review about his program as it relates to the operation of, the management of, personel, all those type things. But for me to speculate when I haven't even sat down with Tim is a little bit premature, and that's probably something at the end of the day that he should probably talk about."
Thomas preaches patience to Illinois fans who haven't bought in to Beckman yet. He said he dealt with similar fan unrest when he was at Cincinnati and head coach Brian Kelly, who led Cincinnati to a 12-0 record and a Sugar Bowl berth, left for Notre Dame. Kelly's replacement Butch Jones went 4-8 the next year.
"People there thought the sky was falling," Thomas said. "They certainly questioned me. I can assure you they questioned Butch (and said), 'This isn't going to work. The future is very dismal.' The next year they were 10-3 and this year, I think they were up to (No.) 18 in the country and are 8-3 right now. You've got to give these things time. We got to give the coaches and the staff an opportunity to do the things they need to do to build a foundation so we're successful. Let's face it we've had some successful years here (at Illinois), but we haven't had successful years on a consistent basis - and we've got to get to that point. We're not there, and the goal is to get there in the future."
Jeremy Werner is the co-host and Illinois reporter for the "Tay and J Show," which airs weekdays 3-6 p.m. on ESPN Radio 93.5, 95.3 in Champaign-Urbana and streams online at www.espncu.com. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @WernerESPNCU