Dienhart: Beckman familiar with Big Ten

Tim Beckman is the new Illinois coach and arrives from Toledo, where he forged a 21-16 record (16-6 in the MAC) the past three seasons after taking over for Tom Amstutz. Beckman led the Rockets to an 8-4 mark this season and a spot in the Military Bowl against Air Force, the program’s second bowl under his stewardship. Toledo has gone 7-1 in MAC play in each of the past two seasons.

Beckman, 46, replaces Ron Zook, who was fired after seven seasons at Illinois. Zook went 34-50 overall and 18-37 in Big Ten action with two bowls in seven seasons in Champaign. He got Illinois off to a 6-0 start before the team went on an 0-6 tailspin to end the season. Illinois will play UCLA in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl on December 31st with defensive coordinator Vic Koenning serving as interim head coach.

Beckman has a defensive background and is familiar with the Big Ten. He was cornerbacks coach at Ohio State in 2005 and 2006 under Jim Tressel. He also was defensive coordinator at Bowling Green, the last two years serving on Urban Meyer’s staff with the Falcons. Prior to taking the Toledo job, Beckman was defensive coordinator at Oklahoma State from 2007-08 under Mike Gundy.

While Beckman has a defensive background, he also has built strong offenses at Toledo. And that’s key, as offense has been an issue at Illinois. Toledo led the MAC in scoring this year (42.3 ppg), ranking eighth in the nation. The Rockers also had the league’s No. 1 offense (493.2 ypg). Beckman’s teams also have passed well, which frequently was an issue for Zook’s Illinois teams.

Toledo ranked third in the MAC in scoring in 2010 (27.9 ppg) and had the No. 4 offense (365.4 ypg).
This is the third time new Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas has dipped into the MAC ranks for a head coach. While A.D. at Cincinnati, Thomas tabbed Brian Kelly and then Butch Jones from Central Michigan.

The search took two weeks for Thomas, who took over the Illinois athletic department after Ron Guenther retired in the summer. It is believed Thomas also interviewed Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst and Eastern Michigan head coach Ron English.

The Big Ten’s Leaders Division will have three new coaches in 2012: Beckman; Urban Meyer at Ohio State; the new coach at Penn State. Indiana’s Kevin Wilson will be in just his second season. The conference has lost some experienced coaches, with Joe Paterno gone after 46 seasons; Ohio State’s Jim Tressel after 10 and Zook after seven. The most tenured Big Ten coaches are Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz (14); Wisconsin’s Bret Bielema (7) and Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald (7)

Tom Dienhart is a senior writer for BTN.com. Find all of his work at www.btn.com/tomdienhart, follow Dienhart on Twitter at @BTNTomDienhart, send a question to his weekly mailbag here, and click here to subscribe to his RSS feed.

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