Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, November 28, 2015

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Illinois announced today that it is stripping the ?interim? tag from Bill Cubit?s title and making him the head coach.

Given the uncertainty at a school with an interim president and an interim athletic director, it isn?t a shock that Cubit was retained. This school needs some continuity in the athletic department as it sorts through a trying period. And Cubit provides it in the most critical sport.

But here is the rub: Cubit has been given a two-year deal. Two years? That?s it? Typically, coaches work with four- or five-year contracts to help with recruiting. But, some speculate Cubit?s $1.2 million per year contract may be short so the new A.D. can evaluate him and decide what direction to go. No doubt, if Cubit performs well, he could be in line for an extension. At least he has an opportunity, and he and the school know their future and can continue building the program.

A.D. Mike Thomas was fired on November 9, ending an over four-year run. Thomas? tenure was doomed by an investigation that revealed mistreatment of players by Tim Beckman, who was fired on Aug. 28. Paul Kowalczyk has moved in as the interim A.D.

Always upbeat and positive, the 62-year-old Cubit arrived in Champaign with good coaching chops. He led Western Michigan from 2005-12, going to three bowls with a 51-47 record. Cubit engineered wins at Iowa and vs. Illinois along the way. Cubit also went 34-18-1 from 1992-96 at Widener.

Cubit?s return will allow a solid staff to remain in place. The arrival of co-defensive coordinator Mike Phair prior to this season proved to be a good addition, as the run defense has made strides.

Cubit knows the program and personnel and has been a good soldier through all of this tumult. He was hired by Beckman prior to the 2013 season and has had a positive impact on the offense, breathing life into a listless attack the last three seasons. The players like Cubit and play hard for him. And that means a lot. There is reciprocal respect and love, ingredients needed for any program to succeed.

Cubit was tabbed by Beckman to replace co-coordinators Chris Beatty and Billy Gonzales after the 2012 season, being hired at $400,000 per year. Cubit immediately paid dividends. The Illini improved from 119th nationally in both yards and points to 52nd in yards and 61st in points. Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase-now an Illini assistant–led the Big Ten in passing (3,272 yards), and Illinois finished 22nd nationally in pass offense. Cubit received an extension to 2015 and an increase in salary to $500,000 per year, making him the fourth highest paid offensive coordinator in the Big Ten.

The 2015 season hasn?t gone like Illinois wanted. After a 4-1 start highlighted by a stunning 14-13 win vs. Nebraska, the Fighting Illini have gone 1-6. The lone victory was a 48-14 thrashing of Purdue, the Big Ten?s worst program. Bowl hopes hang in the balance on today?s game vs. Northwestern in Solider Field.

Illinois has work to do. The offense struggles to consistently run the ball, as the line needs more development. The attack will benefit from having wideouts Mikey Dudek and Malik Turner back after having their 2015 seasons ruined by injury. And, most vital, the program will benefit from knowing who its leader is going forward.


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