Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, March 5, 2016

Illinois is turning the page ? again.

[ MORE: Miss Josh Whitman's press conference? Watch it on BTN2Go ]

New A.D. Josh Whitman isn?t wasting any time in putting his stamp on the program, dropping a bomb by firing Bill Cubit on Saturday, his first official day on the job.

What?s next for Illinois, a school that since 2011 will have had four football coaches, three athletic directors and two hoops coaches?

Illinois? football program remains mired in tumult. Just last August, then A.D. Mike Thomas fired Tim Beckman a week before the season started amid allegations he had mistreated players. Cubit was named interim head coach and led the team to a 5-7 mark. Prior to the season finale, Cubit was named head coach and given a two-year contract.

Now, Cubit is gone.

Cubit was in a less-than-desirable situation with a two-year deal. He either should have been given a five-year contract or not been retained. Now, that point is moot with his dismissal.

?I appreciate the leadership that Bill Cubit provided our football program during what has been, unquestionably, a very tumultuous time,? Whitman said in a prepared statement.

?He accepted the challenge on an interim basis under incredibly difficult and unusual circumstances and he has continued to work diligently for the betterment of our student-athletes.?

[ MORE: Read's release ]

This hiring will go a long way in defining the tenure of the 37-year-old Whitman, a former Illini whose only other experience as athletic director has been at a pair of Division III schools. Whitman is in the big leagues now after taking over for Mike Thomas. And his alma mater needs help. Whitman can?t afford to swing and miss on whoever he selects to run the football program. He?s a smart fella with a legal degree. Whitman knows the stakes. He also apparently knows what he wants and is a man of action. You have to like his decisiveness and take-charge manner.

The bizarre timing of the firing makes you think Whitman already has a candidate lined up. Why fire Cubit now? Why not let him coach this season, all the while conducting a search for coach? To me, you don?t fire a coach on March 5 unless you have a coach you know you can hire now. Whitman did indicate he will name a new coach "as soon as possible."

The rumor mill already is in overdrive with names like Lovie Smith, Lane Kiffin, Jeff Brohm, P.J. Fleck, Rod Carey, Brock Spack, Al Golden, Ed Warinner, Jim Tressel, Leslie Frazier, Troy Calhoun and Mike Sanford, among others.

The future begins today. This is a fun, exciting … and scary time for Illinois.



Here's some Twitter reaction, including takes from Illinois players.


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