staff, March 5, 2016

(AP) New Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman has fired first-year football coach Bill Cubit, saying the program needs a new coach to work toward long-term success.

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

Whitman says in a news release Saturday he appreciated Cubit's work as interim coach last season after the firing of Tim Beckman.

?I appreciate the leadership that Bill Cubit provided our football program during what has been, unquestionably, a very tumultuous time,? Whitman said. ?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. Through his efforts, he has kept the program moving forward. Bill is a good man and a good football coach. All of us in the Illini Nation owe him a debt of gratitude for his work leading our team these last months. At this juncture, however, I think it is most important that we position our program for long-term success by creating a more stable environment for the coaches, players, and prospective student-athletes.?

Cubit told The Associated Press on Saturday he was stunned by the news. He was hired as the permanent head coach in November and received a two-year contract. Cubit says Whitman didn't provide a specific reason for the decision.

The Illini finished 5-7 last season under Cubit. He took over when Beckman was fired a week before the season began amid allegations of player mistreatment.

Whitman, who was hired as AD last month to replace the fired Mike Thomas, indicated he would name a new head coach as soon as possible.

Read's release.



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