Illinois athletics is in a state of flux, with an interim president and athletic director to go along with an interim football head coach. Bill Cubit took over for the fired Tim Beckman one week before the season started.
Since then, he’s got the Illini to within a game of bowl eligibility heading in to Saturday’s matchup with in-state rival Northwestern. That interim tag got taken away on Saturday though, as interim athletic director Paul Kowalczyk announced a two-year deal for Cubit to take control of the program.
“Bill has stepped in during an extremely difficult period and done an outstanding job in leading our football program since August,” Kowalczyk said. “Our student-athletes have responded in a positive manner and we feel he is the best person at this time to be the head coach. We wanted to allow Bill to make decisions regarding the program as the head coach without the interim title, and lead the Fighting Illini into Saturday’s game without speculation.”
Illinois needs a victory Saturday at Soldier Field to become bowl eligible. The extension will keep the length of his contract at two years and pay Cubit $1.2 million per year.
The move is a smart one for a university and athletic department in flux. They aren’t over-extending on the monetary side of things and the contract allows a new athletic director to take on his own head coach or keep Cubit for a longer term.
“During the past three months, Coach Cubit has led this team with a steady and experienced hand,” Interim Chancellor Barbara Wilson said. “He has earned respect and appreciation from all of us. This move will allow the permanent Athletics Director to evaluate the program at his or her own schedule and make decisions based on those evaluations once that search is completed.”
It also allows Cubit at least another season to perhaps put his coaching abilities on display. A winning record and progress could take the decision out of the hands of said athletic director.