Category: Illinois Fighting Illini

Bill Cubit
Associated Press

Illinois announces two-year extension for interim head coach Bill Cubit

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Illinois has extended year-long interim head coach Bill Cubit for another two seasons, the program announced Saturday afternoon. Does that make him a short-term full-time head coach or a long-term interim coach? Or a combination of the two?

Either way, Cubit is in Champaign to stay through the 2017 season.

A mitigating factor here, undoubtedly, is the absence of a full-time chancellor and a full-time athletics director.

“Bill has stepped in during an extremely difficult period and done an outstanding job in leading our football program since August,” interim athletics director Paul Kowalczyk said in a statement. “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.”

Cubit’s extended contract will pay him $1.2 million annually. Former Illini head coach Tim Beckman made a reported $1.8 million.

“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.”

Illinois is 5-6 this season, playing to extend its season at home against No. 16 Northwestern (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU).

Illini to decide on fate of interim head coach Bill Cubit by Sunday

Bill Cubit
Associated Press

Illinois will decide whether or not to retain interim head coach Bill Cubit for the full-time job by Sunday, interim AD Paul Kowalczyk told WSKJ-FM Wednesday.

“We need to make that call and figure out which way we’re going for everyone’s sake,” Kowalczyk said, via the Chicago Tribune. “For me, it’s posthaste.”

Illinois closes its regular season Saturday against No. 16 Northwestern in Champaign. The Illini are 5-6 on the year and, for what it’s worth, Cubit desperately wants the job.

Also worth noting: the athletics department is operating under a total state of dysfunction in the wake of AD Mike Thomas‘s firing.

From 670 The Score in Chicago on Wednesday:

Sources tell 670 The Score that as overwhelmed university officials are dithering and providing little guidance, the group of trustees, boosters and alums left to run things can’t yet agree on much.  Some want to hire a search firm with a spotty recent track record, others want to form their own search committee, while another faction thinks they need to act faster by using their own contacts to target specific AD and coaching candidates right now and just get moving.

Any support for retaining Bill Cubit is getting strong push-back from those who don’t believe he wasn’t aware of Tim Beckman’s aberrant behavior, and from some who feel strongly about making a more dynamic hire.

For those keeping score at home: Illinois is dealing with a power vacuum of trustees, boosters and alums battling for control while an interim chancellor and interim athletics director work to reach a resolution on an interim football coach.

And the coaching carousel starts spinning in full four days from now.

Illini’s leading rusher doubtful for Minnesota game

CHAMPAIGN, IL - OCTOBER 3: Ke'Shawn Vaughn #5 of the Illinois Fighting Illini runs the ball against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Memorial Stadium on October 3, 2015 in Champaign, Illinois.  Illinois defeated Nebraska 14-13. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
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Because of an injury to Josh Ferguson, Ke’Shawn Vaughn shouldered much of Illinois’ running game load for most of the month of October. Now, because of his own injury, the running back will likely find himself on the sidelines this weekend.

According to the school’s injury report, Vaughn is listed as doubtful for Saturday’s game against Minnesota. Vaughn sustained a concussion in last weekend’s loss to Ohio State, and has been iffy throughout the week of practices.

Vaughn currently leads the Illini with 661 yards and six rushing touchdowns. The freshman tallied a career-high 180 yards in the Purdue win the week before the OSU game.

Ferguson, meanwhile, returned to the Illini following a three-game injury absence for the Purdue game and put up 133 yards in his first action in nearly a month. For the 2015 season, Ferguson is second to Vaughn with 563 yards and three touchdowns. His 5.9 yards per carry, though, leads the team.

A weapon out of the backfield as well, Ferguson’s 23 receptions are good for fourth on the team.

Following win over Illini, J.T. Barrett apologizes for ‘selfish act’

CHAMPAIGN, IL - NOVEMBER 14:  J.T. Barrett #16 of the Ohio State Buckeyes runs for a first down past T.J. Neal #52 of the Illinois Fighting Illini at Memorial Stadium on November 14, 2015 in Champaign, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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In his first game back from a suspension for a drunk-driving arrest, J.T. Barrett helped lead No. 3 Ohio State to a victory over Illinois that extended the Buckeyes’ nation’s best winning streak to 23 in a row.

Following the win, the “do you know who I am?” quarterback met with the media for the first time since his late-October arrest for operating a vehicle while intoxicated.  Not surprisingly, Barrett was extremely apologetic over what he described as a “selfish act” on his part.

“What I have to say about that,” Barrett said according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, “is I am truly sorry for my actions. I know that the main thing about it is I wasn’t thinking really about my position here at Ohio State. I faced the consequences and that’s going to be a long-term thing I’m going to deal with.

“I’m moving forward. Like I said, I extremely apologize to Buckeye Nation. I never want to hurt Ohio State (with) what it’s done for me as a person and also as a player. It was just a selfish act and that’s it.”

With the one-game suspension keeping him out of the Minnesota win but not costing him his job, Barrett showed signs of rust in just his second start of the season. The redshirt sophomore completed 15-of-23 passes for 150 yards, one touchdowns and one interception in the 28-7 win. He also added 74 yards and another touchdowns on 16 carries.

Ezekiel Elliott was again the workhorse of the Buckeyes’ offense, rushing for a game-high 181 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The running back has rushed for 100-plus yards in 15 straight game, the top such streak in the country.

Suspended Illini LB facing sexual battery charge in Georgia

Julian Jones
Illinois Athletics
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Earlier this week it was reported that Illinois linebacker Julian Jones was the subject of a criminal investigation in Georgia.  Now, the reasons why are coming into disturbing focus.

According to multiple media outlets, the criminal investigation is connected to an alleged sexual assault involving Jones.  Specifically, it’s alleged that the true freshman Jones sexually assaulted a 17-year-old female in her Georgia home.  Jones, who is from Georgia, was back in his home state during the Illini’s bye weekend late last month when the alleged assault occurred.

From‘s accounting of the police report the website obtained:

The alleged victim… claims Jones made several passes at her while hanging out at her home … but she “told [him] to stop repeatedly.” But the girl says Jones didn’t quit — and “[lifted] her dress while aggressively forcing his hand up her inner thigh and into her vagina.”

The girl says she tried to move away but he overpowered her due to his “muscular build.” The girl claims she again told him to stop but he wouldn’t — so she began to strike him with her hands … knocking his earring off. The girl says Jones finally stopped when he realized someone else had just entered the house.

Jones eventually left the home and the girl called police.

The police report also stated that Jones texted the alleged victim after their encounter and called her a “tease.”

Jones, who had appeared in eight games in his first season with the Illini, has been indefinitely suspended by the football program.  He was arrested in Illinois, and is expected to be sent to Georgia to be arraigned in short order on a sexual battery charge.