A week before opener, Tim Beckman fired as Illini’s head coach

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In the end, Tim Beckman‘s hot seat turned into an electric chair before the season even kicked off.

In a surprising move given only its timing, Illinois announced that Beckman has been dismissed as its head football coach.  The move comes exactly one week before the Illini open the 2015 season against Kent State.

The firing also comes more than three months after a former player accused the coach of “misuse and abuse of power,” while another stated shortly thereafter that Beckman “takes the cake as the worst coach I ever met.”  Athletic director Mike Thomas initially supported the beleaguered head coach, but the preliminary results of an external review into the accusations forced Thomas into pulling the trigger now instead of later.

“The preliminary information external reviewers shared with me does not reflect our values or our commitment to the welfare of our student-athletes, and I’ve chosen to act accordingly,” Thomas said in a statement. “During the review, we have asked people not to rush to judgment, but I now have enough information to make this decision in assessing the status and direction of the football program.”

The results, while preliminary, are damning, and show exactly why Thomas and the university had to make the move in the here and now. From the release:

During a preliminary briefing from the external reviewers, Thomas said he learned of efforts to deter injury reporting and influence medical decisions that pressured players to avoid or postpone medical treatment and continue playing despite injuries. He also said in some instances student-athletes were treated inappropriately with respect to whether they could remain on scholarship during the spring semester of their senior year if they weren’t on the team.

“Both of those findings are unsettling violations of University policy and practice and do not reflect the culture that we wish to create in athletic programs for our young people,” Thomas said. “I expect my coaches to protect players and foster their success on and off the field.”

Beckman has been fired for cause, meaning he will not receive the $3.1 million remaining on the last two years of his original five-year contract or the $743,000 called for if his contract had been bought out.

Replacing Beckman on an interim basis for the entire 2015 season is offensive coordinator Bill Cubit.  The release stated that “the external review did not indicate any findings related to Coach Cubit.”

In three seasons with the Illini, Beckman compiled a 12-25 overall record and a 4-20 mark in Big Ten play. He likely would’ve been fired after the 2014 season, but the Illini managed to win their final two games to earn a bowl bid.

Florida State OL Landon Dickerson reportedly enters transfer portal… a second time

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The NCAA Transfer Portal is one of the offseason’s more fascinating developments and it should probably surprise nobody who follows the topsy-turvy nature of recruiting nowadays that we now have a track record of players entering the portal more than once.

Via SEC Network analyst Cole Cubelic, Florida State offensive lineman Landon Dickerson is looking to transfer out of Tallahassee for the second time in four months:

Dickerson was expected to be a starter for the Seminoles had he returned to the team in 2019 and is one of the most experienced linemen on the roster. Health has been an issue for the former four-star recruit however, as he redshirted last year with an injury after starting the opener and suffered season-ending lower leg injuries in both 2017 and 2016.

The (likely) loss of Dickerson further increases the difficulty ahead for an FSU offense that has struggled up front — to put it mildly — the past several years. Randy Clements was recently hired as the team’s new line coach as part of Kendal Briles taking over as offensive coordinator so there will be big changes in store either way and a veteran could have certainly helped manage the transition as the ‘Noles try to climb back to national relevance after such a disappointing campaign last year.

Either way, Dickerson pioneering the double-transfer portal entry is probably an outcome that was entirely predictable for those who follow college football closely and bound to be much more common going forward.

Division III MIAC conference kicks out St. Thomas for being TOO good

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Here’s a story one doesn’t see everyday. Or hardly ever. A Division III athletic conference is actually kicking out a school for being too good.

Yep.

Being too good has resulted in St. Thomas athletics getting booted from the MIAC after the 2020-21 season, as both confirmed on Wednesday in a surprising bit of news out of Minnesota.

“After extensive membership discussions, the University of St. Thomas will be involuntarily removed from membership in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC). The MIAC Presidents’ Council cites athletic competitive parity in the conference as a primary concern. St. Thomas will begin a multi-year transition immediately and meanwhile is eligible to compete as a full member of the MIAC through the end of spring 2021,” the league said in a statement. “St. Thomas is one of seven founding members of the MIAC and will leave the conference in good standing with a long and appreciated history of academic and athletic success.”

‘Competitive parity’ is the key phrase in the above release and goes to the heart of the matter. St. Thomas has ruled the league in football (among other sports) in recent years and are an impressive 78-10 record with six of the past nine conference titles under head coach Glenn Caruso. The Tommies have also won the MIAC All-Sports Trophy every single season on both the men’s and women’s sides since 2008, which speaks to their overall dominance of the conference across the board. St. Thomas is also the biggest school in terms of enrollment in the league as well and that size advantage is reportedly another factor in the Tommies having to find a new home.

Based on the school’s statement, they seemed to be handling the disappointing news as best they can but will no doubt be scrambling to find a new home in short order. If there is any silver lining from all this, St. Thomas did expressly say they would try to continue to play fellow MIAC rival St. John’s in football (in one of the great D3 rivalries on the gridiron) for as long as they can.

While it feels like such an action could never be undertaken at the FBS level at this point, the MIAC’s actions have to at least plant the seeds of exploration in doing the same by at least one or two SEC and ACC schools who have to play Alabama or Clemson every season. Well, at least it could with a few rival fans after seeing this puzzling news emerge out of the lower levels of NCAA athletics.

Southern Miss and Miami add non-conference game at Hard Rock Stadium for 2022

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Miami continues to fill out its non-conference schedule as the Hurricanes try to play a little catch up when it comes to filling out dates far off into the future like their ACC peers.

The latest addition to the slate comes in the form of Southern Miss, which confirmed a game at Hard Rock Stadium in the Miami area for Sept. 10, 2022.

“We are excited to announce these future games for our football program,” said Southern Miss Director of Athletics Jeremy McClain in a release. “Our scheduling philosophy moving forward will continue to include regionally based opponents that provide great opportunities for fans to enjoy Golden Eagle football.”

The meeting of ‘The U’ and USM will be the programs first ever meeting on the football field. The announcement comes a week after Miami inked a 2-for-1 series with in-state rival USF starting in 2025.

Both the Golden Eagles and the Hurricanes still have work left to do in 2022 to complete their non-conference schedule. Miami will play at Texas A&M during the same season and have two more openings while Southern Miss compliments the trip to South Beach with games against Liberty and Tulane.

Pitt announces addition of Florida grad transfer LB Kylan Johnson

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Pitt is adding some SEC speed to their defense this offseason.

The addition comes in the form of graduate transfer linebacker Kylan Johnson, who arrives in the Steel City after spending the past three years at Florida.

“Kylan is a really smart player with a great nose for the football,” head coach Pat Narduzzi said in a school release. “He can play either outside linebacker position and is a great fit for our scheme. Kylan’s experience and athleticism will be immediate assets for our linebacker group.”

After arriving in Gainesville as part of the class of 2016, Johnson wound up making nine starts for the Gators over a total of 33 games and recorded a total 83 tackles and a sack.

Johnson has a single season of eligibility remaining with the Panthers and arrives to help out a linebacking corps that is probably thinner than Narduzzi would like heading into 2019. Middle linebacker Elias Reynolds is the only returning starter at Pitt and the defending ACC Coastal champs also have to replace several other key contributors in the front seven for the upcoming campaign.

Pitt opens the season at home against conference rival Virginia on August 31.