Mike Thomas made an announcement in the 77 club of Memorial Stadium Friday, an announcement that will have direct bearing on Illinois football fortunes the next several years.,P>"This is really a significant day in the history of the University of Illinois football program. It was my goal to hire who I felt was the best coach possible, and I do believe we've found that person in Tim Beckman."
Thomas went on to explain the criteria he sought in a new coach.
"First of all, I think it's important to find someone who develops student-athletes in all areas, athletically, academically and socially. There is no doubt Coach Beckman is all about those things.
"Certainly, somebody who knows the game. As Tim likes to say, he has 46 years of coaching experience. His dad was a college coach, his dad was an NFL coach. He saw that at an early age, and it is really ingrained as to who he is today, not only as a coach but as a person.
"And someone who could recruit at the highest level. In the Big 10 Conference, we need to recruit at the highest level. The last two years at Toledo, he recruited the highest rated recruiting class in the Mid-America Conference, and he's on track to have the highest one again this year.
"Someone who serves as the face of the program. We need an external person, someone who gets out in the community, who's not afraid to engage with all our constituents. Being a head football coach, those constituents are many.
"And most important to us, someone who cares about the players. It's all about family. There's no doubt that's part of his DNA; it was the way he was brought up. Certainly, he's a mentor. It's not something that just happens during the recruiting process and as these kids are with him for 4 or 5 years. But he's part of their lives when they leave the University of Illinois with their diplomas.
"High energy to high motor. When I was talking to Jim Tressel about Tim Beckman, the first thing he said, 'You will not find a college coach in America that has more energy or a higher motor than Tim Beckman. This is a guy who makes caffeine nervous.
"I don't think there's any doubt we have to have integrity in everything we do. That is important to us from a compliance standpoint. We're not gonna compromise how we do business here.
"Coach Beckman has a little bit of a swagger to him. I noticed that early on. To me, having a little bit of a swagger is a good thing. Not afraid to be intimidated, not afraid to take a punch. I think in a lot of ways, in our conference and who we play, that's extremely important.,P>"And like Jim Delany says, 'It's fit, fit, fit." I don't think there's any doubt Tim Beckman fits the University of Illinois in so many ways. He is a winner, that's extremely important. He's had competitive success everywhere he's been. And I think most importantly, he's someone who wants to be here for the long haul and build a program for sustained success.
"I don't think there's any doubt we have found that person in Tim Beckman. He's a Midwesterner, he's got Big 10 as part of his roots. And he's got an absolutely wonderful family.
"I'm excited about this process, its conclusion and the final product Tim Beckman and what he's gonna do for this program."
Beckman, whose contract calls for a salary of $9 million over five years, left no doubt he is where he wants to be.
"I'm excited and privileged to be the 23rd head football coach at the University of Illinois. I want to thank President (Michael) Hogan, Chancellor Phyllis Wise and especially Mike Thomas for (offering me) this opportunity of a lifetime.
"As a coach's son, I've had 46 years of coaching experience. I've been raised with a football in my hand. I've been able to see the Marty Schottenheimers and Sam Rutiglianos as a little boy. I've been a coach and sat at staff tables with Jim Tressel, Urban Meyer and Mike Gundy, to name a few. To me, this is as good a day as when I had my children born. This is a dream come true for the Beckman family."
The Beckman Philosophy
"We talk about building a family, and that's exactly what we're gonna do here. We're gonna have a close-knit, very accountable group of young men who are willing to set aside their own personal goals to achieve team goals. It's very important that each of these players understands that.
"Throughout my time as a football coach, I've seen football teams that excel on the football field, excel in the classroom and excel in the community because they were successful as being men and successful as being a family. They honored one another, they trusted one another, and they got to experience one another as being successful football players. This is exactly as this program is gonna be run.
"We talk about competing. I just got done talking to the players who are gonna go out and compete on the 31st out in San Francisco at the Kraft Hunger Bowl. We're gonna compete as one to be the best they can possibly be, to show the Illini Nation, the Illini alumni, and the Illini students here what Illinois football is all about.
"We will also compete in the classroom. Competition will run rampant in the locker room because we feel that to be successful in life, you have to compete in life. In everything we do from here on out, we will be competing against one another.
"We also talk about accountability. Accountability to one another, accountability to this university, accountability to Dick Butkus, accountability to the numerous All-Americans like the Red Granges, the kind of people who have helped build Illini football. And now the accountability rests on the shoulders of the 105 players we have on that football team for the next coming years.
"Also the trust factor. You can consider it one of the most important things we'll have is trust. Trust in one another as a family, trust in the plan, trust in the game plan.
"As you can tell from the way I am, we're gonna be intense. We play this game for 60 minutes. If it takes 64 minutes or 68 minutes, we are gonna play with great intensity, great passion and as one. You will see that on every football player's face and on the game-time ability that he shows each and every day that he steps out there in this great stadium that we have.
"A quote I learned when I was a graduate assistant under Pat Dye at the University of Auburn, 'The image of one projects the image of all.' This football team will understand that quote and will understand that their image on and off the football field will be held to high standards.
"To the student body, I embrace you. I can't wait to be involved with you. I can't wait to see you in the Orange and Blue. We need you; you will be a part as the 12th man of every one of our football games.
"To the alumni, you will be proud of the image of this football team. You will be proud of the image of what we stand for on and off the football field. You will be proud what they accomplish.
"Finally, something I've learned from many of the coaches I've been around. It's about the former players, about the players that built this great program. I embrace you in this program; you will be a part of this program.
"This is your program, and these football players will understand that you have built a traditionally strong program at the University of Illinois. The Beckman family is very proud to now be a part of this great tradition."
Plan for hiring assistant coaches
"I had a tremendous staff at the University of Toledo. They did an outstanding job, and I'm very proud of them. I will try to get as many of them here as I possibly can. I intend to meet with each and every coach here at the University of Illinois in the next two days.
"I know Joe Gilbert. I knew him with his tie to the University of Toledo. But beyond that, we've crossed paths, but to say I personally know them, I can't say that.
"If you look at my background, it was an entirely new staff at the University of Toledo. But I haven't made any decisions. I won't make any decisions until I study what needs to be studied and interview each one of the coaches.
Many Illini fans hope Beckman will retain defensive coordinator Vic Koenning. Beckman can't make promises.
"I don't know Vic, other than I know people who have coached with Vic. I know he does a tremendous job. I look forward to speaking with him. Decisions will be made after I speak with him. But right now I honestly couldn't tell you because I personally don't know Vic. And I think that's very important. I will meet with Vic in the next two days."
Beckman did reveal a desire to bring Toledo offensive coordinator Matt Campbell with him if he isn't named head coach there.
"Right now, Coach Campbell has taken my spot (as interim coach). I can say that I have offered Coach Campbell the job as offensive coordinator. He's great. Matt Campbell is one of the brightest young minds in college football today. He's a winner, he's a champion. He's been involved in national championships as a coach and as a player. He's a coach's son. I guarantee I'll be trying to get Matt Campbell.
"Coach (Louis) Ayeni is fabulous too. He's very well respected in this area and in Chicago. I've got outside guys I will consider."
Beckman is awaiting an NCAA ruling whether he can hire a separate staff while present Illini coaches prepare for the bowl game. Ohio State has received such a waiver. What will be his timeline on finalizing a staff?
"As fast as I can. There's 8 football coaches that deserve an opportunity to coach in this bowl game. If the NCAA says we can't do it, then I guess I can only have one right now. But if the NCAA grants us the opportunity to do that, then I'll try to get in as many as I possibly can."
Recruiting philosophy and priorities
"Right now, I believe my most important job is to get the best recruiting class here at the University of Illinois. We're a bit behind schedule, so that is a main focus of what I'm going to be doing.
"I think the Chicago area is a huge area. Illinois will be a huge part of our recruiting process. If you look at the University of Toledo's roster, you will see a majority of our players come from inside the home state. We call it 'Rocket Nation.' Now we've got 'Illini Nation.' We're gonna recruit this area as hard as anybody has ever recruited this area before.
"The reason we win is because we will gain a football talent while also being a person who can fit into this program. The Chicago area, the St. Louis area and this fine state plays tremendous high school football, and it will be recruited very heavily by this coaching staff.
"I think you have to get massively involved in it. You have to show your face. One of the things we will do at the University of Illinois is, we will have travel camps. We will go to them. In today's society, that's basically what you need to do.
"We will have camps up in Chicago, we'll have camps here, we'll have camps throughout the state. So we'll come see them instead of them always coming down to Champaign.
"My father used to recruit (St. Louis) quite a bit. I know it's got great football. We're gonna take a four hour radius around Champaign, and that is gonna be our primary area to recruit. I'm sure it will stretch a little bit here and there. Those are the areas we are gonna hit first. Then for secondary areas, we'll be going down South or other outlying areas.
"I've recruited Florida. I've gotten numerous players from Florida. Of course, I recruited Texas when I was at Oklahoma State because a majority of Oklahoma State players are from the state of Texas. In this profession, it's like a big fraternity. You know a lot of people throughout the country."
Beckman is comfortable using social media such as Facebook and tweets.
"I do that every day. It's recruiting, in my opinion. It's not about what cheeseburger I eat, it's about what the University is doing, what the players are doing and why players need to come to Champaign to see what we've got. And then to make sure our alumni and former players know what's going on here also.
"Right now, I believe my most important job is to get the best recruiting class here at the University of Illinois. We're a bit behind schedule, so that is a main focus of what I'm going to be doing."
Beckman also recruited heavily in Michigan and Ohio for Toledo. Will those also be recruiting areas for Illinois?
"Certainly. We have very good ties in that area, and we will continue to recruit that area very hard. We can go in there and compete, no question about that."
Beckman explains his recruiting philosophy.
"I believe the hands-on experiences our coaches have with the players...the relationship between a player and coach should be just about the best relationship that young man has had except for his father. And that's exactly what we're gonna do. It's very important the staff that I have is very player-responsible."
Illinois presently has 14 commitments, although some are wavering. Beckman will make them a top priority this week.
"I haven't seen a whole bunch of them, but I'm gonna go out and try to actively be with them, and I'm gonna try to get on the horn with them tonight. I'm sure those 14 will be the first ones to be called."
The Illini Manual
At Toledo, Beckman created what he called his "Rocket Manual," a book explaining the expectations and responsibilities for college football players.
"It becomes the Illini Manual. It's something that we believe in. I've taken bits and pieces from each one of the coaches I've been blessed to coach with. It tries to factor in everything that is involved in the program from academics to community service.
"Players are going to have to commit 6 hours of community service, 2 during the season and 4 during the off season. We'll have camps here for children to be involved in during the season that we'll do by position.
"There are academic standards that we have. Our study table will be split up into three different groups. We'll just change the colors. It's been proven successful, and it's something that we'll utilize here. It just has to be tweaked here and there."
Impressions of the present Illini team
Beckman has watched a little film of the current Illini team, but most of what he knows about them is from statistics. Is this a rebuilding project?
"No. You've got an outstanding defensive end (Whitney Mercilus), there's no question about it. He's a fabulous football player. I look forward to talking to him and keeping him here at Illinois. He's a good football player and needs another year.
"You've got some youth at running back, but I think you've got a pretty good running back. Of course, you lose your number one pass catcher, so those numbers are gonna have to be replaced.
"The offensive line needs to be improved. Too many sacks. I'm just basing things on numbers. Of course, defensive line look like there are players for a little more depth. At linebacker, you lose one but you've got one proven. And in the secondary, I think you've got four pretty decent players.
"You're set at quarterback. I knew Reilly (O'Toole) because we recruited Reilly. I think he took an official to us, so I know of him. We used two quarterbacks this year. No one said we could. Every media outlet in the country said we couldn't, but we were #1 in passing efficiency in our conference, and the quarterbacks are 1 and 3 in the conference. If they're both capable of winning, we're gonna play them.
"I watched them and studied them more against Western Michigan. Western Michigan is an awfully good football team, one of the best. I think that Coach (Ron) Zook and his staff, Coach Koenning did a great job defending them. They have a quarterback at Western Michigan that can play at a lot of places.
"It's not broken. Coach Zook has done a tremendous job. I have respect for Coach Zook and what he's done throughout his career. So I know the talent is here, the structure will be given."
Beckman will not coach Illinois in the bowl game
"I'll be a spectator. I've been on that side, where you're looking for an opportunity to coach somewhere. So I think those 8 coaches deserve an opportunity to focus in on the Illini and do what they do to make sure UCLA is defeated. I will be there.
"In my opinion, bowls are for the kids. Yes, you've got to win. They can use these 15 days to get themselves better, no question about it. But to enjoy themselves and have an opportunity to play in a bowl game.
"I'll watch a few practices, but I'm gonna be on the road. I think that's the most urgent thing I need to be taking care of."
Will the bowl game be a dress rehearsal for the new coach?
"That's what I challenged them to do today. I said, 'You've got a great opportunity to prove yourself because you get to play in a bowl game. A lot of people are staying home. You have an opportunity to showcase yourself for this coaching staff."
"Score. As a defensive coach, I was in the offensive staff room as much as I was the defense. As a defensive coordinator, you see what's really effective against your defense.
"Our offense will be a spread offense, one that gave me a lot of the gray hair that I have when I was down at Oklahoma State. We will utilize our talent; we have some great offensive talent. I'm very excited about what I saw on film. So we'll be a spread offense, multi-formation, up-tempo football team."
Player reaction to Beckman
Illini players met with Beckman before the press conference. Some of them were at the presser also.
"He's an energetic guy, and he's excited about the program at Illinois," senior center Graham Pocic said. "He's tough, and I think that's what we need. I think the change is gonna be good in my opinion. I think the program is headed in the right direction."
Pocic says it is good to get this situation resolved.
"I think we're coping. It was kind of tough at first. I think probably getting a head coach will bring some stability back. We can focus on school and practice now."
Freshman tight end Matt LaCosse was pleased.
"I like him. He's a high-octane guy; he's my kind of coach. I'm really looking forward to get to work for him. I'm excited about him."
Will his offense involve tight ends?
"He didn't mention any specifics, but I have an idea because I was recruited by him when I was in high school. They have a spread, but there's a kind of pro style as well. They do use a tight end, and they do run the ball. It's definitely my type of offense. I'm looking forward to it."
Coaches of influence
"I truly am a blessed football coach. I've been in staff rooms with national championship coaches. I was raised in this profession. Every minute of my waking life, I've been around great football coaches.
"My father showed me what being a coach was all about. So if anybody's influenced me, it's been my father. He'll be around all the time. He'll be critiquing."
Goals and time line
"I want it to happen fast. The vision for this program is for every Illini football player to reach his full potential. We will push our players to be the best they can be on and off the field in everything they do.
"This is not just a game of X's and O's, this is a game of life. So I'm taking 18-21 year old boys and trying to make them into men."
"We are very excited about the future of what is gonna happen at the University of Illinois. I believe this is a gold mine. I think you can win at the University of Illinois."