When Beckman Messed With The Wrong Lion

Penn State linebacker Mike Mauti had strong words — and even stronger actions — when Illinois tried to poach Nittany Lions in the wake of NCAA sanctions.

Tim Backman was fired as the head football coach at Illinois Friday, and you better believe no tears are being shed for him in Happy Valley.

As a first-year coach with the Illini in 2012, Beckman brazenly attempted to capitalize when Penn State was hit with NCAA sanctions stemming from the Sandusky scandal.

The sanctions, which included the ability for Nittany Lions to transfer without penalty, were handed down July 23. Two days later, eight Illini coaches flew into State College to recruit first-year PSU coach Bill O'Brien’s players.

Penn State players reported that the Illinois coaches actually showed up on campus.

This did not sit well with one Mike Mauti, PSU’s fiery senior linebacker.

Without mentioning names — but clearly referring to Beckman and Co. — Mauti took the occasion of an appearance at Big Ten Media Days in Chicago July 26 to (among other things) blast would-be poachers and warn that there would be hell to pay.

Looking back, Mauti’s passionate defense of the program he loved proved to be one of a handful of key rallying points for Penn State — players, coaches and fans — that allowed the program to survive a punishment some thought would be worse than the so-called death penalty.

And he backed up the tough talk on the field, leading the way as the Lions crushed the Illini 35-7 in Champaign two months later.

Three years later, the most impactful of the NCAA sanctions vs. Penn State have been erased or have expired. Mauti is plying his trade as a linebacker with the NFL Minnesota’s Vikings. O’Brien is one of the hottest young coaches in the NFL, leading the Houston Texans.

And Beckman is out of work, with allegations that he pressured players to compete while injured likely to make it extremely difficult to get another job in his chosen profession.

Payback may have been a bitch back in 2012.

But three years later, karma has taken an even bigger toll.

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