Fuck Tim Beckman.
One thing that I have tried to do a lot less lately is swear, if for no reason other than I don't want to be talking to someone and randomly let out a "motherfucker" or something. That would be really rude of me.
But there is no other way to sum up my feelings on former Illinois coach Tim Beckman than by saying "Fuck Tim Beckman." Everything about him. Of all the scummy coaches in college football, none were scummier than Beckman. He made Lane Kiffin look like Mother Teresa, he was football's version of Larry Brown, only if you stripped Larry Brown of every single ounce of awareness that he's ever had.
Beckman's scumminess manifested itself for the most understandable reason in all of sports: the desire to win. In a way, you can't fault Beckman for some of the stuff that he pulled, because he was paid to win football games, and like most people who get a paycheck every month, all he was trying to do was make sure that he got one the following month, and the month after that, and the month after that, and so on. Then you remember exactly how he conducted himself, how shamelessly he acted in every single aspect of his life as a coach, and you remember that this dude is the slimiest slimeball to ever slime, which throws any potential ounce of sympathy out the door.
I think that's why I have such an issue with Beckman. He had the most justifiable reason to do things on earth. He wanted to be the best, to get paid money so he could put food on his table and buy his kids clothes and pay a mortgage. Striving for those things is great, but the shortcuts that he tried to take were so unfathomably appalling that it's hard to understand why this man should ever be allowed to coach again.
Let's take a step back. Nobody needs to be reminded of what happened in 2012, but the NCAA levied sanctions against the Penn State football program. The ones that could ended up getting overturned, but one of the few things that could not be overturned was that Penn State players were allowed to transfer wherever they wanted without being required to sit out a full season. In terms of immediate impact, this was the sanction (or clause or however you wanted to describe it) that probably should have hurt the Nittany Lions the most, and if it wasn't for guys like Michael Mauti and Mike Zordich, it probably would have crippled the program.
We saw a few signs of this hurting the team, namely through star running back Silas Redd transferring to USC and projected No. 1 receiver Justin Brown flipping to Oklahoma. Sure, losing both players sucked, but in retrospect, they were two dudes who were talented enough to compete for national titles so they went to programs with legitimate national title aspirations, so whatever. Plus Zach Zwinak filled in admirably for Redd, and Brown transferring gave us the emergence of Allen Robinson, so we can't complain too much about losing both of them, I suppose.
This brings us to Beckman. At the time, he was the new coach at Illinois. He came to the Illini by way of Toledo, where he accrued a 21-16 record in three years, and Oklahoma State, where he was the defensive coordinator for two years. His hiring was panned by Illinois fans because he wasn't a big enough name, which is funny. He ended up going 12-25 at Illinois with a blazing 4-20 conference record, but that's neither here nor there.
Beckman saw that Penn State players could transfer without sitting out and decided to act. Eight Illini assistants were dispatched to State College with one goal: get as many Penn State players on the Illinois roster as possible. They walked away with one – who later transferred from Champaign to Northern Arizona – but still, Beckman told his coaches to go recruit. As the mothership documented in this list of strange things Beckman did, the methods his coaches took were shady as all hell:
When Penn State received its harsh NCAA sanctions in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, its players were allowed to transfer freely. A lot of coaches opted not to actively pursue Penn State players. Other coaches reached out to players discreetly.
And then there was Tim Beckman, who sent eight assistant coaches to State College. Beckman said his coaches never stepped on campus, that they met players in a coffee shop and a restaurant, but the rumors were that Beckman's crew was camped outside the players' dorm in the parking lot.
Tim Beckman, in one of the lowest points in the history of Penn State football, tried to do everything he could to rip the team apart. He failed. Miserably. And that year, when the Nittany Lions played the Illini, Illinois got stomped. 35-7. I wanted more. I wanted Penn State to beat Illinois so badly that, at midfield after the game, Illinois fired Beckman. He deserved so much worse, but reasonably, I think that's fair. I think 500-0 would have done it, and while that score isn't feasible, I don't care. I wanted blood, and so did a lot of Nittany Lion fans.
Trying to poach Penn State players wasn't the most despicable thing that Beckman did, not by a longshot. That would be the thing he got fired for, the kind of thing that makes you wonder how anyone ever gave this man a job, and whether or not he will ever get the chance to coach football again. If you haven't read the details, you can read about them right here, but basically, Beckman didn't care about the health and well-being of his players. He wanted them to play injured. He wanted them to look past whatever physical issues they were having, no matter how serious, because he wanted to win games. This, of course, is deplorable, and if you don't believe it, you should look at the Twitter feed of former Illini lineman Simon Cvijanovic, who will need to see a therapist for the rest of his life because of negligence by Beckman. Here's what Cvijanovic said to ESPN about his former coach:
"[Players] here don't believe in themselves. They think everything that is happening is normal, but Beckman is exploiting all the negatives of the NCAA.
"He's knows we have no one to go to, and by the time we can afford to stand up for ourselves, it's too late."
Reading this makes me ill, because it makes me wonder if there are other coaches in college football who do things like this. Naturally, if that is true, these people need to be axed yesterday. My heart sincerely goes out to Illinois fans, who in my experience are good people and didn't deserve to go through three years of this nonsense, but I can't help but laugh at the fact that Beckman was the only coach who was dumb enough to do stuff like this and get caught.
Beckman's entire time at Illinois can be summed up pretty easily: this is a man who was willing to do whatever he needed to do in an attempt to win, no matter how deplorable. He wanted to rip teams apart. He wanted players to push themselves beyond what was physically possible, to the point that their bodies will still feel the repercussions of their actions in 50 years. Thankfully, that plan didn't work, and he no longer has a job.
This is a good thing, because college football is a better place without Tim Beckman in it.