The Illinois Fighting Illini fired football coach Bill Cubit on Saturday, with new athletic director Josh Whitman saying immediate stability was needed.
After coaching the team to a 5-7 record on an interim basis last season, Cubit was signed to a two-year contract on Nov. 29. He will receive the remaining balance of his payment — approximately $985,000 — for the upcoming season, the university said.
“I appreciate the leadership that Bill Cubit provided our football program during what has been, unquestionably, a very tumultuous time,” Whitman said in a statement issued on his first day on the job as AD. “He accepted the challenge on an interim basis under incredibly difficult and unusual circumstances, and he has continued to work diligently for the betterment of our student-athletes. Through his efforts, he has kept the program moving forward.
“Bill is a good man and a good football coach. All of us in the Illini Nation owe him a debt of gratitude for his work leading our team these last months. At this juncture, however, I think it is most important that we position our program for long-term success by creating a more stable environment for the coaches, players, and prospective student-athletes.”
Cubit told The Associated Press on Saturday he was stunned by the news.
“I just came in and (Whitman) said, ‘I’m letting you go,'” Cubit said. “Everybody told me I had (at least) this year. There’s a lot of shock going on. I don’t know what to tell you. It’s a funny place.”
Several players took to Twitter to complain that they learned of Cubit’s dismissal through social media.
Love finding out about this through Twitter. https://t.co/vl1TD6qVVq
Mikey Dudek (@MDFlash_7) March 5, 2016
Haven’t Even Been On Campus A Full Year & Have Had 2 Head Coaches. Now Going On Number 3.
KE’SHAWN VAUGHN (@SpeedKe5) March 5, 2016
I’m refreshing my Twitter feed for updates on my own football team for crucial information this is crazy
Chayce Crouch (@teccrouch7) March 5, 2016
Illinois was scheduled to start spring practice on March 11, but the release Saturday said it’d would be delayed until a new coach is hired. Whitman plans to name a new head coach “as soon as possible.”
Scheduled to make $1.2 million over the next two seasons, Cubit took over as interim coach after Tim Beckman was fired on Aug. 28, 2015.
Whitman also dismissed offensive coordinator Ryan Cubit on Saturday.
Beckman was fired after allegations surfaced that he put player safety at risk, and an external investigation into Beckman’s actions found several instances of troubling behavior involving player injuries. Bill Cubit, who was Beckman’s offensive coordinator and assistant head coach, escaped blame in the school’s report.
Previous AD Mike Thomas was fired in November, and there’s an ongoing lawsuit by seven former women’s basketball players alleging a racially abusive environment.
Cubit has a career head coaching record of 90-72-1 with previous stints at at Widener and Western Michigan.
Saturday was Whitman’s first official day as Illinois AD after finishing up in the same role at Washington University in St. Louis.
ESPN Staff Writer Brian Bennett and The Associated Press contributed to this report.