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Illinois Has Fired Football Coach Tim Beckman

(CBS) Illinois has fired football coach Tim Beckman just seven days before its season opener, citing the preliminary results of an investigation that confirmed allegations that he mistreated players.

An external review found that Beckman deterred injury reporting and attempted to influence medical decisions during his tenure, which covered three seasons and started in December 2011. Beckman was also found to have threatened to take away scholarships from players in the spring semester of their senior year, after their commitment to the football team was done.

"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," athletic director Mike Thomas said. "I expect my coaches to protect players and foster their success on and off the field."

There were previously reports of at least one case of a physical confrontation in practice, with Beckman being an aggressor toward a player.

It was "in the best interest of student-athletes to act now rather than when a final report is issued and publicly released, which likely will occur during the season," Thomas said, adding he alone made the decision to fire Beckman, though he consulted with a "variety of people."

Thomas said he was "shocked" and "angry" by the initial findings of the review. Beckman won't receive any of the $3.1 million remaining on the final two years of his contract or any buyout money.

In a prepared statement, Beckman indicated he will fight the Illini.

"I firmly deny the implications in Mike's statements that I took any action that was not in the best interests of the health, safety and well-being of my players," the ex-coach's statement said in part. "The university's actions today are in violation of the procedures mandated under my employment agreement. As such, I will vigorously defend both my reputation and my legal rights."

Beckman went 12-25 in his three-year run and compiled an abysmal 4-20 mark in Big Ten play, but Thomas said the firing had nothing to do with the on-field product. The Illini were 6-7 in 2014 after going 4-8 in 2013 and 2-10 in 2012.

Thomas called the timing "unfortunate."

"The preliminary information the external reviewers shared does not reflect our values or the commitment to the welfare of our student-athletes," Thomas said.

The law firm conducting the investigation interviewed more than 90 people and reviewed in excess of 200,000 documents, as well as viewing practice film.

Offensive coordinator Bill Cubit has been named the interim head coach. He's been at the school since 2013. He'll receive an additional $100,000 per month for four months for taking on a bigger role, Thomas said. Cubit will be considered for the full-time job if he's interested, Thomas said.

"You better have perseverance and fight through it," Cubit said of his message to the players.

Thomas defended his job security, again using the "we wear integrity on our sleeve" during a time in which player mistreatment is also alleged to have taken place in the women's soccer and women's basketball programs.

"Our culture is tremendous," Thomas said.

The firing appears to have taken Beckman by surprise as about an hour before the news broke, he was tweeting his excitement for Illinois' opener against Kent State next Friday night.

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