- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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Illinois officially introduced former Toledo coach Tim Beckman as its new football head coach this afternoon. Athletic director Mike Thomas described Beckman as a "guy that makes caffeine nervous" because of his energy and motor, and Beckman did not disappoint. He spoke in a near-shout and was very enthusiastic about becoming the new Illini coach. Of course, energy wasn't really the problem with the last guy.
Some other notes and quotes from the news conference:
Thomas said Beckman was given a five-year contract worth $9 million in guaranteed compensation. That's a hefty raise from Beckman's $400,000 salary at Toledo, but it's still relatively cheap by Big Ten standards. Illinois appeared willing to pay when it reportedly went after coaches like Houston's Kevin Sumlin, but it didn't have to break the bank for Beckman.
Though Beckman doesn't have many ties to Illinois and didn't recruit the area much at Toledo, he did a nice job of throwing in references to Dick Butkus and Red Grange. And he noted that most of his Toledo players were from Ohio, and he would try to continue the practice of having many local players on the roster. He said Chicago and St. Louis in particular would be huge areas for his program. "We're going to recruit this area as hard as anyone has ever recruited this area before," he said. "You not only gain a football talent, you also gain a person who can fit into this program."
Beckman might not have history with Illinois, but he does with the Big Ten. His father coached at Iowa among many other stops, and Beckman has spent most of his life in the Midwest. When asked how long he'd wanted to be a Big Ten head coach, he put his hand a couple feet off the ground and said, "Since I was about this high. ... I've always cherished Big Ten football. It was a dream. Now I have the opportunity to live that dream."
He did not make any announcements on staff hirings, but Beckman praised his Toledo assistants and said he'd like to bring as many of them to Champaign as possible. He said he would meet with all the current Illinois coaches on staff in the next two days. As to whether he might keep defensive coordinator and interim head coach Vic Koenning, Beckman said Koenning has done a great job but he has not met him yet.
Thomas said Beckman has "a little bit of a swagger to him," which he likes. He said Beckman "fits Illinois in so many ways." Thomas talked to Jim Tressel, one of Beckman's old bosses, and heard high praise about him.
Beckman promised a high-energy team. "As you can tell by the way I am, we're going to be intense," he said. He also promised that alumni would be proud of the image that the team presents to the community.
Illinois will play Ohio State, leading to Beckman facing a coach he once worked for, Urban Meyer: "Can't wait," he said. "Urban and I are great, great friends. We like competing against each other." Beckman also borrowed a line Meyer used at his news conference last month when talking about Illinois: "It's not broken."
Beckman will go to the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, but only as a spectator. He said his job now is to recruit. That makes two Big Ten head coaches who are employed but are only recruiting right now while their teams prepare for bowls.
Beckman wore an Illini-colored orange tie. He said he bought it on Thursday, because at Toledo he had the team burn everything they had that was orange, the color of the Rockets' main rival, Bowling Green. He said he only referred to Bowling Green as the "team down south" and now will only call Northwestern "the team up north." "You'll never see me wearing purple," he said.
Thomas said he talked to both head coaches and assistants during his search, but at the end he thought the program needed someone familiar with being a CEO. He said he gauged what people thought of the Illini program while talking to candidates and still believes the team can win championships there. "We're nowhere near our ceiling," he said.
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