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University Of Illinois Fires Football Coach Over Handling Of Player Injuries

One week before the school's football season starts, the University of Illinois has fired head coach Tim Beckman, saying a review had found "efforts to deter injury reporting and influence medical decisions that pressured players to avoid or postpone medical treatment and continue playing despite injuries."

Illini Director of Athletics Mike Thomas fired Beckman on Friday. A school statement says the decision was made "in the best interests of student-athletes."

The school also says that in some cases, football players "were treated inappropriately with respect to whether they could remain on scholarship during the spring semester of their senior year if they weren't on the team."

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

In Beckman's absence, Bill Cubit, who had been hired by Beckman as the offensive coordinator, will lead the team as the interim head coach. Friday afternoon, Cubit said he had spoken to Beckman and thanked him for bringing him to the school.

Beckman, 50, had been the head coach at Illinois for three years. The school says he "will not receive the $3.1 million remaining on the last two years of his original five-year contract or the $743,000 called for if his contract had been bought out."

In three seasons at Illinois, Beckman's record was 12-25 overall, and 4-20 in Big Ten Conference games. Last season, the Illini went 6-7 and went to the Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl.

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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