Two UI trustees vote against new football coach's contract
CHICAGO — Two University of Illinois trustees voted against the appointment of new football coach Tim Beckman on Thursday, citing the UI's failure to hire an African-American as a head football or basketball coach.
Trustee Lawrence Oliver read a statement just before the board's vote to approve Beckman's $9 million five-year contract, saying he had problems with the process and substance of the search in December.
He called it a "sad irony" that the UI places emphasis on diversity as a leading public university but has never had an African-American head football or basketball coach in its history. That "dubious distinction," he said, is shared in the Big Ten only with Purdue and Nebraska.
"African-Americans predominate these two sports," and have made significant gains in the assistant coaching ranks and to a lesser extent head coaching ranks, he said.
"I would hope that as a university we find this shutout unacceptable," Oliver said.
Oliver acknowledged that two African-American coaches were interviewed for the position — former Houston head coach Kevin Sumlin and UI graduate Kirby Wilson, running backs coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers, who was injured in a fire earlier this month.
Sumlin was offered a contract by the UI but turned it down, accepting an offer at Texas A&M.
"We have to increase our effort. Making an opening offer for a hot African-American coaching prospect is not enough," Oliver said.
Trustee James Montgomery, a UI graduate, echoed Oliver's remarks and also voted no.
More on this story in Friday's News-Gazette.