LIVE: AD fired

LIVE: AD fired

WDWS and WHMS are carrying live today's news conference. Listen here.

Bill Cubit might have the interim tag attached to his title as head coach. But all he sees is the "head coach" part and he expects the interim tag to be removed.

"If I did it any other way, it would be wrong," he said. "I'm not a part-time guy. I'm not a guy that's going to sit around and hope something happens.

"Until they tell me no, I'm going to battle. I'm going to fight just like those kids out there are fighting."

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Bill Cubit took a deep breath after delivering his opening statement at his weekly press conference, touching on last week's win at Purdue and Saturday's against Ohio State.

"OK, now," he said. 

And the questions about former Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas, fired Monday morning, started coming. Cubit said he's been in the business long enough not to necessarily understand it, but accept it.

"I guess I've been in this business so long, you take a step back," he said. "Mike, just like everybody else around here, has been really good to me. I cannot say in three years here I've had one bad experience with anyone here and Mike, of course, was part of that.

"The first thing that comes back to you is, 'What do I have to do for these student-athletes?' After it happened I had a staff meeting. It was real quick. You go back to that tape because you've got to give your student-athletes the best."

"Are we getting our fair share of distractions? Yes, but I think we’re doing a good job of handling them.

"People gave us up for dead right after the Penn State game. I knew better. We have played two bad games — Penn State and North Carolina I don't think we played real well. Why do these kids keep bouncing back? I know why. There's great character among the football team right now."

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Interim football coach Bill Cubit gets a laugh from the gathered media when he begins his weekly press conference with a, "Let's start with the Purdue game."

Cubit definitely pleased with how Saturday's game went — especially the run game. And beating Purdue on its Homecoming.

We'll see what he has to say about Mike Thomas' firing.

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The news conference ended about a half hour ago and the regularly scheduled football news conference featuring interim head coach Bill Cubit is expected to begin at about 1 p.m.

Interim AD Paul Kowalczyk spoke to the WDWS radio crew and entertained more questions from several members of the media. Kowalczyk told me since he got the news about everything on Wednesday of last week, he's had many sleepless nights.

I also caught up with Dee Brown for a few minutes. Brown, of course, was hired by now former Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas this summer to be a special assistant to the AD.

"He gave me great opportunity," Brown said of Thomas. "I’ll forever be grateful for him giving me an opportunity to come back and work for the university. My connection with him, I always just say ‘Thank you’ for the opportunity he’s given me."

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This is still a place to be, should be a destination for coaches.

There are lists of coaching candidates, etc., will see what develops.

Kowalczyk will have to get up to speed on all the goings on that Thomas was at the forefront of.

Reaching out to important donors and sponsors to let them know everything is going to be OK. 

***

Approaching the next couple of months day-to-day, not focused on going after the job permanently.

This is enough change right now, there's enough unease in the athletic department for now. GOing to meet with the coaches and try to steady the ship.

He's known he was going to be taking this job since Wednesday.

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Kowalczyk says these are challenging circumstances to assume the mantle. He has the utmost respect for Mike Thomas.

First reaction was a little bit of sadness because Thomas is a friend/colleague. When asked to step up, you step up and felt an obligation to the university.

A lot of good things going on, save for the recent challenges. Going to keep working on the positives.

Won't be making any football decisions until the end of the season. Not much to accomplish right now. You can get a football coach at the end of the season if that's the decision you decide to make.

Both situations (SIU, CSU) had a lot of success. Changing the culture at CSU was more of a challenge but did a lot of great things. Feels like he had things going well in both places.

Mike Thomas has been a class act, have had good rapport and good conversations. Feel for the guy. Didn't want Mike to feel like he was betraying him. He's been gracious and feels like he can call him if he has any questions.

Took the AD job at SIU with an interim chancellor. 

***

Wilson gets weekly reports from Kowalczyk about student-athlete well-being and feels comfortable with the iniatives moving forward.

Wilson has stepped down and Kowalczyk will now speak.

***

Wilson mentions all the great things happening within the university, academic rankings, high number of applicants. Second most applicants in university history. The most since the year after the 2005 Final Four.

Mike Thomas' $2.5 million buyout will come out of the athletic budget and not state funds or academic money. It'll come from ticket sales, media rights, etc.

Investigations were paid for with DIA money.

Wilson has been thinming hard about athletics since taking the position. Weighing all the information.

Wilson broached topic of Thomas being removed and he was very professional and gracious in their conversations. Grateful to what Thomas has done and how he's handled this transition.

***

This is a great university, Wilson said. Wants to reassure everyone that this is a great institution.

At this point, the feeling is all the investigations are complete. No plans to do any other investigations at this point.

Athletics is like the front porch of the university and it's important to have a great athletic program for the students, fans and alumni. Owe it to the staudent-athletes that athletics is on its best foot moving forward.

Kowalczyk's experience as an AD in the past (Southern Illinois, Colorado State) was part of the reason he was named the interim AD.

Wilson still not interested int he full-time chancellor position.

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Wilson consulted with many people and she ultimately made the decision.

The distractions led to needing to move forward.

Not making any decisions now about the football coach and wouldn't do that until the end of the season.

Kowalczyk has been on the job for three hours, haven't had any discussions about hiring a football coach.

Have not calculated the dollar amount on how much the investigations cost all told.

Wilson is in constant contact with President Timothy Killeen.

Met with Mike Thomas last week and they sat down and talked about things. Mike was very professional about the whole thing.

The issues and distractions have taken away from the success of the student-athletes.

Wilson cannot talk about any litigation right now.

***

Chancellor Wilson is speaking now.

Promised the investigations from student-athletes would be comprehensive.

Investigation related to race bias and mistreatment in WBB did not support allegations.

Allegations in football and WBB programs was released this morning. Preliminary findings led to firing of former FB coach Tim Beckman. 

Investigations are complete and time to take stock, figure out what was learned and to move forward.

In order to move forward a change in leadership in the DIA is necessary to move forward. Exercised "Without cause" clasue to remoive Mike Thomas amd move forward with Paul Kowalczyk.

Reiterating that Thomas is not implicated int he findings of the investigations and has done a great job in leadership, but a change is necessary to move forward.

Grateful to Mike for the work he has done at Illinois.

Confident that Paul Kowalczyk can guide the program until a full-time replacement can be hired.

***

Special assistant to the AD Dee Brown, who was hired by Mike Thomas this summer, just walked into the room.

Kent Brown announced that Barbara Wilson will make an opening statement and then take questions. Paul Kowalczyk will also make a statement and then take questions. He will also be available for some individual conversations after the formal news conference is done. Wilson has somewhere to be and will not be available after the formal portion.

Some other head coaches are here. Men's gymnastics coach Justin Spring among them.

Steve Kelly has started our live coverage of this on WDWS. Click the link at the top of the page to listen in.

***

We're at least 10 minutes away from today's news conference that will feature comments from interim chancellor Barbara Wilson and interim athletic director Paul Kowalczyk

Some UI dignitaries are making their way into the room here on the eighth floor of the press box at Memorial Stadium. Associate AD Mike Waddell and women's basketball coach Matt Bollant are in the room.

Lead sports information director Kent Brown is setting up the communication device so this can be carried over the telephone for those members of the media who cannot be in attendance. Brown's phone just rang: "Bear Down, Chicago Bears" is the ringtone.

I see at least six cameras set up in the back and plenty more folks are documenting with their smart phone. In all, about two dozen members of the media are here, could be more and more are expected.

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Moonpie wrote on November 09, 2015 at 4:11 pm

You just keep that cheerleading going, Coach Jackson -- Tate taught you well. Wave those pom-pons and keep saying to yourself like it's a chant: Illinois is a destination job, Illinois is a destination job...

 

Oh, sure, for the next mediocre coach they jerk out of the MAC. Just keep trying to fool readers that big-time coaches really want this job.

 

Why, I'm sure Lane Kiffin will leave Bama and jump at the chance to coach here. If you close your eyes really tight, say Sonny Tate really really fast thirteen times, and then wish upon a star--maybe it comes true!

wayward wrote on November 09, 2015 at 4:11 pm

I sure wouldn't blame the writer for reporting what was said at the press conference.  That said, it does seem unlikely that Illinois would be a "destination" for top-tier football or basketball coaches.  Some of the coaches in the non-revenue sports do seem pretty good, though (e.g., Justin Spring for men's gymnastics).

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