Cubit ends the suspense

CHAMPAIGN — Bill Cubit has a wry sense of humor.

The Illinois offensive coordinator can seemingly make a joke out of almost any situation.

Like the contract extension he received Wednesday that locks him up through the 2015 season and bumps his annual salary to $500,000.

“Christmas is coming,” Cubit said with a grin, “so I’m already hearing about that.”

Hired in January by Tim Beckman, Cubit helped Illinois’ offense take a leap forward during the 2013 season, improving the unit in several statistical categories.

More important, it keeps the 60-year-old Cubit on Beckman’s staff. Cubit said he has received phone calls this offseason inquiring about his services as a potential offensive coordinator at some place besides Illinois. Cubit declined to name what schools contacted him for that position — or the schools that contacted him as a possible head coach.

“With the head coaching thing, the spots there, I wasn’t really interested in,” Cubit said. “I didn’t want to do that again in those situations. I’m really happy being here.”

Illinois made dramatic leaps in several categories with Cubit calling plays.

Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase led the Big Ten in passing yards per game at 272.7, while Illinois went from 120th in first downs per game to 25th, from 107th in passing offense to 22nd, and from 122nd to 37th in plays of 20-plus yards.

“For me, I love these kids here,” Cubit said. “I just want to be a part of turning this whole thing around. It’s what I’ve done kind of all my life. You can go out and recruit now. I think sometimes people are wondering if you’re going to be there or not. I just believe in it. I really do.”

Loyalty is a characteristic Cubit said he takes pride in. That made it easier for the former Western Michigan head coach to accept the extension instead of looking for jobs elsewhere.

“That was probably one of my downfalls at Western Michigan is I was too loyal,” Cubit said. “I did a lot of things that I probably shouldn’t have done for the good of the athletic department and stuff like that, but that’s just who I am. Shoot, I’ve been dating the same girl since sophomore year in high school.”

He and his wife, Nancy, can take solace in the fact they won’t have to move from their Urbana home any time soon.

But Cubit knows he’ll have to keep the production up after he raised expectations this season. He’ll do so with a new quarterback in either Wes Lunt, Aaron Bailey or Reilly O’Toole, along with replacing all the starting wide receivers.

“I just walked through the weightroom, and there were a bunch of kids all excited,” Cubit said. “It makes you feel good that you can be part of something that can be great. I’m looking forward to it.”

So is Beckman.

“We all know what he does as a coach, but he also brings a great personality to our team and to this coaching staff,” Beckman said. “It’s a great work environment for our offensive staff. Continuity is huge in this game, and that’s what we’re going to continue to strive for here.”

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