Asmussen | New job at Delaware 'makes sense' for former Illini leader Cubit

 

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Delaware Stadium hasn't changed much since Bill Cubit was a receiver and quarterback for the Blue Hens in the early 1970s. The 22,000-seat facility, one of the largest in the FCS, was built in 1952.

"It's interesting because the only thing that's different in the stadium from when I played is they put FieldTurf in," Cubit said.

Cubit, 65, is getting reacquainted with his college stomping ground. On Jan. 1, the former Illinois head coach joined Danny Rocco's Delaware staff. He is serving as the team's assistant head coach.

"This thing here just makes sense for me because it's back home," Cubit said. "I'm rekindling a lot of friendships. A lot of the guys I played with or went to school with are reaching out. That's neat.

"I played here. I loved it here. Coach (Tubby) Raymond is one of the greatest coaches ever in college football."

Returning to Delaware was always in the back of Cubit's mind. But the timing was never right.

Until now.

"At this point, it's ideal for me," Cubit said. "I'm coaching great kids. I love those guys. It's a great place, one of the top FCS schools in the country."

It's been four years since Cubit last worked in college. He went 5-7 in 2015 at Illinois after replacing fired Tim Beckman a week before the season.

He is thrilled to be back, especially at his alma mater.

"It's a special, special place," Cubit said. "Delaware has a great brand up here. Everybody welcomes you here."

One of the first to say hello was the Delaware defensive coordinator, a name familiar to Illinois fans. Chris Cosh, who was on Lou Tepper's staff in the 1990s, is now with the Blue Hens.

Cubit is a big fan of Delaware athletic director Chrissi Rawak, a longtime Michigan administrator who took over in 2016.

"She's outstanding," Cubit said.

Thanks to Rawak's fundraising efforts, the school is building a new performance center next to the stadium. There will also be a new press box (always a good move) with suites.

Delaware alum and Super Bowl-winning quarterback Joe Flacco made a "significant" donation to Blue Hen athletics to help with building and stadium renovations.

"It's going to rival a lot of Division I schools," Cubit said.

Doing his part

Cubit is excited to be with Rocco, who is 14-9 his first two seasons. Rocco came to the Blue Hens after three consecutive FCS playoff appearances at Richmond.

"My biggest thing is just being loyal to him," Cubit said. "Whatever he wants me to do, I do."

Cubit will work with the running backs and help offensive coordinator Jared Ambrose.

He is recruiting again in an area he knows well: parts of New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware.

Cubit lives in Wilmington, Del., about a 15-minute drive from campus in Newark. Cubit and his wife Nancy will spend the next three weeks or so at their home in Stuart, Fla., before returning to campus for training camp.

Delaware opens the season Aug. 29 at home against Delaware State. The Blue Hens travel to Rhode Island the second week, then host two-time defending FCS champ North Dakota State on Sept. 14.

On Sept. 28, Cubit will see a familiar face on the opponent's sideline. The Blue Hens travel to Heinz Field to play Pitt. Former Illini quarterback Jeff George Jr. is a projected backup for the Panthers.

Cubit coached George at Illinois and has a good relationship with his dad, Jeff Sr.

"I'm looking forward to seeing Jeff Sr," Cubit said. "He's going to be there.

"It will be nice to see Jeff Jr. He's such a great kid."

Cubit continues to follow the Illinois program. He recruited the 2016 class that included current players Jake Hansen, Tymir Oliver, Stanley Green and Doug Kramer.

"I root for those kids," Cubit said.

Looking back

If it worked the way Cubit hoped, he would still be at Illinois.

"I love that place," Cubit said. "Real good people."

Hired as Tim Beckman's offensive coordinator in 2013, he opened the '15 season 4-1 before losing six of the last seven to a miss a bowl. Three of the losses were decided by 10 points or less, and he did enough to persuade the school to give him a two-year contract on Nov. 28.

"I thought we were on the right track," Cubit said. "We had a plan."

In early March 2016, Cubit was fired by new athletic director Josh Whitman and soon replaced by current coach Lovie Smith.

"When that thing happened, I wasn't ready to give it up," Cubit said. "The time frame that they did it, to be perfectly honest with you, was really unfair to everybody on our staff."

Cubit had another opportunity to return to the college game, "but it just didn't feel right. This (Delaware job) felt right."

He spent 2017 as head coach at Martin County (Fla.) High School.

"I went there to help the school out, because I had been there way back in the early '80s," Cubit said. "They were good kids and they worked hard."

But college football is Cubit's first love. It's where he belongs.

"You've still got that itch," Cubit said. "The competitive spirit in you."

Bob Asmussen can be reached at 217-351-5233 or by email at asmussen@news-gazette.com.