UNC football coach Larry Fedora tried to help a friend when he brought on as a volunteer former Illinois coach Tim Beckman, who was fired by the University of Illinois before the start of last season after accusations that he mistreated players. But the move drew such an outcry that it was Beckman who had to help Fedora by abruptly quitting the program Thursday.
Beckman, whose association with Fedora dates to the coaches working together at Oklahoma State in 2007, said in a statement, “I do not wish to be a further distraction to the team or University and I will no longer serve as a volunteer at UNC. I wish Larry and the program nothing but success going forward.”
The coach who was accused of being dismissive of his players’ injuries at least has a well-honed sense of when a reputation is being hurt. Beckman made the right move, though it’s unlikely he had options. UNC’s image has been battered by an academic-athletic scandal and NCAA sanctions may be coming. The university could hardly afford the cost of having Beckman on board after Illinois dismissed him for mistreating his players.
But Beckman’s exit hardly clears the issue. For the issue wasn’t only Beckman’s past. It was and is about Fedora’s judgment and the judgment of UNC-CH Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham, who approved Fedora’s bringing his friend on as an assistant to the defensive coaching staff.
Illinois’ investigation of Beckman found that he pressured athletics trainers and medical staff to downplay injuries and that he accused injured players of weakness. It’s disturbing that Fedora seems to think Beckman got a raw deal.
“I don’t believe everything I read, all right,” Fedora said. He also said he understood criticism of his decision but “then a couple of days from now it won’t be news.”
Beckman has a right to a new start, somewhere, in some profession. But he was fired only a year ago, and Fedora should have been more prudent in his action. He seems to have put helping out a buddy ahead of the reputation of UNC.