UNC's Fedora explains hiring of fired Illinois coach Tim Beckman
One day after controversy erupted surrounding North Carolina’s decision to hire Tim Beckman to be a volunteer assistant with the football program, Beckman on Thursday thanked the university for the opportunity and announced his departure.
“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,” Beckman said in a statement released by the school.
Beckman lost his head coaching job at Illinois last year after an investigation found that he mistreated injured players and pressured team medical personnel to downplay injuries. He resurfaced earlier this month at UNC, where coach Larry Fedora gave Beckman a role as a volunteer assistant to the defensive coaching staff.
Fedora and Beckman have been friends since working together at Oklahoma State in 2007. Beckman’s presence at UNC had largely gone unnoticed until Wednesday, when a report surfaced that Beckman had joined the coaching staff as a volunteer.
Amid much scrutiny, Fedora defended the move on Wednesday. He said Bubba Cunningham, the UNC athletic director, had approved of Beckman’s role with the team.
UNC Chancellor Carol Folt, though, did not approve of it once she learned about Beckman’s presence. In a statement UNC released on Thursday, Folt said she became aware on Wednesday of the volunteer arrangement between UNC and Beckman.
“When I first learned yesterday that coach Larry Fedora had invited former Illinois head coach Tim Beckman to serve as a volunteer with the football program, I was surprised and disappointed,” Folt said in the statement. “The decision for Mr. Beckman to withdraw from his volunteer position was the right thing to do, and moving forward I don’t expect this situation to recur.”
Beckman was the head coach at Illinois for three seasons, from 2012 through 2014. Weeks before the start of the 2015 season, he was fired after a university-commissioned investigation concluded, among other things, that Beckman had mocked injured players and suggested they were weak.
According to the report, Beckman said he didn’t believe in hamstring injuries. During one moment, when one of his players exhibited signs of having suffered a concussion, Beckman dismissed those signs and suggested the player keep playing.
When I first learned yesterday that coach Larry Fedora had invited former Illinois head coach Tim Beckman to serve as a volunteer with the football program, I was surprised and disappointed.
UNC chancellor Carol Folt
The NCAA prohibits volunteer coaches in football and basketball. Fedora made a point on Wednesday to emphasize that at UNC, Beckman wasn’t coaching players but instead assisting coaches in scouting opponents and evaluating film.
“I’m glad we’re able to give him this opportunity until he’s able to find employment,” Fedora said.
By Thursday night, though, after a day of national condemnation and criticism over UNC’s decision to associate with Beckman, Fedora had released a statement explaining Beckman’s resignation.
“Tim will no longer serve as a volunteer with our program,” Fedora said. “I brought Tim here to help a friend gain experience from our staff, but after meeting with him today, we agreed his presence had become too much of a distraction.”
And so ended a short, bizarre chapter in Fedora’s UNC head coaching tenure, which is entering its fifth season. The Tar Heels, ranked No. 22 in The Associated Press’ preseason top 25, begin the season on Sept. 3 in a nationally-televised game against Georgia at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
The next week, on Sept. 10, UNC plays at Illinois, against Beckman’s former employer. Volunteer assistants are permitted to travel with their teams, and so one of the questions surrounding Beckman’s presence at UNC had been whether he’d join the Tar Heels at Illinois.
Fedora said on Wednesday that it was unclear. A little more than 24 hours later, it was all moot, anyway, with Beckman’s ties to UNC severed, his short stint as a volunteer assistant over.
“Coach Fedora’s interest was in helping a coaching colleague get back on his feet,” Cunningham, the UNC athletic director, said in a statement. “We will learn from this and continue preparing for the season.”