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Nebraska vs. Illinois, 10.3.15

Illinois head coach Bill Cubit argues with referee Ron Snodgrass about a third quarter call at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015.

New Illinois athletic director Josh Witman sure made a splash on Saturday, his first on the job.

He fired football coach Bill Cubit.

Not only that, spring football practice, scheduled to start March 11, has been delayed, pending the hired of a new coach, and the status of the spring football game, scheduled for April 16, is in question.

Cubit was named interim coach when Illinois fired Tim Beckman a week before last season began, and then was named permanent head coach with a two-year contract following the season.

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β€œI appreciate the leadership that Bill Cubit provided our football program during what has been, unquestionably, a very tumultuous time,” Whitman said in a news release. β€œHe accepted the challenge on an interim basis under incredibly difficult and unusual circumstances, and he has continued to work diligently for the betterment of our student-athletes.

"Through his efforts, he has kept the program moving forward. Bill is a good man and a good football coach. All of us in the Illini Nation owe him a debt of gratitude for his work leading our team these last months. At this juncture, however, I think it is most important that we position our program for long-term success by creating a more stable environment for the coaches, players, and prospective student-athletes.”

Cubit led Illinois to a 5-7 record in 2015, including 2-6 in the Big Ten, which tied for fifth place in the West Division.

Offensive coordinator Ryan Cubit was also fired, effective immediately. The rest of the assistant coaches will have the opportunity to interview with the new head coach.

Reach the writer at brosenthal@journalstar.com.

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