By Chris Emma—
(CBS) On the surface, Tim Beckman presented himself as the coach who cared. His pride came in building the “Illini Family,” a phrase he constantly used in a tenure of three seasons and nearly four years as the Illinois football. It seemed to come from a genuine place.
During a day on the golf course in June 2014, family was a constant reference from Beckman for a feature story I was writing.
“It’s all family,” Beckman said of his team on several occasions. “That’s the reward in this.”
Beckman constantly referred to his position as a dream come true for a football lifer, the son of a longtime coach. Hired by Illinois in December 2011 after a successful run at Toledo, Beckman cherished the chance to coach a Big Ten program and instill family values into the program. And to those outside of the team walls in Champaign, he acted as the coach you’d want a son to play for.
But there was ugliness within those walls, at the root of Illinois’ football program. An independent investigation released by the university on Monday — when it also fired athletic director Mike Thomas — reveals that Beckman wasn’t the a man you’d want your son to play for.
In a damning investigation, one horrid story after the next proved Beckman was a sham, revealing a coach who was at best extremely short-sighted and out of touch and at worst a man who cared little to nothing about his players in trying times. Beckman pressured players to play through injuries and threatened to pull scholarships repeatedly.
Within the so-called “Illini family” was the despicable culture of abuse and mistreatment. It was everything former Fighting Illini captain and offensive lineman Simon Cvijanovic first alleged with tweets in May, blowing the whistle on Beckman’s appalling behavior.
One point after another in the scathing investigation makes it more absurd that Beckman’s actions carried nearly into a fourth season. Among the most egregious actions, Beckman put a player through risk of a serious spinal injury.
“Coach Beckman’s encouragement of players to push on was not, however, limited to circumstances involving common, minor discomfort,” the report stated. “Rather, he reportedly made similar comments to players who had potentially suffered serious, life-altering neck, spine, or concussion problems. For instance, two physicians confronted Coach Beckman during the 2012 season after a player went down with a potential spinal injury. The sports medicine staff evaluating the player report that they did not want the player to move as they were stabilizing his spine and holding the player’s head still, but Coach Beckman reportedly inserted himself to tell the player to turn his head to look at Coach Beckman so that he could tell the player that he was going to be fine. The physicians reported talking to Coach Beckman after the game and obtaining his agreement not to repeat such conduct. In another incident, a team physician recalled taking a player for evaluation who was stumbling around and confused after a big hit in a game, and Coach Beckman interjecting before the evaluation was complete stating to the player, ‘Hey, you’re ready to play, you’re okay.’”
Over and over, the report presents shocking actions from Beckman. He used “motivational tactics” like calling a player a “f—ing p—y” as trainers helped him off the field with an injury. In 2013, the program added a trainer that Beckman claimed would “clear you faster.” That man, Toby Harkins, was a key figure in Cvijanovic’s first claims – a trainer who referred to “a significant injury” as a “minor nothing,” as the report states.
During Illinois’ 2014 game at Nebraska, a trainer accompanied a player away who was suspected of having a concussion. Beckman yelled over, “He is done, he is scared.” The player missed the remainder of the season with the concussion. Another former athletic trainer reported that Beckman would tell players “you are soft” or “you are quitting on the team” as they were helped off the field with injuries.
When players left practice to seek treatment, Beckman would refer to them as a “p—y,” “sissy or “soft,” according to the report.
The anti-trust claim filed by attorney Jeffrey Kessler will surely be interested in all this, plus how Beckman managed guaranteed four-year scholarships.
“Football player scholarships during Coach Beckman’s tenure at the University were granted in one-year increments for an academic year (running from August 1 to July 31), subject to annual renewal,” the report stated.
When Cvijanovic first took to Twitter in May to sound off on Beckman, he did so in a calculated plan to draw attention to this mistreatment, realizing the difficulty of a college athlete leveling accusations toward a powerful football coach. Cvijanovic has said he needs therapy for the rest of his life because his knee injury wasn’t properly treated by the program. His suffering seems to match that of so many teammates.
What started as a series of tweets from Cvijanovic concluded with a detailed investigation that brought the August dismissal of Beckman, along with athletic director Mike Thomas on Monday.
Speaking in an exclusive interview shortly after his May tweets, Cvijanovic expressed his wish.
“I hope he doesn’t coach college football again,” Cvijanovic said. “He’s hurt enough people.”
Following Monday’s revelations, it appears Cvijanovic’s wish will come true. Beckman doesn’t deserve to ever coach football again.
Beckman presented himself as a caring football coach who wanted the best for his athletes. His actions of abuse and mistreatment showed otherwise, and it’s all documented in a thorough report.
The dream Beckman had lived is long dead, and he will likely never coach again. His legacy lives in every page and damning story to his horrendous misuse of power.
Follow Chris on Twitter @CEmma670.