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Illinois has fired Bill Cubit

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Credit: Chicago Tribune

It was a business-as-usual Saturday for the Illinois football program. Recruits were on campus, and the staff was busy preparing for spring football to open next week.

New athletics director Josh Whitman had other ideas. On his first official day on the job, Whitman fired head coach Bill Cubit. We understand most, if not all, of the staff is gone as well.

"I appreciate the leadership that Bill Cubit provided our football program during what has been, unquestionably, a very tumultuous time," Whitman said in a statement. "He 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."

Formerly an eight-year head coach at Western Michigan, Cubit arrived at Illinois as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in 2013, then was elevated to interim head coach following Tim Beckman's abrupt dismissal last August. He led the club to a 5-7 season, viewed as a success under the circumstances, and earned a two-year contract following the year, placing him -- and the entire program, by extension -- in a state of limbo.

Whitman, clearly, wanted to rip the Illini out of it.

In another odd detail in a series of odd details, the official press released noted Whitman did not meet with players before announcing Cubit's ouster:

Whitman will meet players on Saturday. He said that because of the timing of this decision, spring football practice (scheduled to start Friday, March 11) will be delayed until a new head coach is in place and can coordinate a schedule. An announcement will also be forthcoming with regard to the Spring Football Game, currently scheduled for Saturday, April 16.

Cubit is due a $985,000 buyout, subject to "contractual mitigation factors." The school also notes offensive coordinator Ryan Cubit is owed a $361,000 buyout.

With a move like this, it's a safe bet Whitman has an idea in mind where he wants to go next. As always, we'll keep you updated as the story progresses on The Scoop.