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New Illinois AD fires head football coach Bill Cubit immediately after taking over

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That was fast!

Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

New Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman has fired Bill Cubit as head football coach on his first day of duty, the school announced Saturday.

University of Illinois Director of Athletics Josh Whitman announced the dismissal of head football coach Bill Cubit on Saturday following one season as interim head coach.

Whitman, who made the announcement on his first official day as the university's athletic director, indicated that providing stability to the Fighting Illini football program was an immediate need.

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

Whitman will meet with players on Saturday. The decision to fire Cubit, who served as interim head coach after the firing of much-maligned and embattled Tim Beckman last August and was retained with a two-year contract in November, will postpone the beginning of the Illini's spring practices, and possibly a spring game scheduled for April 16.

Cubit signed a 24-person recruiting class in February. There are no scholarship ramifications for those players as of yet.

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Offensive coordinator Ryan Cubit, Bill's son, has also been relieved of his duties. All other Illini assistants will have the opportunity to interview with the next head coach.

Cubit's retention came after a 5-7 season in which his Illini won one game against an FBS team with a winning record. Cubit previously went 51-47 in eight seasons at Western Michigan before being fired in 2012, and 34-18-1 at Division III Widener in the early 1990s.

Keeping Cubit on was opposed by SB Nation's Illinois blog The Champaign Room, which wrote that he wasn't "the answer" at head coach and preferred a new athletic director be allowed to hire a head coach. But given that Cubit was retained, The Champaign Room didn't think Whitman would make a dramatic change, instead expecting the athletic director to sit down with his head coach and decide if their long-term visions were compatible.

Now, the blog is pleased by the move, but finds it "completely stunning" and is perplexed by its timing and handling.

Illinois' first mistake was giving Cubit the two year extension. This is a pretty nutty way to try to rectify that mistake. Don't get me wrong, I am thrilled the Cubit Boys are gone. Their offenses were bad and neither did anything to deserve the money the university was throwing at them (which adds up to about $1.4MM that we'll owe for this upcoming season).

I'm just a little irked/confused by the timing. Illinois could have hired Dino Babers this fall. He was there for the taking. But now we're jumping into the coaching market months after everyone has been signed. So either Josh Whitman already has Cubit's replacement lined up or he's an incredibly bold man.

Cubit's firing seems to have been abrupt and unexpected by most parties. Illinois wide receiver Mike Dudek tweeted that he found out about it through Twitter.

Former Illinois lineman Simon Cvijanović, whose allegations of abuse helped lead to Beckman's firing, was far less surprised. Cubit was cleared of any wrongdoing by Illinois; he was alleged to have told Cvijanovic to get off antidepressants, but investigators did not believe this was a threat.