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For Illinois football coach, it was ‘Beck’ as in wreck in 2012

Illinois head coach Tim Beckman right reacts as he watches his team during second half an NCAA college football game

Illinois head coach Tim Beckman, right, reacts as he watches his team during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Northwestern in Evanston, Ill., Saturday, Nov. 24, 2012. Northwestern won 50-14. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

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Updated: December 26, 2012 9:47AM



Tim Beckman has been saying it all fall: He has never seen this many injuries hit a team. And he has never been involved in losing of such epic proportions.

Here’s hoping he never has to say either of those things again.

You wouldn’t wish what Beckman has gone through on anybody — a ton of losing accompanied by an inordinate amount of criticism.

What was going through his mind after the final humiliation, a 50-14 shellacking Saturday at Northwestern?

‘‘A lot,’’ he said, pausing to reflect. ‘‘You’re in this game for the players. You get so close to one another as a family. But the losing hurts. You want your kids to experience winning. We didn’t experience winning this year. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever been through.’’

His voice was cracking. He seemed on the verge of tears that didn’t come.

It has been that kind of season.

‘‘Coach Beckman said [in the locker room] that we’ve hit rock-bottom,’’ quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase said. ‘‘It’s crazy how much things can change in a year in college football. The key is learning from what this is like and not accepting what’s going on, not accepting losing.’’

In a moment that pretty much summed up his first season, Beckman got in the way of an official, got knocked on his keister — and received a sideline-interference penalty to boot. That happened in the second quarter after he had already received a sideline-interference penalty in the first quarter.

‘‘That’s on me; I had two of them,’’ Beckman said. ‘‘It’s my fault. Not good on my part, running out there, getting involved in the game.’’

So many of us have piled on Beckman during one of the most inauspicious debuts imaginable. Even the referees.

The problem is, for whatever reason, Beckman has made it difficult to look the other way.

He got off on the wrong foot in July by poaching Penn State players on the eve of Big Ten media day, making the spotlight shine feverishly on the controversy. In exchange for all the bad publicity, he landed one recruit who couldn’t even help an offensive line desperate for help — not a great trade-off.

He got caught chewing tobacco at Wisconsin. With what he’s going through, it’s understandable to turn to an old calming influence. But it’s also unacceptable in the modern world.

Nothing seems to work out for this guy.

Toughest of all, though, is the losing.

A team that many people thought had a chance to go 6-6 or 7-5 finished 2-10, losing its last nine games.

Whether athletic director Mike Thomas knows it, there’s a core of lllini loyalists who’d like to see Beckman gone. That’s not going to happen, nor should it.

Barring something unseemly and far-fetched, new coaches are given three years to prove themselves, and all indications are that Beckman will have that opportunity.

Saturday’s rout in Evanston is further proof Beckman has a ton of work to do. And he knows it.

‘‘There’s only one way you can go: forward,’’ he said. ‘‘Our coaching staff will be out on the road tomorrow.’’



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