Illini Welcome the ‘Big Three’ New Coaches

After three big decisions from the University of Illinois’ Athletic Director, Mike Thomas, resulted in making coaching changes last year to three major teams at the University, these new additions are ready for their big shot. The three new head coaches are looking to make a statement their opening seasons!

Coach Tim Beckman. Photo courtesy of Twitter @coachbeckman.

Tim Beckman: Football

Hometown: Berea, OH
Last School: University of Toledo
Experience: 24 years
Record: 24-19 (55.8% – Head Coach)

Tim Beckman was named the 23rd head football coach at the University of Illinois on December 9, 2011.

Coming into the program, Beckman brought with him a lot of heart and enthusiasm, which was a positive for Illinois fans who had become frustrated with recent letdowns in the football program in previous years.

Beckman came to Illinois after three years as the head coach at Toledo, where he led the Rockets to two bowl appearances and a Mid-American Conference West Division co-championship.

Beckman had an impressive turnaround with his Toledo team in the three years as head coach, bringing the team back from losing seasons to winning ones in a short amount of time. In his last two seasons at Toledo, Beckman compiled a 14-2 record in MAC games, second-best in the conference over that span.

He has learned under some of the finest coaches in America, including Pat Dye, Urban Meyer, Mike Gundy and Jim Tressel. His last two recruiting classes have been widely praised, earning a No. 1 ranking among MAC teams by in both seasons after landing two of the three four-star prospects signed by conference schools.

Before accepting Toledo’s head coaching position, Beckman had 21 years of experience as an assistant coach. He served as the defensive coordinator at Oklahoma State (2007-08), the cornerbacks coach at Ohio State (2005-06), the defensive coordinator/assistant head coach at Bowling Green (1998-2004), the defensive coordinator at Elon (1996-97), the secondary coach/recruiting coordinator at Western Carolina (1990-95) and as a graduate assistant at Auburn (1988- 89).

Beckman and his wife, Kim, have three children: Tyler (20), Lindsay (18), and Alex (14). Tyler is a sophomore quarterback at the University of Findlay, while Lindsay is a freshman at Toledo.

Beckman has had his success over the years in his respective programs, and has had multiple players continue on to the NFL. He is looking to make a name for himself in Champaign, but within the powerhouse Big Ten conference, nothing is ever as easy as it seems.


Coach Matt Bollant. Photo courtesy of Twitter @coachbollant.

Matt Bollant – Women’s Basketball

Hometown: Winona, MN
Last School: University of Wisconsin Green Bay
Experience: 10 years
Record: 282-55 (83.7%)

Matt Bollant was named the eighth head women’s basketball coach at the University of Illinois on March 28, 2012.

Bollant comes to Illinois after a successful five-year stint at Green Bay, where he guided the Phoenix to five straight Horizon League titles and four straight trips to the NCAA Tournament.

He guided Green Bay to a 148-19 record in five years, including an 85-5 mark in the Horizon League. Green Bay was ranked as high as No. 9 in the national polls in both 2010-11 and 2011-12. In 2010-11, Green Bay went 4-0 against the Big Ten Conference, defeating Minnesota, Wisconsin, Penn State and Michigan State. And he was named the Horizon League Coach of the Year for the fourth time in 2012.

Bollant was as an assistant coach under Kathi Bennett, the daughter of former Wisconsin men’s coach Dick Bennett, for five seasons before becoming a collegiate head coach. He served three years under Bennett at the University of Evansville, helping the Purple Aces to the 1999 NCAA Tournament, then followed her to Indiana, where the Hoosiers became the lowest seed (5) to win the Big Ten Tournament in 2002.

A 1994 graduate of Winona State University with a degree in business education, Bollant received a master’s degree in education from American Intercontinental University. He served as both the varsity and junior varsity head coach of Depper Life Academy in the Philippines and spent three years as the head coach at Tigerton (Wis.) High School, guiding the Tigers to a 63-10 record and to three Central Wisconsin Conference Small School titles from 1994-97.

He and his wife, Kari, have two daughters, Abi and Regan.

With “W’s” far outweighing the “L’s” in his career, Bollant may be the answer to bringing the Fighting Illini women up to the top.


Coach John Groce. Photo courtesy of Twitter @johngroce.

John Groce – Men’s Basketball

Hometown: Danville, IN
Last School: Ohio University
Experience: 19 years
Record: 434-212 (67.2%)

John Groce was named the 17th Fighting Illini men’s basketball coach on March 29, 2012.

Groce (pronounced Gross) arrived at Illinois after four seasons as head coach at Ohio University, where he led the Bobcats to an 85-56 overall record as well as Mid-American Conference Tournament titles and NCAA Tournament appearances in 2010 and 2012.

Ohio was the story of last year’s Tournament, advancing to the Sweet 16 as a No. 13 seed with victories over No. 4 seed Michigan followed by No. 12 seed South Florida. The Bobcats finished just short of the Elite Eight, falling to top-seeded North Carolina in overtime in the regional semifinal. This year marked just the second time in Ohio’s school history, and first since 1964 that the Bobcats won multiple games in the NCAA Tournament. Ohio finished the 2012 season with a school-record 29 wins and was known for its pressure defense, ranking second nationally in turnover percentage and third in steals percentage.

The 41-year-old Groce earned his first head coaching job at Ohio following four seasons on Thad Matta’s staff at Ohio State from 2005-08, the first two as assistant coach and last two as associate head coach. He played a key role in recruiting many of the top players at Ohio State and was named’s 2006 National Recruiter of the Year. In all, Groce spent eight years as an assistant under Matta. Prior to his time at Ohio State, Groce served three years on Matta’s staff at Xavier from 2002-04 and one season at Butler in 2000-01.

Groce entered the Division I coaching ranks as a member of Herb Sendek’s staff at North Carolina State from 1997-2000. He got his start in coaching as an assistant at his alma mater, Taylor University, an NAIA school in Upland, Ind and spent three years on Paul Patterson’s staff from 1994-96. He was a player for Patterson for three years from 1991-93 before transitioning to a student assistant role as a senior and then earning a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Taylor in 1994.

John and his wife, Allison, have two sons, Conner and Camden.

Groce is already off to a great start with the Illini, especially on the recruiting front. A key component to having a successful basketball team at Illinois is to be able to recruit the players out of Chicago, a task that hasn’t been a forte for the program. Kendrick Nunn, senior guard out of Simeon, recently committed to Illinois over Marquette, Memphis and Ohio State. Nunn’s teammate, and arguably the best high school player in the country, Jabari Parker, is still on Groce’s radar as Parker has not announced where he will be attending yet. If his recruiting skill is any indication of how the team will perform this season and in the upcoming years, Groce and the Illini could be building an impressive resume.

About: Lexi Shurilla

Sports and writing are two of my passions, and mixing them together with being a die-hard Illini fan only begins to describe me. I am now a University of Illinois Alum with a degree in News-Editorial Journalism after graduating in May 2012. Promoting my school is something I do best, and my enthusiasm and loyalty shine brightly.