Tim Beckman was back in Toledo on Sunday for his final farewell to the University of Toledo.
On Friday, the Rockets’ head coach left the school to accept the same position at the University of Illinois after agreeing to a contract that will pay him $9 million over five years.
Following an afternoon news conference at UT’s Larimer Athletic Complex, Beckman headed downtown for the Rockets’ senior banquet at the Grand Plaza Hotel, formerly the Crowne Plaza Hotel, despite a strong message from the team’s seniors that he was not welcome.
Shortly after Beckman met with the Rockets on Friday morning, UT’s 20 seniors held a vote to determine whether their former coach should be allowed to attend their team banquet. The majority of the seniors opted against extending him an invitation to the annual event.
“That was the consensus vote the other day, and he [still] just showed up,” UT senior cornerback Desmond Marrow said. “It was like I saw a ghost when he walked in. It was kind of an awkward moment, but I wish him well with everything.”
Earlier in the day, Beckman told a group of reporters that he was still undecided on whether he would attend the banquet.
“I don’t want to take anything from those kids,” Beckman said. “I know there’s people that I want to say good-bye to, especially families — moms and dads — so that they understand the importance of the relationships we’ve built with them.”
Beckman said he spoke with UT athletic director Mike O’Brien and interim coach Matt Campbell to help him make his decision and ultimately ended up making a brief appearance at the banquet. According to those in attendance, Beckman gave a brief speech — during which his voice quivered several times — and then left well before the event’s conclusion.
“I think it was a very classy move by him, just to show that he was sticking to his word,” UT senior running back Adonis Thomas said. “He said that he would come back and give us words of encouragement.
“I really didn’t expect him to come, but ... it just shows how much love he has for this senior class. Just because he accepted a new job, he didn’t really forget about us and turn his back on us. I really respected that.”
Although Beckman did not address the media after leaving the team banquet, he did talk earlier Sunday about his decision not to tell his players and coaches about his involvement with Illinois on Thursday when reports first surfaced about his impending departure.
“I wasn’t allowed to talk about it,” Beckman said. “I hadn’t even interviewed on [Illinois’] campus yet. There’s protocol that has to be served anytime you get a job. I wasn’t officially offered the job, so I could not make a remark on that job.”
Beckman is currently in the process of putting together his coaching staff at Illinois and said he has already offered Campbell a position on his staff.
Beckman said he expects to have “one or two” UT assistants join him at Illinois this week and more could follow after the bowl game. Campbell and O’Brien said Friday that they both expected UT’s coaching staff to remain intact, minus Beckman, until after the matchup with Air Force in the Military Bowl on Dec. 28 in Washington.
As for recruiting, Beckman said he will not contact any of the 18 high school students who have verbally committed to the Rockets unless they are “wavering” on their commitments to UT. Beckman did say one of those players has reopened his recruitment but could not identify him because of NCAA rules. That player is believed to be Canton (Mich.) cornerback Kevin Buford, who reportedly committed to Iowa on Sunday.
Standing in front of a UT banner, Beckman even made light of his decision to have his players form a human shield in front of a Bowling Green banner at Perry Stadium after the Rockets’ 28-21 win there earlier this year.
“Though I don’t have any Illini players here, the Toledo Rockets will always be behind me,” Beckman said. “They’ll always be a very, very important part of my life.”
Contact Zach Silka at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6084 or on Twitter @ZachSilka.