Illinois fired coach Tim Beckman a week before the 2015 season started after the program received the preliminary results into an investigation surrounding allegations about the program. The Fighting Illini will proceed with offensive coordinator Bill Cubit as the interim coach for the upcoming season.
Cubit will have an opportunity to earn the full-time position, but a decision on the coach in 2016 is still a ways away. While athletic director Mike Thomas likely won’t hire a coach until late November or early December, it’s never too early to look ahead.
Here’s 20 candidates to watch in 2015 as Illinois’ looks to find its next head coach:
20 Candidates to Watch in 2015 for Illinois' Coaching Search
Dave Aranda, defensive coordinator, Wisconsin – Aranda has emerged as one of college football’s top defensive minds. He joined Gary Andersen’s staff in Madison in 2013 and guided the Badgers’ defense to a No. 2 rank in the Big Ten (20.8 points allowed last season).
Chris Ash, Co-Defensive Coordinator, Ohio State – Ash was hired by coach Urban Meyer to work as the co-defensive coordinator with Luke Fickell last season. And the hire paid dividends for the Buckeyes’ defense, as this unit allowed only 22 points per game en route to a national championship. Ash also coordinated defenses at Arkansas and Wisconsin and is known for his work with defensive backs.
Dino Babers, head coach, Bowling Green – Babers’ first season at Bowling Green was slightly derailed by an injury to starting quarterback Matt Johnson. However, Babers finished 2014 with an 8-6 mark and a MAC East title. Prior to last season, Babers was the head coach at Eastern Illinois (19-7) and made stops as an assistant at Baylor, UCLA, Pittsburgh, Texas A&M and Arizona.
Jeff Brohm, head coach, WKU – Brohm entered 2014 as an unknown commodity in his first opportunity as a head coach on the FBS level. But the former Louisville quarterback had a solid debut (8-5 in 2014) and has the Hilltoppers among the favorites to win Conference USA in 2015. Brohm is a rising star in the coaching ranks.
Matt Canada, offensive coordinator, NC State – Canada has worked since 2007 as an offensive play-caller at four different stops (Indiana, Northern Illinois, Wisconsin and NC State). A longshot but ready for a chance to run a program.
Rod Carey, head coach, Northern Illinois – The Northern Illinois program hasn’t missed a beat with Carey at the controls. The Wisconsin native was promoted to head coach after Dave Doeren left for NC State. Under Carey’s watch, the Huskies are 23-6 since the 2013 Orange Bowl. Additionally, he guided Northern Illinois to the 2014 MAC Championship.
Bill Cubit, interim head coach, Illinois – Cubit is a proven coach (51-47 at Western Michigan) and has an opportunity to earn the permanent position with a good season in 2015. Although Cubit is a solid coach and good play-caller, he’s probably a longshot to get the full-time job.
P.J. Fleck, head coach, Western Michigan – Fleck is known as an ace recruiter, and his work on the recruiting trail is starting to pay off at Western Michigan. After a 1-11 record in his debut, Fleck rebounded with an 8-5 mark in 2014. The Broncos are among the favorites to win the MAC West in 2015.
Willie Fritz, head coach, Georgia Southern – Fritz has a proven track record of success at three different jobs. After a 97-47 mark at Central Missouri and a 40-15 record at Sam Houston State, Fritz replaced Jeff Monken at Georgia Southern and guided the Eagles to a 9-3 mark in its first season at the FBS level.
Justin Fuente, head coach, Memphis – Fuente can probably aim a little higher than Illinois. In three years with the Tigers, Fuente is 17-20 and guided the program to a 10-3 record in 2014. He should be a hot commodity at the end of the 2015 season.
Doc Holliday, head coach, Marshall – Holliday was known for his recruiting ability when he was hired at Marshall prior to the 2010 season. And after five seasons with the Thundering Herd, it’s safe to say Holliday is one of Conference USA’s top coaches. The West Virginia native is 40-25 since 2010 and has won 23 games over the last two years.
Lane Kiffin, offensive coordinator, Alabama – Kiffin will get another opportunity as a head coach after he was fired at USC during the 2013 season. But he’s got a good job as Alabama’s play-caller and can take his time finding the right position.
Lance Leipold, head coach, Buffalo – Leipold is one of the rising stars in the coaching ranks and enters his first season at Buffalo after a successful stint at Wisconsin-Whitewater. From 2007-14, Leipold went 109-6 with the Warhawks and won six Division III titles.
Pete Lembo, head coach, Ball State – It’s only a matter of time before Lembo gets a promotion to a Power 5 program. The New York native is a proven winner at three different programs and guided Ball State to back-to-back bowls in 2012-13. Lembo went 35-22 at Elon from 2006-10 and 44-14 at Lehigh from 2001-05. In 14 seasons as a head coach, Lembo only has one year with a losing record.
Doug Meacham, co-offensive coordinator, TCU – Meacham has never been a head coach on the FCS or FBS level, but he made a significant impact as TCU’s play-caller last season. The Horned Frogs were one of the nation’s most improved offenses, averaging 46.5 points per game. He also coached as an assistant at Houston and Oklahoma State.
Mike Norvell, offensive coordinator, Arizona State – Norvell is one of college football’s brightest offensive minds and a rising star in the assistant ranks. After a playing career at Central Arkansas, Norvell went into coaching in 2006 and joined Todd Graham’s staff at Tulsa in 2007. He followed Graham to Pittsburgh and Arizona State, where he coordinated a Sun Devil offense that averaged 36.9 points per game in 2014.
Barry Odom, defensive coordinator, Missouri – Odom is in his first year at Missouri after a successful three-year stint as Memphis’ defensive coordinator. The former Missouri linebacker will be a FBS head coach in the near future.
Lincoln Riley, offensive coordinator, Oklahoma – Rising star in the coordinator ranks was hired away from East Carolina to call the plays for the Sooners in 2015.
Brock Spack, head coach, Illinois State – Spack is a longshot, but Illinois State is 46-26 under his watch and is among the favorites to win the FCS title in 2015. The former Purdue defensive coordinator guided the Redbirds to the FCS Championship game last season.
Bobby Wilder, head coach, Old Dominion – Wilder built the Old Dominion football program from scratch and transformed it into a FBS team ready to push for bowl appearances – all in just seven seasons. Wilder is 52-20 in seven years with the Monarchs and guided the program to a 6-6 record in its first year at the FBS level.