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Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Illinois just invented something almost totally new: pre-firing a coach. Tim Beckman is out a week before the season after an independent investigation revealed "efforts to deter injury reporting and influence medical decisions that pressured players to avoid or postpone medical treatment and continue playing despite injuries. "

Here is the official press release. Please note that the University of Illinois mentioned this, and also mentioned Tim Beckman's overall record (12-25) and then specifically listed his Big Ten Conference record of 4-20 afterwards. If this were a handwritten note, you'd be able to clearly see tracks of the claw marks on the paper between the words.

The press release is quietly vicious enough, but firing Beckman for cause kicks in a whole other bag of daggers. By executing the nearly unprecedented prefiring, Illinois owes Beckman absolutely nothing from his contract. Nothing. not a $740,000 buyout, not a $3 million buyout, nothing. They can take his phone and ask him to put his lasagna pans in a box and just tell him to go, no strings attached and with his coaching reputation in tatters. He did it to himself, mind you, but Illinois was all too happy to throw some gasoline on him once he'd set himself on fire good and firm-like.

Tim Beckman's legacy at Illinois will be minimal and forgettable and also extremely funny in the saddest way imaginable. He attempted (in vain) to stoke a rivalry with Northwestern. In return, he went 1-2 against the Wildcats, who for their part seemed confused by the entire thing. He fought publicly with his offensive coordinator on the sidelines (Bill Cubit, who will coach this year as an interim.) He sent coaches to poach players from Penn State in the immediate wake of the Sandusky scandal at Penn State. Beckman once fell over a referee twice on the same play, only to be flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct.

He was not completely inept -- Illinois did show arguable improvement after his ghastly opening season -- but he leaves little of lasting value at Illinois. Beckman wanted the press to be more positive about his program, and maybe this is the time to do that by saying that the team is probably better off for 2015 without Tim Beckman being there right now. See, there's some positive news about Illinois football. Pickle it and put it in the basement, because it has to last all winter.