Illinois keeps football coach Tim Beckman

Nancy Stone/Chicago Tribune/MCT University of Illinois coach Tim Beckman speaks to the media outside the ballroom during Big Ten Media Day at the Hilton Chicago on Monday, July 28, 2014, in Chicago, Ill. Beckman will continue to coach the Illini Football team for the 2015 season.

Nancy Stone/Chicago Tribune/MCT
University of Illinois coach Tim Beckman speaks to the media outside the ballroom during Big Ten Media Day at the Hilton Chicago on Monday, July 28, 2014, in Chicago, Ill. Beckman will continue to coach the Illini Football team for the 2015 season.

Shannon Ryan

Chicago Tribune

Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas saw enough improvement from football coach Tim Beckman’s team to retain him.

“It was important to see improvement in our football program this season,” Thomas said in the statement. “It’s my expectation that with the upcoming bowl and another off-season of development, that Tim’s continued leadership will keep Fighting Illini football moving forward and even more competitive in the conference and nationally.”

There was no mention of a contract extension or staff changes, which would now be left up to Beckman, according to a team spokesman.

Thomas declined an interview request from the Tribune.

He pointed out in the statement that the Illini (6-6, 3-5 Big Ten) have won three of the last five games of the season, including victories against two other Big Ten bowl-eligible teams in Minnesota and Penn State.

“Our student-athletes have played their best football of the season down the stretch of a tough schedule that included nine bowl-eligible opponents,” Thomas’ statement read.

Beckman is finishing his third season of a five-year contract.

His job security was in question before the season even started after going 6-18 overall and 1-15 in Big Ten games through his first two seasons in Champaign.

During the season, Thomas declined to discuss Beckman’s status.

His return seemed unlikely when the Illini started this Big Ten season 1-5. A 38-27 home loss to Purdue on Oct. 4 dropped Illinois to 3-3 overall and cast a gloomy shadow over the program.

But the Illini rallied in impressive fashion, beating Penn State and Northwestern in the last two games of the regular season.

(c)2014 Chicago Tribune