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Fighting Illini athletic director Josh Whitman talks about Bill Cubit firing

Whitman didn't comment on specific candidates, but was very confident in telling Illini nation "we have a plan"

Josh Whitman
Josh Whitman

Hours after announcing the dismissal of Bill Cubit as head football coach, athletic director Josh Whitman continued his eventful first day in office with a press conference to explain and take questions about the bold move.

A confident Whitman proclaimed Saturday's move as the first step toward building a championship standard at Illinois. He was critical of the two-year contract Cubit signed less than four months ago, saying he wanted the chance to sign someone to a longer deal to ensure stability and continuity going forward.

Whitman deflected questions about coaching candidates, saying he didn't feel it appropriate to discuss names at this time. He said he hoped to search for the candidate that was best qualified for the job, whether that's an NFL coach or a high school coach.

Reports suggest that it's going to be an NFL coach, though. Ryan Baker of CBS Sports tweeted that "credible sources" are saying Lovie Smith will be the next head coach of the Fighting Illini. And while Whitman declined specific comments about any particular candidate, his confidence suggested that he had a name — a big name — in mind. He said he'd be in touch with recruits via email, but asked all recruits "to be patient and wait for the direction that we go."

He added that he hopes to keep the hiring process "as streamlined as possible" to allow Illinois to move quickly in its next hire.

Whitman said the first person he told of his decision was Cubit himself, in a 20-minute meeting in Cubit's office Saturday morning. As for some players finding out via Twitter, his rationale was, essentially, "word travels fast."

Whitman also touched on head basketball coach John Groce, whom he affirmed in a radio interview this morning as the coach of the Fighting Illini for at least next season. When asked, he said it would not be appropriate to ascribe a length of time beyond that for how long Groce's position is secure.

Full Press Conference: