CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas fired Tim Beckman as football coach Friday after receiving findings of a report into allegations that Beckman had mistreated players. Beckman responded in a statement released to The Associated Press:

''I am shocked and extremely disappointed by the decision Mike Thomas and the University of Illinois made today regarding my employment as Head Coach of the football team. First and foremost, I firmly deny the implications in Mike's statements that I took any action that was not in the best interests of the health, safety and well-being of my players. The health and well-being of our student athletes is of paramount importance to me, and any statement made to the contrary is utterly false. Additionally, in connection with scholarships for student-athletes, I have complied with the policies and regulations of both the University and the NCAA and I have fully supported the University's compliance office. Moreover, all of the actions that I took regarding individual scholarships were in lockstep with the University's appointed personnel and the directions and approvals I received from University officials.

I fully cooperated with the University's investigation, having sat down for two lengthy interviews and turning over all documentation requested of me. The fact that the University did not even complete its investigation in this matter is evidence that this entire process was nothing more than a rush to judgment and confirms the University's abject bad faith. Furthermore, the University's actions today are in violation of the procedures mandated under my employment agreement. As such, I will vigorously defend both my reputation and my legal rights.

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I'm very proud of my career at the University of Illinois. Off-field incidents involving my players have been essentially non-existent while academic performance and graduation rates have been extraordinary. The love and support I have received today from my players means everything to me.''