CHICAGO — Illinois coach Tim Beckman brushed off questions about alleged mistreatment of players in his first appearance with reporters since May.
"We focused right now on the 2015 football team," Beckman said Thursday at the Big Ten's football media days. "We've been focused since January on becoming a better football program."
Beckman, entering his fourth Illinois season, has been under fire after offseason allegations by some former players of mistreatment, charges from others that they were forced to play hurt, and claims of physical confrontations with two players.
He also allegedly threatened others with loss of scholarship.
The Chicago Tribune talked to more than four dozen current and former Illinois players in a report published Wednesday. Many former players — recruited under former coach Ron Zook — were critical of Beckman while most current players told the Tribune they were supportive.
An investigation into charges against Beckman is being conducted by a Chicago-based law firm hired by the university. No timetable for completion has been announced.
Beckman, 4-20 in Big Ten play and 12-35 overall, said he appreciates support from the university and even coaching colleagues.
"The people that have reached out to me though this situation, I can't be more thankful," he said. "I think the human nature answer to that is it always feels good, there's no question about that. But, again, we know what we're doing in this program. We understand how this program can get better and better every year because it has. That's reality."
Beckman also avoided a question about the possibility of a contract extension.
"I'm focused on the first football game, that's what this team is focused on," he said.