CHAMPAIGN, Illinois — Illinois coach Tim Beckman insisted Monday that his reeling team has improved over the past year and could still get to a bowl game.
But coming off a 30-14 loss to Iowa, the third-year coach also acknowledged the building pressure as he looks for a way to turn Illinois around. If the Illini (4-6, 1-5 Big Ten) lose Saturday to Penn State, they will be assured of a third consecutive losing season.
Beckman has been a winning coach at Toledo and an assistant at winning programs at Oklahoma State and Ohio State, where he was part of the Buckeyes' staff that lost the 2007 BCS title game.
"I've been around winning my whole life. This isn't something I enjoy by any means," he said. "In 2007, I was in the national championship game coaching it. ... Yes, it does bother me, because I want to win."
Beckman said he meets weekly with athletic director Mike Thomas but said Thomas hasn't given him any kind of assurance that he'll be back next season. Beckman said he believes Illinois has the made the kind of progress that Thomas has said the head coach would be judged by.
"The four wins, you can't brag on anything like that, but at this time last year, we only had three," he said.
The Illini finished last season 4-8, getting their fourth win in their next-to-last game. Illinois was 2-10 in Beckman's first season. Beckman also pointed to his players' improved performance and their lack of off-field problems.
Defensive coordinator Tim Banks said he and his wife, Robin, talk regularly about the job pressure Beckman and his staff are coaching under. She regularly attends postgame news conferences and hears the questions her husband is asked.
"She knows the profession," he said. "You win a lot of games and you're probably going to have to move. Conversely, if you lose too many games, you're probably going to have to move."
When he came to Champaign, Banks said, he thought Beckman's staff could build the kind of regular winner that Illini fans haven't seen much.
"I wanted to be a part of the solution," he said. "I think we still can be."