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Why Tim Banks is safe … maybe

By now, all of Illini Nation is well aware that Tim Beckman will be back for a third season as coach. But the No. 1 question surrounding the football program these days — Will defensive coordinator Tim Banks be shown the door? — is very much up in the air.

Some believe it’s a done deal that Banks, whose defense was kicked around like a rusty can throughout the season, is out. Maybe it’s a fall-guy thing, considering it would be too expensive for Illinois — which is still playing both Ron Zook and Bruce Weber — to eat more than $1 million to cut ties with Beckman. Or maybe it’s just about Banks.

There are many more who simply are leaning toward the possibility that a new DC is coming to Champaign.

Me? I think Banks will be back.

I’ll explain why, hopefully without sharing anything I shouldn’t.

(Take note: This is not a news story. Call it a much-less-presentable-and-socially-acceptable cousin of a news story. Or to put it another way: It’s not going in the paper.)

An athletic-department source told me a couple of days ago that he was told by Beckman that the entire coaching staff will return in 2014. That is far from official, so I attempted to make it official.

I reached out to Beckman on Tuesday as he was on the road recruiting. He replied via text, saying in a nutshell that he’s swamped with work and will catch up with me soon.

Strike 1!

I spoke with a couple of other coaches — well, with one it was a text exchange — and both offered clues (on purpose? I hope so) that Banks is OK. One of them said Beckman has told them all before that he wants to keep the staff together for the sake of continuity. The other … sorry, I’m not going to get into it because it involves too much of a mind-read on my part. But neither coach would confirm anything either on or off the record.

Strike 2!

Lest you think I was too much of a scaredy-cat to ask Banks directly for the 411, I did. And this is where the biggest clue came. He texted me on Wednesday and said he couldn’t talk about it at the moment because HE WAS ON A RECRUITING TRIP WITH BECKMAN, AS IN LITERALLY WITH THE GUY AT THAT MOMENT.

Hello.

I ask you: Would they be out beating the bushes together in Bumbleville if they aren’t planning to work together on the next, hopefully much better version of the Illini defense?

I don’t think they would be, for whatever that’s worth.

Alas, Banks didn’t confirm anything, either. Which would be — say it with me — Strike 3!

No “news” story. No sudden, massive expansion of (dare I say it?) Greenberg Nation on Twitter. Just this highly speculative, utterly unprofessional bit of guesswork, which — wouldn’t you know it? — just so happens to be my specialty.

Word on the street is Beckman will be back in Champaign next week to meet the media in a sort of season review-meets-recruiting update. So maybe that’s when we’ll get the official word on Banks and the rest of the coaching staff.

(There’s always Matt Sinclair, too. Don’t forget about him.)

Sorry I can’t be more definitive on this yet.