LINCOLN — Tim Beck and Bill Cubit first crossed paths almost 30 years ago, brought together when Beck was playing at Central Florida and Cubit was a Knights assistant coach.
They developed a mutual respect, and both said they look forward to seeing each other Saturday — as offensive coordinators on opposite sides — when Nebraska hosts Illinois at Memorial Stadium.
Some of their strongest memories of Central Florida, however, have to do with the lessons learned in the short time they worked under hard-nosed former NFL and AFL head coach Lou Saban.
“I loved Coach Saban,” Cubit said. “He was just a good man.”
Saban was old school to the core. Power football. All about discipline and regimen.
“It was different,” Beck said, shaking his head. “Very military. Everything had to do with the military. He related a lot of stories to the military and things like that.”
Saban landed at Central Florida, then an NCAA Division II school, well after stints with three pro teams — the Boston Patriots (1960-61), Buffalo Bills (1962-65 and 1972-76) and Denver Broncos (1967-71). He won AFL championships with the Bills in both 1964 and '65, and revived a Broncos franchise on the brink of collapse.
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Saban ran his own Central Florida offense through the 1983 season until he resigned midway through the 1984 campaign. Cubit was teaching defense for the only time during his college coaching career, handling the Knights' secondary.
“To me, Lou was really valuable,” Cubit said. “I didn't know anything about defensive backs. I was about as dumb as I could be. But I'd listen to what he told his receivers and I'd try to tell my defensive backs what they would be doing.”
Cubit was at Central Florida from 1983 through '85, including the final two years with Beck in the program. Beck bounced around from quarterback to defensive back to receiver, spending time with Cubit when he was playing safety.
“I had a lot of respect for him,” Beck said. “I thought he was a great coach. I really appreciated all the things that he taught me in that short time.”
Cubit took over the Illinois offense this year after an eight-season run as head coach at Western Michigan, which included a 47-24 loss at Nebraska to open the 2008 season. Beck said he sees some similarities between the Illinois offense and Cubit's Broncos five years ago.
Cubit and Beck haven't had all that much contact over the years, but Cubit said he isn't surprised that Beck got into coaching and then climbed the ranks. It's sometimes easy to tell the players who are suited to go into the profession.
“They're the guys always in there watching tape, wondering why things are like the way they are,” Cubit said. “It seems like it's quarterbacks a lot of the time, too, because they love the game so much that it's hard for them to break away.
“He was real smart. He's doing a great job for them over there (at Nebraska).”
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