Since taking his first coaching job in football only months after graduating from Delaware, Bill Cubit has led the kind of nomadic existence that only a college coach can understand.

The travels of Cubit, who is from Sharon Hill, Delaware County, have taken him to Illinois, where he is in his first year as offensive coordinator of the Fighting Illini. That job will take him back to his home state this weekend for a game against Penn State at Beaver Stadium.

A former wide receiver at Delaware, Cubit, 60, began his career as a Swarthmore assistant. His first college head coaching job was at Widener, where he spent five years in the 1990s. Although he hasn't worked in the area since leaving Widener in 1996, he remembers his days there, having led the Chester school to a pair of NCAA Division III playoff appearances.

"The Widener thing was something that, if I was still coaching there now, I bet I'd still be happy," Cubit said in a telephone interview from Champaign, Ill. "I've enjoyed almost every stop I've been at, so I've been really fortunate."

There have been a lot of stops. In addition to high school jobs, he coached at Central Florida, Florida, and Akron before going to Widener. He left the Pioneers (now the Pride) after being hired as offensive coordinator at Western Michigan in 1997.

After serving as offensive coordinator at Missouri, Rutgers, and Stanford, Cubit returned to Western Michigan in 2005 as head coach and spent eight years there before being fired last November. His dismissal came a week after the school had given him a vote of confidence.

Cubit went 51-47 in Kalamazoo and led the Broncs to three bowls. Although the firing left a bitter taste, he loved the time he spent there.

"It was great," he said. "I call Sharon Hill my home, and probably my next one is Kalamazoo because we had spent 11 years there, had two children graduate from the school. You get a little upset that you couldn't keep on going. But when you work in this coaching profession, eight years is a pretty long time."

Cubit said he jumped at the chance to take the Illinois job in part because his son, former Rutgers and Western Michigan quarterback Ryan Cubit, and a family that includes two of Cubit's three grandchildren live in Kalamazoo and are a little more than three hours away.

Another reason is the challenge presented by Illinois, which finished next-to-last among FBS teams in scoring and total offense last season. Even after putting up only three points last week against Michigan State, the Fighting Illini (3-4 overall, 0-3 Big Ten) are averaging more than 30 points and 400 yards of offense, while senior quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase has passed for 235.6 yards per game.

"I'm always taking over programs that have been down, either offensively or as a team," Cubit said. "The way I figured it, I could make a difference. I wished we had played better last week, but we're making strides and helping out these kids."

Saturday's game will match two teams with something to prove. Illinois wants to bounce back on offense, and Penn State's defense needs to show it's not as bad as it looked in last week's rout at No. 4 Ohio State.

Cubit will focus on the game, and afterward he will welcome family and friends. He expects at least two of his six siblings to attend, and possibly his 81-year-old mother, Loretta, "if the weather report is OK," he said.

And he'll tell them he's enjoying himself.

"Some people are in it for the money, some people are in it for the prestige," he said. "I'm in it because I love coaching kids."

@joejulesinq