March 20 Bob Asmussen chat

March 20 Bob Asmussen chat

Monday, March 20, 2017 - 10:00am

What is next for the Illinois football team? Who will be the first 2018 recruit to commit? Will Illinois be able to hire top coaches for both basketball teams?

For the answers to these questions and anything else on your mind, check in with our longtime college football writer.

Bob Asmussen wrote on March 20, 2017 at 10:03 am
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Welcome back to another Bob Asmussen chat. Thanks as always for your participation.

Ho-hum, another boring weekend in Champaign-Urbana.

I was out of town, scouting the next Illinois basketball coach. As I usually do this time of year, I went to the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament. This time, in Indianapolis. Little did I know that Oklahoma State's Brad Underwood would be the Illinois pick.

Underwood's team was impressive, playing a great game against Michigan, losing by a point. I have little doubt that Oklahoma State would have pulled the same upset against Louisville on Sunday that Michigan did.

I am eager to meet Underwood at "The News-Gazette Sports Page" tonight. Hope you can stop by.

My first impression is it was a good choice. You might hear some criticism about Underwood only being at his job for one year. I don't have a problem with it. Illinois has to do what is best for Illinois. I don't think it would have hired a coach away from another Big Ten school after a year, but Oklahoma State is in the Big 12. The Cowboys should have done a better job of making sure their coach couldn't be lured away.

Style-wise, Underwood will appeal to Illinois fans. Fast-paced offense is always a good thing.

Enough of my blathering. thjs is your chat. Let's go to the questions.

Anonymous User wrote on March 20, 2017 at 10:03 am

Illini took advantage of the situationThe new basketball coach. A good under the radar higher or what? Seems like the more you read about him the more respected he is and was lowballed by OSU and the Illini jumped on it. Also seems like all the other FB teams are starting to get commits and we have none. Are there reasons to be concerned about this? Are we being more selective? Are the changes in the recruiting department have any weight to bear on this? When do you think we will begin to see players commiting?

Bob Asmussen wrote on March 20, 2017 at 10:03 am
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You hit it on the head. He is a guy with an interesting career who has really developed his reputation later in life. Many people assumed that Josh Whitman would hire somebody younger, maybe in his 40s. But I am just a year older than Brad Underwood and I can assure folks my age still have plenty of ability. I also will tell you that his experiences will make him a better coach for Illinois. And 53 is the new 43.

Honestly, I can't figure out what Oklahoma State was thinking with his low pay. I wonder if the school would have gone to him recently and offered to double his salary if he would have even talked to Illinois. But credit Illinois for doing its homework and focusing in on a talented guy who was willing to listen.

On football recruiting, Illinois is going after a higher-level player, so it is not a big deal that there are no commits. The better players have more options and don't jump at the first big-time offer. I believe Lovie Smith has a plan and  will be careful about how he makes his offers.

My guess is the commits will start coming in the next month or so. The early spring ball is going to be helpful to Illinois in recruiting. The attention is all about the prospects right now instead of concentrating on practices. And the players are still doing work.



Anonymous Jim wrote on March 20, 2017 at 10:03 am

Is it reasonable to believe Underwood, through his agent, made it known to Illinois that he was interested?I find it hard to believe that all this happened in less than 24hrs.

Bob Asmussen wrote on March 20, 2017 at 10:03 am
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Anonymous Jim,


That is very reasonable. If you aren't happy with your current pay and feel underappreciated, then you always have options. Because of Underwood's time at Western Illinois, it makes sense that he has some appreciation for Illinois. I'm guessing the word out there was that Illinois was willing to pay.

Everything moves very fast now and Josh Whitman is a determined guy. I have no trouble believing he put this together in a day. Once he picked his guy, he went after him. I know from talking to some that know Whitman well that he limited his personal contacts in recent days. Everyone wanted to know what he was up to and he kept a lid on it for a long time. I would not want to play boker with him,

Illinois has a lot to sell: tradition, great arena, the conference, academics. A smart coach would see this as a place that is ready to take off.

I think the string of recent coaches at the school: Lon Kruger, Bill Self, Bruce Weber, was also a selling point.

Basketball at Illinois has been more consistent over the years than football, which makes it an easier sell for top coaches.

Steve Alford wrote on March 20, 2017 at 10:03 am

Bob, what team will win the NCAA tournament?

Bob Asmussen wrote on March 20, 2017 at 10:03 am
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Thanks for asking. Clearly, I have no clue.

Two of my Final Four teams are done, including my national champion pick Villanova. So is Louisville, which I watched lose in person to Michigan.

Often in the past, I have picked Kansas but didn't do that for some reason this time. I think the Jayhawks have a great chance to win it all.

I saw Kentucky win a close game against Wichita State. The Wildcats have a ton of talent, but I don't see them winning it all.

At this point, I am rooting for the underdogs. So, Xavier and South Carolina.

It has been a fun tournament so far and I believe that will continue. The officials, by the way, have struggled at times.


Bob Asmussen wrote on March 20, 2017 at 10:03 am
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I am going to cut it off for the day. I am going to the Underwood press conference at noon and will have a story in Tuesday's paper.

Thanks as always for your great questions. I will be back next Monday at the same time.

If you have any questions between now and then, feel free to email me at

A reminder that "The News-Gazette Sports Page" will be at the Esquire at 5 p.m. tonight with new Illinois coach Brad Underwood and Josh Whitman. Hope you can stop by.