Let it be proclaimed that Illinois, after careful consideration, shall play no more nonconference football games away from Memorial Stadium.
This column previously has stood for competitive scheduling. Bring on Notre Dame. Let's have it out with Missouri. Why be fearful of Cincinnati and Louisville?
The great Scheduling Master in the sky has overruled me. It's time to back off. He points out that home-road deals don't work to the UI's benefit. Since my arrival at this desk in 1966, Illinois has played 52 non-Big Ten road games and won 11. That's 21 percent.
My first experience was at SMU, where Hayden Fry's gang administered a 26-7 whipping in the Cotton Bowl. The next year found the Illini at Florida, where they were shut out. That should have been enough to wake me up. Saturday night's debacle at Arizona State puts the current losing streak at seven. My orange flag has been replaced by a white one.
Based on a mountain of Illini sentiment, my withdrawal puts me in an unfamiliar place ... with the majority. My concession speech will follow.
Here are the new rules, as confirmed by the same two-thirds acclimation that worked so well at the Democratic National Convention.
Keep it close
(1) Henceforth, no more road games. No way, no how. No game that must be returned. The neutral-field showdown in St. Louis was ideal in many respects, mirroring the excitement of the annual basketball shootout against Missouri and guaranteeing $1 million per team. But loss after loss (six) in the Edwards Jones Dome demanded a step down in class.
(2) Henceforth, no opponent shall be scheduled from a location west of the Mississippi River unless Dakota is in the name. South or North Dakota, bring 'em on, as long as a return game isn't required.
(3) Henceforth, there shall be no opponent residing south of Cairo, which includes the entire SEC (much too competitive) and especially Southern Mississippi. You saw what happened when the Illini scheduled Brett Favre's school (two losses by multiple TDs).
(4) Henceforth, no in-state foe shall be on the docket. As Iowa (vs. Iowa State) and Kentucky (vs. Louisville) recently were reminded, it is embarrassing to lose to an in-state opponent. The Illini barely escaped Northern Illinois 17-12 and 28-22. That's too close. Besides, it makes too much sense and saves too much money to schedule teams that don't have to fly.
(5) Henceforth, there shall be no opponent whose name is not hyphenated — the UI hammered Louisiana-Lafayette 20-17 — or is not directional like East Carolina and Middle Tennessee (oops, that's a violation of the Cairo rule). Western Michigan would fit here as long as it wouldn't require a return trip to Detroit. Please, not Ford Field again.
(6) Henceforth, no service academies. As a noted scribe mentioned: "It's un-American and disloyal to defeat them."
Relax and enjoy it
As you can see, the possibilities for scheduling have been dramatically reduced.
That being the case, Charleston Southern is almost a perfect fit. The South Carolina Buccaneers are directional. If they're in violation of the Cairo rule, they're also decidedly east and Atlantic coastal ... enough to earn a waiver stemming, in no small part, from having lost 14 straight football games.
What this means in terms of attendance will be demonstrated at 11 a.m. tomorrow. Threatening rainfall predictions scared folks away two weeks ago, with something over 20,000 showing up in what turned out to be excellent conditions.
The actual crowd will be better this week, even if some fans had previously never heard of Charleston Southern. But signs of despair, which were already spreading through Illini Nation, grew with the 45-14 loss at Arizona State. The latest example of growing indifference is provided by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which has staffed Illini games for years, but is now double-staffing Missouri's entry into the SEC, and waiting to see whether Illinois is sufficiently interesting to deserve coverage.
It'll take more than a win over Charleston Southern to change anything at this point.
Loren Tate writes for The News-Gazette. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.