Tate: If only they could win

Tate: If only they could win

CHAMPAIGN — It could be worse.

Of course, a homecoming loss to Indiana is distressing. Actually, embarrassing. The 31-17 homecoming result Saturday makes it 10 consecutive Big Ten football losses, with Ohio State next on the agenda.

But pay attention: The university and the Illini athletic department are surviving and flourishing despite a cutback here and a scandal there ... top-level firings and setbacks and failures that are maddening.

Compared with the state at large, these are minor. Check the campus. Lincoln Hall is completed and operating again, a plan for the $150 million renovation of the Assembly Hall is moving ahead, and the UI completed a $2.25 billion fundraising campaign this past summer.

Peering outside our cocoon to scan the bigger picture, we see far greater turmoil. We reside in a state where political failures have led to financial breakdowns, where unfunded entitlements can’t possibly last — bankruptcy, anyone? — and where the Legislature is an outrage. Back up in Chicago, for all its broad shoulders, we see a city sliding financially toward Lake Michigan.

Raise the roof
So it follows that a strain of negativism is bound to sweep through the Illini athletic ranks. How could it be otherwise with unhappiness in full bloom?

But, believe it or not, the DIA is engaged in a 20-year run of solvency. We never quite accept it, but for two decades Illini officials have emphasized that football losing streaks — and there have been many — aren’t particularly destructive to fundraising by either the university or DIA.

All that pool hall grumbling turns out to be hogwash. We hear about disgruntled donors who are jumping ship, but they are always replaced by others willing to contribute.

President Bob Easter noted Saturday that the Urbana-Champaign campus, which had a goal of roughly two-thirds of the overall $2.25 billion drive, met it six months early.

“We have many alumni and others who feel good about funding educational programs,” Easter said, “whether it’s their own college or one that they feel strongly about.”

And athletic director Mike Thomas said that just last week the DIA received three six-figure gifts amounting to roughly $1 million.
Responding to questions on the subject, Thomas said:

“Suggestions (an article in the Chicago Tribune) that we have financial problems are totally inaccurate. We’re one of the nation’s top 25 schools operating in the black. Our budget is in great shape.

“It is unfortunate when negative comments are made, particularly by unnamed sources, but that is a vocal minority. I continue to hear from a supportive donor base. We can’t let negativism reign.”

Through it all, the words of the late DIA fundraiser Dike Eddleman ring clear: “We’re doing fine but think how much better it would be if we were winning.”

Errors abound

In a game of the blind leading the blind Saturday, Indiana held out a tin cup and the Illini graciously filled it up.

It was homecoming and the hosts took the field with conviction. They had the Hoosiers reeling 14-7 early in the second quarter with a series of grinding assaults. But UI seniors, counted on by coach Tim Beckman to lead the team out of the darkness, lost the grip on their discipline and committed a series of grievous mental errors.

“We shot ourselves in the foot,” Beckman said. “We beat ourselves.”

The statistics bear him out. Illinois outdowned the Hoosiers 23-14, outgained them 372-292 and stopped them on third down 12 times out of 13.

But, oh, those penalties and turnovers. One right after another.

— Nathan Scheelhaase ran 5 yards for a 14-7 lead in the second quarter, and Illinois appeared to force a three and out only to have senior Justin Staples draw a major penalty for hitting Indiana freshman QB Nate Sudfeld on the sideline. Three plays later it was 14-14.

— Next up, Illini senior Hugh Thornton drew a holding penalty and the offense stalled. An exchange of punts found UI senior Tommy Davis fumbling when he tried to catch a sideline boot on the run. On fourth down at the 13, Indiana was granted a first down when UI senior Glenn Foster jumped offside, and Indiana scored to make it 21-14.

A cold spell
Whatever momentum the Illini had was lost, and the game blew up in their faces. Hard-running Donovonn Young, who capitalized on Indiana weaknesses to gain 124 yards, lost a fumble in that critical third quarter.

And when the Illini rammed to the Hoosier 1-yard line, a third-down plunge lost yardage, forcing a field goal. That was it: three points in the last 42 minutes of the game.

For the record, Indiana made mistakes, too. Starting quarterback Cameron Coffman came out early after he was picked off by Steve Hull (who left the game twice with more shoulder trouble). The Hoosiers drew a penalty on the Illini 5 but scored anyway.

The knockout blow came early in the fourth quarter when Illinois trailed 24-17 and the Hoosiers breezed 60 yards in six plays to tuck away their first Big Ten triumph since November 2010.

Such is life in Illinois these days. Another setback. But the DIA, despite scuttlebutt to the contrary, is meeting its payments and formulating big plans, and that’s more than a lot of other folks can say.

Loren Tate writes for The News-Gazette. He can be reached at ltate@news-gazette.com.

Categories (3):Illini Sports, Football, Sports


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FloridaIllini wrote on October 28, 2012 at 5:10 am

Thanks, Loren.  I feel so much better now.  I, like so many other long time Illini fans, have learned not to have high expectations when it comes to Illinois athletic teams.  Frankly, all I really expect is to be competitive and the players to play hard.  Unfortunately, this year we are not even competititve and appear as though we have gotten worse with Coach Beckman.  We've been here before but some of us are getting older to the point of having a 3-5 years rebuilding is something we may not be around to see!  Or at least be congnizant of!

From way down here in Florida it sure seems that Beckman doesn't have the power of personality like Groce.  Closing practice to the media and not doing everything you can to sell some optimism is not a very good marketing practice.  I suggest now is the time to unveil all those secret plays we must have been preparing to spring on somebody with the closed practices.  Something more than coaching is amiss in the football program.  Beckman has somehow managed to lose the team's heart and mind in 2/3 of a season.  What is going on behind the scenes and why?

Dan Bloeme wrote on October 28, 2012 at 4:10 pm

Illini now have lost 10 straight Big Ten games and 5 games in a row (one less than what got Ron Zook fired last season (6) but same number overall. We should be so lucky to have Thomas fire this clown Beckman for losing so many games again in a row. Number 6 in a row will for sure come this weekend against OSU's Bucknuts. But no, Beckman the Clown is Thomas's boy so we will have to endure a few more seasons of embarrassment, humiliation and torture at the hands of clowns. Get rid of these Clowns. WE need REAL football coaches, not CLOWNS or incompetent pretenders.


aberger wrote on October 28, 2012 at 7:10 am

Of course Loren had to throw in the 20 years of solvency.  Guess what Loren, the mess that is Illinois football was created by Mr. 20 years solvency.  Ron Guenther might have kept the department in the black (which I am sure is the tantamount concern of football fans), but he obliterated the spirit and results of football, and to a lesser extent Mens and Womens basketball.  I remember jumping up and down when Illinois beat eventual national champion Colorado with 75000+ fans at Memorial Stadium.  Now because of 20 years of blunders with the main revenue program, I sit at home, hoping that we can play error free football so we can beat mighty Indiana.  The worst thing to happen to my alma mater was having Ron Guenther (the football guy) as the AD for 20 years.  Oh, and if we ever return to football glory (.500+ winning record in my book), we cannot even have 75000+ fans support the team because Mr. 20 years solvency lead our school (the only one in the Big 10 mind you) to a stadium rennovation that shrunk the seating capacity.  I guess when you are busy keeping the athletic department in the black and destryoing the football program, its an unfortunate byproduct.

Moonpie wrote on October 28, 2012 at 9:10 am

What a mess of a column. In other words--vintage Obi Wan Tate! First he has to drag sublte con servative poltical dog whistles into it well before he ever gets near sports. Then Chicago has to takle a hit -- oh evil, evil, evil Chicago. Why don't they have the decency to grow soybeans! Lots of words, but little said.

illinihimeyiswhiney wrote on October 28, 2012 at 5:10 pm

What a mess of a comment. In other words--vintage Chubacca Moonpie! First he has to make comments about conservative political dog whistles (while misspelling conservative by putting a space between con and servative) then midstate Illinois has to "takle" (perhapes he doesn't know how to spell "take" or "tackle" OR the great voice of reason Chubacca Moonpie is graciously sharing new words with the rest of us simple folk) a hit -- oh evil, evil, Champaign! Why don't soybean farmers have the decency to build a major US city on their farmlands! Few words... even less said. 

oandb wrote on October 28, 2012 at 9:10 am

Nice spin Loren. Did Thomas write that story himself? The fact that the DIA is funded by the Big Ten network the last five years has helped. It will be interesting to see how the revenues look after Thomas/Beckman are done burying the football program. Thank God for homecoming and parents weekend. 



geriatricillini wrote on October 28, 2012 at 9:10 am

A paraphrased quote from the tv announcer doing the OSU-PSU game: "Well, Ohio State should be one of the first teams to 10 wins after next week. They play Illinois and Illinois is terrible." There we are in the dung pile once again.  The frustration never ends for us fans in Illini-land does it?

chuckles wrote on October 28, 2012 at 10:10 am

I am not an alumni but do hold season tickets and went to every home game. Ideal, no. But what did anyone expect from this season when last seasons losses showed the true football team. Give Beckman time to clean up Zooks mess. I'd rather see Beckman on the slidelines than the Zooker, wouldn't you? 

houstonillini84 wrote on October 28, 2012 at 10:10 am

I see no evidence whatsoever to think that Beckman is better than Zook. Just the opposite. And let's face it, that is a very very low hurdle.

houstonillini84 wrote on October 28, 2012 at 10:10 am

The finances of Illinois and the city of Chicago speak for themselves. A once well-to-do state has spent itself into financial oblivion and that is bound to have an impact on the state university system. Now we have a football program that matches the state government in terms of abject failure. I move away 20 years ago but its sad and shameful to see what has happened to the state of Illinois. Your liberal ideology cant obscure basic economic facts: the state is a financial mess and no whining about neo-conservatives (like they have anything to do with Illinois' mess) will change that.

JDG613 wrote on October 28, 2012 at 11:10 am

And yet, Moonpee, you keep reading his column....  Give it (and us) a rest.

Moonpie wrote on October 28, 2012 at 2:10 pm

No, JDG--I won't. You don't get to shout down people you diasgree with. This is a freedom issue. You remember freedom, right? That thing we supposedly have in America despite the best efforts of conservatives to end it.

If you don't like hearing views other than your own -- YOU be the one to LEAVE.

I refuse.

TheChiefLives wrote on October 28, 2012 at 4:10 pm

Freedom?  You mean that thing that my brethren and I fought for?  You did not....I can tell.  Veterans usually can.

I am also a conservative, like MOST of my military/veteran brothers and sisters.  Be careful who you put on blast.

JohnUI82 wrote on October 28, 2012 at 4:10 pm

I think we should all agree that you're a great American and defender of the Constitution whose comments are always constructive and insightful and who is never obsessive or repetitive.

TheChiefLives wrote on October 28, 2012 at 4:10 pm

obsessive or repetitive?  Like Moonpie?  Be careful who you defend.  There has never been a more repetitive poster.  The ONE time I say something back to this jerk about blasting conservatives you want to pipe up and interject your poisonous comments....aimed at ME? 

TheChiefLives wrote on October 28, 2012 at 5:10 pm

Sorry.  Just re-read that and realized you were talking about Moonpie too.  Oops!

JDG613 wrote on November 01, 2012 at 12:11 pm

Dear Moonpee - I don't mind hearing views that differ from my own....  But you're not spouting your views, you're just spouting your own negative and sarcastic opinions of the author.  When you actually can voice a logical thought, and not resort to the bullying, child-like approach you typically....no....always take, then maybe I will listen to you.  Until then, I give your opinion the value it deserves.......none.

Illini Drumline Guy wrote on October 28, 2012 at 11:10 am

Actually Loren is right about a couple of things...however they are doing it, and yes the BTN is funding the DIA...but at least the University and DIA are in the black...the State is a mess and no one wants to fix it....

As far as football and the DIA in general....in my opinion I say we put our focus and majority of resources on Basketball....we have a history of some level of success...a recuiting base that would support a winner...a coach who appears to be an up and comer...

Lets focus on supporting the BB program and build that to a perenrial contender. Duke, Kentucky, Kansas, dare I say Indiana, North Carolina, Syracuse, UConn, are programs that have had great BB success...with football programs that are bad. LSU, Alabama, USC, Nebraska, MIami, Florida St, Penn St, etc have had football success with bad BB programs.

Illinois has a real chance in BB...Bill Self had the program at the door step. Groce can put it back there again. Lets support that and give him the resources needed.

There are a small number of huge programs that we will never totally compete with. Michgan, Ohio State, Texas, those with budgets twice the size of Illinois.

At a minimum lets get BB back rolling, and rock the Assembly Hall again. We can't let the football frsutration spill over to hoops.

Moonpie wrote on October 28, 2012 at 2:10 pm

And why does Saint Tate get away wih calling a loss to Indiana embarassing? It's not--they're program is headed toward improvement and ours is not. It's embarassing because Saint Tate hates all things Indiana. He hates almost everything, actually.

TheChiefLives wrote on October 28, 2012 at 4:10 pm

So do I. Including you.

illinihimeyiswhiney wrote on October 28, 2012 at 5:10 pm

And why does the great Roman Pontiff moonpie get away with saying the loss to Indiana is not embarrassing? It's not embarrassing because Roman Pontiff Moonpie hates all things Tate. He hates almost everything, actually. Especially freedom. Oh, and spelling. 

houstonillini84 wrote on October 29, 2012 at 12:10 pm

how exactly is a loss to Indiana in football not embarassing? We were even favored to win the game, its not like IU was 10 point favorites. And how does any true Illini fan not dislike Indiana teams? Your hatred of Tate makes you post some truly inane comments.

OrlandoIllini wrote on October 28, 2012 at 2:10 pm

In one posting, Cowpie has finally confirmed everything we suspected him to be.

illini4fan wrote on October 28, 2012 at 5:10 pm

Getting beat by Indiana IS embarrassing! The fact that they have made improvements and we cannot IS an embarrassment! I would not be suprised to see the few fans showing up at Illinois football games to be wearing bags over thier heads the way saints fans used to do back in the day! I wouldnt blame them one bit.

I fully agree with Guy about supporting the basketball program because i really think that Groce is the real deal!

MarkHoekstra wrote on October 29, 2012 at 8:10 am

Another loser article by old man Tate. No mention of how the DIA has used student fees FOR YEARS to balance the books.

Matt wrote on October 29, 2012 at 1:10 pm

There are only a few losers who post things here and Tate isn't one of them. If you are being honest with yourself you know who your are.

I was willing to Give Beckman a chance to show that he knows what he's doing by either beating IU or losing a very close game. Losing by 14 pretty muchs proves what I and others have suspected. He's in over his head. The only thing that can save the program is if Beckman is as good as recuiting as some say he is, but that's going to get harder and harder after we finish 0-8 in the Big Ten this year. Forget  about losing in state kids to Iowa and Wisky....we need to worry about losing kids to NWST, PU, IU, Minn....the other bottom feeders like us. Becks has 3 more chances to prove most people wrong. W are going to get absolutely curb stomped at OSU.

patrick wrote on October 31, 2012 at 8:10 am

We're at opposite ends of the country, but likely of the same vintage. We've seen a lot of bad football in our days, but this bunch may be the worst. They seem to have little heart and almost no football intelligence. I was willing to give Coach Beckman benefit of doubt as long as there was some weekly improvement. But, there's none...they may be worse now than they were in spring practise.

Week after week, we hear the same pc quotes from players and coaches about trying harder, not making mistakes, etc. Yet, they don't seem to try harder and they repeat the very same mistakes, over and over.

So, what will happen? Beckman will fire some of his staff, he'll continue to talk the talk, but there will be little improvement. At the end of 3 years, he'll be fired, a "nationwide" search will commence and another below-average coach will be hired. Does anyone in the DIA and/or the administration see that there's a cancer within the football program? Do they care?

We've all seen some rotten football over the last 40 years, but this may be a tailspin from which the UofI will never recover.

Illini '73 wrote on November 03, 2012 at 9:11 am

I've seen several comments like "Groce is the real deal..."  I hope everyone is right.  But, we haven't even played a game yet, let alone a Big Ten game.  I hope everyone is still as positive about Groce in January if he gets off to a slow start which I think is likely.  When Self left, the cupboard was full.  It was a lot easier for a coach to come in and look good.  When Bruce Weber left it was under entirely different circumstances.  There is a lot of room to fill in the cupboard.  You cannot turn the program around over-night.  And, by the way, it is even harder to turn a football program around over-night.