Tate: Now what?

EVANSTON — Bah! Humbug! When did my middle name become Ebenezer?

You say a sugar stick might sweeten my attitude. Well, how about winning a football game some time. How’s that for an idea?

When did Northwestern become the gridiron model for whom the Illini should aspire?

At this point, the UI would be willing to settle for Northwestern’s 10-year audit of 68-57 and 40-40 in league play with five straight bowl games.

That is Northwestern’s record, attained without a bevy of four-star recruits and with entrance requirements stiffer than most. Pat Fitzgerald has emerged as one of the nation’s premier coaches.

In the same decade, the Illini are 41-80 overall, 19-61 in conference and carrying a 14-game Big Ten losing streak. They’ve attended three bowls since 2002.

In defeating Illinois 50-14 Saturday before a paltry paid crowd of 32,415, the Wildcats completed a regular season with nine wins and three losses. In those late-game defeats, the Purple led Penn State by 11 and Nebraska by 12, both in the fourth quarter, and had Michigan on the ropes in the last 10 seconds before a Hail Mary pass set up a tying field goal leading to an overtime result. That’s how close they came to being undefeated.

Where do I start?

The Illini have always been my favorite team, dating to a distant era highlighted by Illinois’ 16-7 defeat of Ohio State in 1946. It is hard to watch what’s happening now, so I need more than one sugar stick. Give me a baker’s dozen. How am I supposed to put a happy face on an operation that:

(1) Repeatedly turned Memorial Stadium into a ghost town by halftime;

(2) Has now lost nine games in a row and 14 straight Big Ten games;

(3) Was a 19-point underdog at Northwestern and lost by 36, marking another day in which the Illini failed to make the gambling spread;

(4) Created ever-growing doubts that Tim Beckman is up to the task of turning the runaway herd;

(5) Is engulfed in wild rumors concerning internal strife and imminent staff changes;

(6) Will now lose the heart of its veteran defensive unit;

(7) Hasn’t been able to build confidence within high school coaching ranks;

(8) Made the sale of 2013 season tickets difficult in the extreme;

(9) Cast a pall over the mood of the community;

(10) Has UI students more apathetic than ever;

(11) Can’t break through in Chicagoland, showing just three committed preps from the primary recruiting base;

(12) Faces difficult academic challenges for junior college transfers;

(13) Has fans questioning the hiring acumen of Mike Thomas, despite the stunning early success of John Groce.

Possible scenarios

While doubt consumes Illini Nation, Thomas is tied to Beckman for ethical and financial reasons. Even though this team appears to have gotten away from him, Beckman deserves time to attract talent and develop athletes on campus. It’s his job to lose, and he’s made a huge step in that direction.

Sure, knee-jerk critics are already calling for change, pointing out that it’ll only be worse a year from now. Maybe so. Beckman hasn’t shown a special touch in any area — offense, defense, whatever. He hasn’t been able to demonstrate what his expertise is.

He leaves UI skeptics debating three ways to go, all difficult options, all costly.

Whether the Illini stand pat or make a daring adjustment, this much appears likely: No matter who coaches, fans aren’t likely to flock back when they’ve seen so much ineptitude. Considering the schedule and returning talent, the outlook for 2013 is dismal.

Bowl-bound Cincinnati and Washington (in Chicago) will be favored in the nonconference portion, and Southern Illinois and Miami (Ohio) might be challenging. Before reaching Indiana (which won 31-17 this year), the Illini face early Big Ten games against Nebraska, Wisconsin, Michigan State and Penn State.

What will Thomas do? He is determined to ride it out with Beckman for the second year of a five-year contract, presumably overseeing staff changes for a semi-fresh start. That’s option No. 1. It’s a long shot.

But with a don’t-wait, change-now attitude among many Illini supporters — we have a divided fandom — Thomas might be advised to scan NFL ranks for a high-priced, bombshell pick. Like, say, Jon Gruden, who has already been contacted by Tennessee, or someone of that magnitude. It might cost $4 million or $5 million a year, but there’s a point of view that this is the only way Illinois can revive interest and pull itself out of the quagmire. This idea would not be well received by the campus.

A third option exists. Find football’s equivalent of Groce and couple him with some in-state assistants for recruiting purposes. Guys like Derek Leonard of Rochester. The right guy is out there somewhere, overachieving and running an offense that clicks. He’s either a young head coach or one of those rising offensive coordinators putting up incredible numbers. Illinois has always found the most success with offense-oriented leaders.
One name in this category is Oklahoma State coordinator Todd Monken, a native Illinoisan who last year set Cowboy records for points, first downs, completions, passing yards and TD passes. The Cowboys were No. 2 in the nation in scoring last season, and they’re No. 3 this season.

If we wait, Monken won’t be available next year. He’s too hot.

For Thomas, there are no guarantees. No guarantee that Beckman will make the grade, no assurance that a big-time pro could be enticed, no certainty that someone like Monken would be successful.

But for the good of a drowning program, he is obligated to consider all possibilities. Patience is a virtue, but extraordinary times may call for extraordinary measures.

The final debacle

Saturday was the final disaster in a disastrous season — three more UI interceptions, 85 yards in penalties before Northwestern had any, a defense that was shredded beyond recognition and an attacking unit that didn’t know who its quarterback was.

Early on, after violating alignment rules on a two-point conversion attempt, Beckman was overrun by an official in one of two 15-yard sideline penalties. Offensively, the visitors profited by some shoddy Northwestern tackling but managed to backfire too often to take real advantage. Once an accomplished rusher, junior Nathan Scheelhaase netted 6 yards on the ground.

Defensively, Illinois was soft as butter in the hot sun. It is difficult to comprehend how a defensive unit that returned key personnel from a nationally seventh-ranked squad could become so inept. Admittedly, turnovers set up Northwestern’s first two TDs from 18 and 12 yards out. But the Wildcats steadily broke down the Illini will, and Venric Mark had runs of 17, 18 and 15 in the third TD march. Northwestern had 48 points and 255 rushing yards by the end of the third quarter, and the game grinded to an inglorious end.

Don’t ask the next question. I don’t have the answer.  

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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PeterE wrote on November 25, 2012 at 8:11 am

Knee jerk would have been to demand his firing after the laughable ASU game where players were getting conflicting or confusing signals from sideline and coaches couldn't remedy that and Illini suffered their first blowout of the season. But after eight more blowouts including going winless in the Big Ten it can no longer be construed as knee jerk to see that Tim Beckman and his staff is a train wreck and no more than a bunch of bozos on the sideline. Tim Beckman flat out can't coach at this level and is worst Illinois hire in several decades.

Dan Bloeme wrote on November 26, 2012 at 10:11 am
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Salt Life wrote on November 26, 2012 at 1:11 pm
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In my opinion Illinois has not had good football since the days of Mike White and Mackovic. Yes Turner and Zook has some isolated pretty good seasons but followed by terrible ones. I could live with Mackovic/White type coaching and the excitement that was Illinois football then. I can't live with Turner, Zook and Beckman coaching. None of those three should be a head coach. Since Beckman has not improved a single thing in his time at Illinois with no prospect or indication he will get any better, I say cut our losses now. Thomas should have pursued Sumlin harder and pursued Leach as well. If neither of them could be enticed then offer job to Vic Koenning or offensive gurus like Todd Monken. Beckman is not getting Illinois to the top. He couldn't even get Toledo to the top of his conference. Northern Illinois beat them out twice.

It is time for Beckman to go and for Illinois AD's to stop hiring guys like him and Zook.

Bleed Orange and Blue wrote on November 25, 2012 at 8:11 am

I can't fault Mr. Tate for being so negative.  I've been attending home games and/or had season tickets, starting with my parents in the early 60's, through my four years at school there and ever since and can't remember a season that was so disappointing.  I can't really put a finger on why as we have had plenty of dismal seasons in that time frame.  Maybe it is just that they seemed to become more inept with every game.  Sideline penalties????  Come on, especially in the last game???  With that said, I'm an eternal optimist.  Maybe I can keep moving down towards the 50 yard line as I can't imagine what ticket sales will be like next year.  Maybe the Colonnades Club even???  I just hope Mike Thomas can figure this one out.

Moonpie wrote on November 25, 2012 at 8:11 am

There's no talent, no speed, no QB, and thus no mystery -- except to Oracle Tate. He claims to be God Emperor of Dune on football (since 1946, mind you) and so an analysis would have been nice instead of tossing students and Beckman under the bus. If the team has actually gotten away from Beckman, what's the specific evidence of that? Enlighten us, Oracle.

illinihimeyiswhiney wrote on November 25, 2012 at 3:11 pm

 

AH, Per the usual the Great Prophet, the untouchable, the savior of not only us mere mortals on earth but also god above, Chubacca Moonpie comes on here to shout down Tate. The irony of his post smacks of shear ignorance, yet its not because the savior of god himself wrote it so its better than the Gospel truth. The Great One, the former Pulitzer prize winning journalist comes on here to criticize Tate after, for months, saying that Beckman has lost this team and this season, and now he wants to throw Tate under the bus for repeating the words of truth uttered by the Creator of Creators?! While this journalist spends time seeking the answers to the difficult questions like where basketball players get money to buy shoes, and throwing player under the bus by deameaningly calling our quarterback "Little Nathan" he simultaneously shows us that rather his will, and thus the will of god, is that we strive for ignorance and hypocrisy every waking minute of our lives. That we should, at every opportunity, find a sportswriter we hate at a newspaper we don’t like reading... and read every. single. article that person posts until we have driven ourselves completely bat *&%^ crazy wanking and crying. The key to this lesson is that even when we think the best thing we might do, because our lives are so miserable, is to just stop reading and do other things with our free time that might bring us some joy and satisfaction to life.... we shouldn't. Instead we should wank, cry, moan, cry, throw someone under the bus for throwing someone you threw under the bus last article, and then shout everyone else down because you're intolerant to all points of view other than your own.

 

Thanks be to Moonpie.

Bwp 5P wrote on November 25, 2012 at 8:11 am

Glad it's Mr. Thomas' dilema and not mine! Of course if it was easy, even a caveman could do it!

jjohnson wrote on November 25, 2012 at 9:11 am

Good column by Loren, usual personal vindictive drivel by cowpie , I mean, moonpie

 

Lefty55 wrote on November 25, 2012 at 10:11 am

Why hate on Loren.  The guy tells you where the Illini are at, their potential options and the sadness of the program.  Get a life people, the fans drove Zook and company out of town and now they complain about the new guy.  Monken woyuld be a great hire.  I doubt they could get him but that might be a risk worht taking. 

Illini Drumline Guy wrote on November 25, 2012 at 10:11 am

today is a great day!...as Hawk Harrelson would say "this is season is OVA"......no more having to watch the loses pile up.

The reaons why this is such a disappointing season is that this is a continueing trend over the past 10 years....not just one bad year....we average LESS than 2 Big Ten wins a season over a decade.

next year the defense will get depleated, and we still start the year with w 3 year starter at QB who has 4 Big Ten wins in 3 years...and the schedule gets tougher.

On the bright side. Tickets will be plentiful and cheap. Parking will not be a problem. If the hotels would drop the pricie increase, overnights could be fun. I will be circleing SIU and Miami Ohio as possible games to enjoy a tailgate and go to the game....good luck with that Big Ten schedule.

 

1 illinifan wrote on November 25, 2012 at 11:11 am

Do not agree with Tate that we need to suffer for another year, that defies common sense. He mentions that Thomas is tied to Beckman for ethical and financial reasons, nothing could be farther from the truth, very disappointed in Tate for that comment. Here is why, if Thomas does the right thing ethically for the program then he would immediately fire Beckman. Then hire a real coach (Monken was my choice last time, wants to be here and is a proven offensive mind that would have worked well Vic. That would in the long run take care of the temporary financial hit and increase the income several times over. So, for the long term health of the program it is not only  the ethical and financial thing to do, it is the common sense thing to do.

 

To be honest if Thomas does not have it in him to make this change then we need to start by replacing him as well. Get someone who has some guts to him.

PortlandIllini wrote on November 25, 2012 at 4:11 pm

Mike Thomas created this problem and now he needs to fix it.   How can you rate Coach Beckman's performance as anything but   "does not meet expectations" ?   He would be the first person to be fired in any meritocracy.  As Loren wrote,  it is difficult to identify any area of strength in his performance this year.

The suggestion that keeping Beckman and hiring good assistant coaches is fundamentally flawed.  Because Thomas would have to surround Beckman with enough talent to overcome Beckman's many weaknesses.  That is, coaches who are actually more qualified than the head coach.    This would be a repeat of the Zook situation, only worse, because talented assistant coaches will be the first to jump ship when offered another position.    

By the way, don't forget that Beckman selected his current staff of assistant coaches.  This suggests that he doesn't recognize what skills are needed to compete in the Big Ten.  Do you think he can select a better staff this year?

But Thomas' real strategic problem is 'how to fill Memorial Stadium?".   Unless Thomas takes some bold actions ,  he is going be faced with 30,000 empty seats every home game and a chronic shortfall of revenue.   This would be a downward spiral which eventually cost Thomas his job.

Okay Mike Thomas,  your career is on the line.    Are you going to take bold action or throw good money after bad?

DaisyJ wrote on November 25, 2012 at 12:11 pm

Loren, Beckman blew it. The cheating of the tobacco rule, the stupid penalites he allows by his players and now his own penalties. We may beat SIU next year, but that is IT......IT.  UNDERSTAND THIS, bring in a money cost coach, name coach, and we will not be asking for his head if he goes 1 and 11 next year because we know they can turn it around. Time the media understood, this is too big, too much money to waste time on.

pblinger wrote on November 25, 2012 at 12:11 pm

If there was a time to make a change now is time.   I have watched NO improvement on either side of the ball.   If the higher ups want to make a commentment to take this program to a least a 500. level dismiss both Thomas and Beckman.   Spend some money on a AD who knows what it takes to run a BIG TEN program and get Monken in here.  

DaisyJ wrote on November 25, 2012 at 12:11 pm

If  Beck stays season tickets will be at an all time low. Prices even lower, real low. Halftime will be 40% of gametime attendence. You can drive away without any traffic.  Illini gear will come down somewhat. Thomas will be spinning his nonsense of wait and see. Players will de commit form scholarship offers. TV games will mainly be only local BTN. Basketball will grow and grow and even sportswriters will just give up trying to encouragae change. It will be Illini Football as usual.

IlliniOllie wrote on November 26, 2012 at 11:11 am

Prices lower? This is a program that decided to start charging $20 a game for campus lots that used to be free and stuck with it all season, despite consistently abysmal performance on the field. Nothing is going to be getting cheaper - if anything, it'll be getting more expensive to cover the shortfalls from all the fans who quit attending and don't renew I-Fund donations or season tickets or expensive suites.

geriatricillini wrote on November 25, 2012 at 12:11 pm

Elliot 31-34-1 (1960-66)

Valek 8-32 (67-70)

Blackman 29-36-1 (71-76)

Moeller 6-24-3 (77-79)

White 47-41-3 (80-87)

Mackovic 30-17-1 (88-91)

Tepper 25-30-2 (92-96)

Turner 35-55 (97-04)

Zook 35-51 (05-11)

Beckman 2-10 (12-??)

 

Our recent fabulous coaching record...I was 10 years old in 1960...I will be 63 next month. When is this magical change gonna happen? This year is nothing new is it? It will never change in football here at my Alma Mater before I die will it?.. I love my Illini, but I wonder if the honchos around here really give damn or is it just about bringing in the dollars and nothing else? Well, the $$$$ is gonna go away if we don't change this pattern...these days spendable money is getting short for folks ya know. (He said with hope nearly gone). We have had a few ADs that messed up as well...you can look those guys up if ya want, I'm too depressed to care very much any more, guys and gals...

 

 

just_wondering wrote on November 25, 2012 at 1:11 pm

Northwestern has SMART players! That translates into wins. 

DaisyJ wrote on November 25, 2012 at 2:11 pm

Not "now what" but W H E N.  Give me a break , Beckman will never do it. This was an embarrassment not in the won loss record but conduct of team and coach. This program pays the bills but lately has provided garbage service.

JimOATSfan wrote on November 25, 2012 at 4:11 pm

Note that Auburn just fired it's football coach two years after winning a national championship. They will pay him $3.6 million a year for three years NOT to coach Auburn.  A $10 million payout to replace a coach that was winless in the SEC this season.

Since the "Illini program is not moving upward towards championships" (the criteria applied to Coach Zook and Coach Weber), Beckman should be replaced immediately.

DaisyJ wrote on November 25, 2012 at 5:11 pm

There were some rules issues with the Auburn coach that made this needed to be done. Our problem is dealing with a guy that is in over his head.

CRJim wrote on November 25, 2012 at 4:11 pm

I went to the Indiana game and we all know how that one turned out. Since then, the Illini have been in a downward death spiral. The Purdue game was the only blip in a steady regression of performances on the field. Lack of solid fundamentals, discipline and fighting attitude were on prominent display during this 9 game skid. It is hard to believe this defense, at the beginning of the season, supposedly had 3-4 pro prospects and was literally run out of several games. I'm sure Vic Koennig is shaking his head in dismay.


Mike Thomas can only do one thing, regardless of the options presented by Loren, to pull this team out of it's downward plummit and that's fire Tim Beckman and his staff. Mike hit a homerun with his hire of Coach Groce and missed miserably with his reach in hiring Coach Beckman. If he goes with any other of the scenarios presented, it most likely would further damage the football program(if that's possible) and ultimately cost him his job.

bernies wrote on November 25, 2012 at 4:11 pm

There's a quote from Beckman (following the disastrous NU game) that keeps popping into my head:

"We have to move forward...There's only one way you can go and that's forward."

Made me smack my head in disbelief! Doesn't he understand that moving farther backward is the likely scenario?

bernies wrote on November 25, 2012 at 5:11 pm

For the Loren Tate haters out there...do you think he even reads the comments section for his columns? I doubt it. I've not seen any indication that most sportwriters read the comments on their artcles/columns...

jwr12 wrote on November 25, 2012 at 5:11 pm

This might be a teachable moment we could use to review a few facts.  First of all, the university's academic programs are way more important to this town and to Illinois than the football team.  Academics makes way more money, attracts way more prestige, provides way more jobs, brings way more people to the community.  So it's time for the NG to pay as much attention to the university's academic side as it does to the sports section.  Second, the academic reputation of the school has been fronting certain boosters' desire to turn this into football U long enough.  I don't care whether Beckman stays or goes, but the demoralized academic staff of the university cannot stand another golden parachute.  The answer, in my opinion, is to eventually hire a coach who earns less than the president of the university (or at least, less than 3 times what the president earns), play football for fun, get the student body off booze and into personal athletics by widening the intramural program, and focus on what Illinois does best and always has: being a world class university.

nick wrote on November 25, 2012 at 9:11 pm

 This comment raises several important points about college football in general.The twisted argument that professional football at a university enhances the reputation of that university is absolutely false.NCAA football is a corruption that is harmful to the mission and purpose of a university. The failure of Thomas and Beckman should show us that it is a complete folly to make  university decisions based upon the myths and deceptions of the college sports business.Taxpayers who support public universities must demand reform that is monumental.There are dozens of models that are based on principles that are fair and honest.We need to move toward serious change that has sensible answers to problems such as the one Illinois has with the manipulative Mike Thomas and the sadly incompetent Tim Beckman. The comments by jwr12 provide intelligent people,who have an interest in cleaning up the quagmire of college football,several entry points to start the discussion. This is really a good comment with a serious and important point of view.


 

will134 wrote on November 25, 2012 at 5:11 pm

there was a study done on the success of college teams after firing coaches and the results arent very promising (http://www.wired.com/playbook/2012/11/uc-boulder-study-losing-coaches/); it seems to be the exception rather than the rule that teams are successful after firing a losing coach, b ut it doesn't follow that keeping coaches for longer stretches will result in success, which begs the question, where would we be with Zook at the helm right now? The coaches in the study were around for more than one year.  It is extremely rare for a head coach to be let go that soon unless there are infractions, ethically or legally.  Even so, Illinois’ two wins this year were against Western Michigan, a 4-8 mac team, and scored the lone offensive output of the year, 44 pts against a Charleston southern team that was below .500 in the  conference and gave  up 49 points each to stony brook and the citadel…Auburn fired Gene Chizik 2 years removed from a national championship team...Illinois can’t fire a coach after one year of disaster?

 

82sage wrote on November 25, 2012 at 5:11 pm

  Long time reader first time commentor. I too am a frustrated ILLINI fan.  I suppose the way TB handled VK should have been an indication of things to come. His first prioroty should have been to secure his (VK) defensive coordinator. There was no problem with the defense the ILLINI were displaying. However that total blunder or turnover if you will certainly has been an accurate display of things to come.

   With a team that returned so many starters this outcome was very much unexpected. We should have competed. The losses are one thing the lack of even being competetive is another. The confusion of getting the plays called from the sideline is something that doesn't occur on Friday nights in Tolono, Maroa, Moticello,ect...This season is fit for a bloopers show.

  I would agree that the ILLINI are in a very tough spot. When we had extreme difficulty in attracting the 1st or 2nd or even 3rd choice to come here firing a 1st year coach will not improve that. From all indications of performance TB will not turn this around. We look like the late Ron Turner teams that weren't competetive either or worse. This guy has no clue in how to put a coaching staff together.

  So I take a good grip of my arm chair and proceed. HEY, Tim Beckman are you listening? We have no choice but to stick with you for at least 1 more year. Run your big strong back (Young) between the tackles! The defenders beat him to the corner more often than not resulting in no gain or worse. Remind him of who he is! Run strong the shortest distance between 2 points is a straight line. Square up your shoulders even lower them and run hard, @%$$ run someone over quit trying to run around people! When you want to run on the edges run the other quicker backs! Can't believe how many times this year I saw the small backs running between tackles then sending the bigger stronger guy to the edge, GET A CLUE! When you are 3rd and 9 do NOT throw a 1 yard pass. Okay a screen can work but those quick passes you are trying to execute are comical. Can't believe what the U of I is paying you for what you have done.

 FIRE the defensive coordinator immediately! Get rid of your co- offensive guys choose one to hold accountable. Soon you will be held accountable!

  ILLINI fans pray that TB can see the light!

 

CecilColeman wrote on November 25, 2012 at 7:11 pm

I believe Monken was available last year and was quoted as "interested" in many of the state's newspapers. Someone should ask Thomas if he was interviewed.

By the way, who cares if Beckman chews tobacco? People smoke, drink, chew and a lot worse. This has nothing to do with his inept coaching and team preparation.

bernies wrote on November 25, 2012 at 7:11 pm

CecilColeman: Beckman's use of snuff would normally not be an issue. I don't care if he chews. I'm sure that there are plenty of coaches who smoke, drink, chew, and put a pinch between cheek and gum. But it's an NCAA violation to do any of those things on the sideline during a game, To me that's "inept coaching and team preparation". TB admitted he was wrong for doing that according to NCAA rules...

DaisyJ wrote on November 25, 2012 at 7:11 pm

You goof, who cares if Beck chews..Read the rules, ejection upon discovery. He should have been kicked out of the game. He knows it. This is why he snucked behind the offical to do it. Thomas should have sat him the next game. Fox is running the chicken house. NO tobacco of anykind allowed at any sport in the NCAA, let alone by the coach of all people.

LoyalIllini wrote on November 25, 2012 at 7:11 pm

Totally agree.

Col.Jessup wrote on November 25, 2012 at 8:11 pm

Thomas has to move quickly on this and remove Beckman, if he is truly serious about the Illini "contending for championships."  It will never happen under the present coach- nothing personal.  Allowing Beckman to replace assistants is very risky, since he hired the present ones.  It will be costly to replace Beckman, but it will cost a lot more NOT to replace him.   The three R's are all at stake here:  Respectability, Recruiting, Revenue.  This is not a game- ask Ohio State or Michigan alum.- this is serious business.  Illinois is the laughingstock of the Big Ten; this is unacceptable.  Change must happen now.   If the AD does not make the tough call, then it's on him.  A fish stinks from the head down...

brownie832 wrote on November 25, 2012 at 9:11 pm

Well, couldn't we fire TIMMY for the tobacco incident?  He violated a NCAA rule.  We fire him, advise it was because we found him unfit to lead our players because of this and HIRE A REAL DAMNED COACH!  Come on Mr. THomas- GROW A SET BROTHER!!

patrick wrote on November 26, 2012 at 8:11 am

This is about as bleak a column that I've seen from Tate in a very long time. However, to me, it's spot on. The disease that infected this team in the last half of last year is still present.  One symptom of that disease is a lack of inner toughness-this team has none. Another symptom is a lack of football intelligence; this bunch makes the same mistakes, weeka after week.

The disease has caused this team to regress. As the season has worn on, they've gotten worse. That, is simply unforgivable.

as for the coaching staff, they're no better. If there's little talent, there's not much a coach can do. However, this staff continues  to make errors in management of the team and in managing the games. These are basic skills which a solid high school staff has. This staff continues to coach as if they're first year graduate assistants.

Then , there's the administration which continues to try to do things on the cheap, and, why not? as long as revenue continues to pour in from the Big Ten, the Administration will do nothing that's creative or daring.

So, one year from now, the coaching staff will have been fired and a new search for a "saviour" will begin.

1 illinifan wrote on November 26, 2012 at 9:11 am

This morning I read thru some of these comments, almost all were the same except for a few. Am always amazed about taxpayers and academics argument, maybe they need to return to school. For one the taxpayers do not pay for the coaches at all, period, really do not have time to do a business lesson on college sports, if they are big in academics there is plenty to look up. As far as the academic staff being demoralized over the golden parachute situation it seems to me that part of the demoralization comes from the last president. Concerning the sports aspect, have they even watched a game on ESPN to here the comments about the amount of money floating around for salaries, or maybe even read an article somewhere. If they are concerned about making money why do they teach? While I think that certain professors/teachers at different levels are under paid (conversely some are so awful that they are overpaid) they would never make anything even remotely close to sports people.

 

What they never seem to comprehend is the fact that winning and learning how to win are important, not the end all or to obsess over but important in all aspects of life. This includes academics, it seems to me that the academic side is trying to win as well. We could try and become a Harvard or Yale but that is just not us, and really why would we want to be pompous?

bernies wrote on November 26, 2012 at 10:11 am

This is purely anecdotal, but I'd imagine that having a successful athletic program could benefit the academic side of the house. The state partially funds the UI, and I'd guess that state legislators and other public officials would look more favorably on the UI as a whole if there was an athletic program that they could take pride in.

nick wrote on November 26, 2012 at 10:11 am

I would enjoy reading your business lesson on college sports.I have a great interest in ideas that promote reform and clarity in college athletics.

blmillini wrote on November 26, 2012 at 11:11 am

response to jwr12 (I hit reply, this website needs to be better too, while we are at it):

With all of the issues we have had in the state of Illinois and the University of Illinois, do we really want to turn the spotlight on the academic side of the university?  Everything is heading in the toilet right now and we need to get rid of the corruption to make it better.  I personally think that you should strive for excellence in everything you do.  So, if you are not going to strive for excellence in Athletics then get rid of them.  Let's see how fast that has a negative impact on the status of the university.  If you are a faculty member you should be smarter than your comment.  It all goes hand-in-hand.

nick wrote on November 26, 2012 at 11:11 am

I agree that we should strive for excellence in all of the programs at the University.The issues are much larger than our school.I would be pleased if Illinois would take a position as a reform leader in college sports.The graduation rate for UIUC athletes certainly gives a measure of credibility and a place to begin.I think that the struggles of the football program also point out the inequalities that are built into the system as it is run by the NCAA. I am convinced that there are many ways to create a more fair and even system that can operate with integrity. It would be a much better system than what the NCAA has built.

aaeismacgychel wrote on November 26, 2012 at 11:11 am

Also for jwr12:

I have to say that I personally am extremely disappointed in the direction the school has gone academically since I left. When I attended U of I we were the #3 Engineering school in the country and ranked in the low to mid 30s in US News. We were also a Top 10 university in my 2 majors (One #3 and the other #7) I completed there. A clout scandal and Law school scandal later, we are now barely holding on to being considere a Top Tier University (Upper 40s rank in US news), our Law School ratings have tanked, Engineering has dropped to 6th in the Nation (Still great, but not as great as 3rd) and my majors have dropped to 7th and NR, which is extremely unsettling to me.

This is not the time to rest on our academic laurels and point to them as a shiny beacon as quite frankly, we as a university are slipping and soon it appears that shiny beacon will only have a faint glow serving as a solemn reminder of what was once there. I am all for putting more emphasis on education and schooling, but since I have graduated, it appears that this is not the primary interest of Illinois. We have some great alumni and brilliant alumni, but Illinois is taking them for granted both academically and athletically and it's frustrating to see.

'06 BS Aerospace Engineering
'06 BS Chemical Engineering

aaeismacgychel wrote on November 26, 2012 at 11:11 am

I've been one of the more vocal people in the argument to dismiss Tim Beckman. I was at the ASU game and witnessed that complete trainwreck and mockery to coaching in person. It was disturbing to me seeing the kids have absolutely no idea what the coaches were trying to call (they looked confused most of the game), but it was even more disturbing that the coaches themselves couldn't get the playcalls in in time on both sides of the ball (Illinois regularly broke huddle with 8 or less seconds to go in the play clock hence the false starts). The most disturbing thing though that game was Tim Beckman deciding not to go for it on 4th and 1 early in the 4th quarter when we were down by three possessions. He flat out gave up on his team right there and based on how the rest of the game and ensuing games went, the kids gave up on him too. And that's the problem. That's why we were so bad this year.

But is that enough to fire someone? My answer to that is no, it's not. It's tough to get recruits that weren't your own to buy into your plan. He did a bad job convincing these recruits, but it is possible he could do better with his own. So why am/was I so adamant Illinois should part ways with him? It all comes down issue #2: Lack of Accountability.

When it comes to accountability, some will bring up his recruiting "faux pas" with Penn State and how it led to an utter beatdown and national scorn and ridicule. Some will point to coming in gung ho and trying to "spark a rivalry" with Northwestern that was there but never at the forefront which led to another beatdown (And Northwestern going for a 4th and 2 while up 30+ points with 6 minutes to go in the game should speak volumes of that). But it was Tim Beckman's chewing tobacco incident where by his own admission he knowingly and purposely broke NCAA rules in plain sight and then did not hold himself accountable for that action where he lost me completely. He should've had suspended himself for a game and if he couldn't bring himself to do that, Mike Thomas should have for sake of the team. How can a team possibly have faith in a coach who has zero accountability for his actions? Why should those players then have accountability for their own? You'll notice that after that 'Chewgate' game, that's when all the dumb penalties and late hits started. And you'll also notice they didn't get benched for that. They were left out there. The players realized nothing they did on the field mattered. Their actions didn't matter. And they realized this because Beckman was unwilling to hold himself and his staff accountable for their actions, and because Mike Thomas was unwilling to hold Beckman accountable in Beckman's stead. And that is why it's time to get rid of Beckman and maybe even Mike Thomas. In fact, Mike Thomas should be tanking his lucky stars John Groce is off to a quick start because if he weren't, the voices clamoring for his head would be at a fevered pitch.

This was an extremely disappointing season and we will have disappointing seasons for at the very least the next 2 or 3 years (probably more). This will be true of whoever is coaching. But let's make the right decision and move in a forward direction. We might not get anyone of any substance or even a familiar name to take this poison pill of a coaching job, but at least we can get someone who will play by the rules and hold himself and the team accountable for a discount price and then 3 years from now we might have a team that plays harder and the job might not look as bad. We're in dire straights right now, but Timmy B is not the answer.

Chief4Evr wrote on November 26, 2012 at 12:11 pm

As I read the comments posted, I have to say that those who comment about the importance of academics at UI are on target. Academic programs are very important, but like it or not, people also identify with their Universities through their athletic program's success and that is not going to change any time soon. Positive attitudes and institutional pride develop (and thus contributions to a University) when a college or University is successful in both the academic and athletic realms. The UI has had that in the past but unfortunately, that is presently not the case. The athletic side of these two pillars in our two major sports programs is failing to carry its weight although the basketball side shows some shoring up so far. I believe a change in leadership (emphasis foortball) is needed before further eroding occurs.


As much as I feel Coach Beckman is a good person, I do not feel he has the necessary skills to bring a Big Ten program back to respectability. I will agree that talent-wise Illinois was perhaps lacking in several areas but when I see the same mistakes over and over and inconsistency both offensively and defensively, I don't believe we can look anywhere else but at the head coach and his staff. If the administration decides to give TB and staff one more year, I doubt that we will see a righting of the sinking ship.  

Brownshoe wrote on November 26, 2012 at 1:11 pm

I do not think that right now Thomas can find any "name" candidate who would  be willing come here - at any price. Particularly with the other jobs that have opened up now.

But I think he should be looking, and if he can find somebody he likes, he should nail them down and then fire Beckman. For him to fire Beckman without having his replacement already signed up (what I mean is "virtually" signed up,) would be a huge mistake.

Personally, I would love to see Monken here, but I doubt that he would take the job. But if I was Thomas my people would have been talking to Monken's people before the NW game. I also think that there are many other assistants who could do a better job than Beckman, and in fact, I think to hire an experienced head coach would be a mistake, because no head coach worth his salt would come here. It's the old "I would not want to belong to a club that would have me," deal.

nuculerman wrote on November 27, 2012 at 4:11 am

Does anyone else remember the year we beat Ohio St and played in the Rose Bowl?  Fastforward half a decade, and Ohio St spends $5M/yr to hire Urban Meyer, and we sign Beckman to a 5 yr contract.  Ohio St. goes undefeated, even though they're bowl ineligible, and we finish 3rd or 4th in the state of Illinois.

 

I don't condone spending $5 million a year on a football coach normally, but if that's what it takes to make a program relevant again, then let's do what it takes.  I can't even watch Illini football anymore.  Give me back Juice Williams and Ron Zook.  At least our losses were entertaining, and showcased moments of great football once in a while back then.  

Denbert wrote on November 29, 2012 at 4:11 pm

Let's get hold of ourselves.  Deal with reality. Conventional wisdom hasn't worked because the Athletic Department, the coaches, the sportswriters and the blog experts have had there way for years and their way hasn't worked.  There is no messiah who can lead us to the promised land. That is a prayer, not a strategy.

We need to rethink the business plan because, football is after all, a bottom line business that funds other sports and brings in millions in alumini contributions. It is also a national media event that projects badly on our university. 

I suggest we hire an outside consulting firm to facilitate a dialog between the major stakeholders of Illinois football and to focus that conversation on how to best go about rebuilding, remarketing and rebranding the Illinois football program.