Howard Griffith: 'Reason for optimism'
3 questions for ... ... former Illini and current BTN analyst Howard Griffith
How do you assess Tim Beckman’s 2013 team?
I think there’s reason for optimism. I like what they’re doing from an offensive standpoint. The hiring of Bill Cubit was a huge hit. Obviously, you have to go out and still produce on the field, but he brings a lot to the table with his experience and understanding. It not only helps the team, but it helps Tim Beckman as well. You can never underestimate these Big Ten jobs. it’s a tough deal. He’s added some guys on his staff that he can run ideas by that can only help the program. They don’t have as much talent as I think they would like to have or the fans would like to see. That’s a process, but I think they’re heading in the right direction and good things are happening now. I understand the business and have been around it for a long time. I understand what some of the struggles were last year. It’s one of those things where everybody has to be as patient as possible. It’s very difficult in today’s age where fans want to win a Big Ten title and go to the Rose Bowl every year. Obviously, coaches have their own pressure, but it’s hard from a fan standpoint to wait as well. You don’t want to wait. You want to win right now. If they’re not moving in the direction they’re moving in, they want something else. College football is a tough gig these days.
What do you think of Illinois playing at Soldier Field?
It’s a great opportunity for the university to really showcase themselves. Not that they’re not connected now, but they have an opportunity to reconnect with a huge fan base up there in the Chiacgo metro area. It’s a great way to show their product in Chicago. You’ve got to get back to the days where people are wearing Illinois apparel on Michigan Avenue. The’res a marketing campaign war going on now between Illinois and Northwestern up there. It energizes the fans and both teams. In this particular game against Washington, it’s an opportunity for Illinios to restate that claim football-wise. The product they put on the field is the key to it all. When you’re winning and feeling good about it, the fans will show up. Then there’s the other side of it where if you’re struggling, you’re going to have some empty seats.
What’s the best part of your job with the BTN?
Going to all 12, soon to be 14, schools in the conference every spring and summer. We get unbelievable access to sit in meetings with the coaches and sit in with them while they’re in their offices. It really gives me a perspective that not many people have with college athletics. You get to see the program and the facilities. You really get a chance to see the philosophy and the culture of the programs when you’re there. It’s kind of easy to see who’s doing what and why. You get a chance to see the inner workings, and that’s probably the greatest part of my job is to go with coach (Gerry) DiNardo and Dave Revsine to visit all these different schools.