Deja Vu all over again !!! I stumbled on this article on SI.com Sunday AM. I’m not sure why I bothered to read it. Just another media website writing about the latest College Football Program In Chaos …. the one about Univ Illinois firing its Head FB Coach for assorted malfeasances which, of course, he vehemently denies as every coaching miscreant automatically does. …. nothing new here. I was ready to move on THEN I saw IT – THE PHRASE…. THOSE WONDERFUL SILLY TWO WORDS .….
“…. Sleeping Giant”
…. and I knew I had found Today’s Quirky.
A large prominent state university with legit academic cred…. a history as “a basketball school” and an ever-struggling football program with the ghost of ChooChoo…. oops I mean of Red Grange “The Galloping’ Ghost lingering over it for 60 years. A puffed-up delusional fan base so perpetually drunk on Chief Illiniwick’s “firewater” that it goes thru coaches like (insert something that causes diarrhea…. like a gooey burrito). Mercifully… there is no mention of “The Illinois Way”.
NOTE: Delusional TruBlues did NOT create the term “sleeping giant”. That honor goes to the citizens of Lilliput upon finding Dr. Lemuel Gulliver washed up on their shore…. per Jonathan Swift. NOW you know.
I could point out other glaring similarities to ….. ah hell, you’ve already seen where this going. If not, you aren’t going to.
As you read this, keep count of the glaring similarities to TGU. When you reach 10, realize there are another 4-5 you missed.
After Beckman firing, inept Illinois’ only hope lies in cleaning house
On Friday, Illinois fired Tim Beckman as football coach, one week before the football season begins. Such is the state of catastrophe in Champaign that this amounted to throwing a flaming tire on a much larger pile of flaming tires. The school’s chancellor resigned in early August in the face of an email scandal. The school’s provost followed suit earlier this week. The athletic department now has investigated two programs, football and women’s basketball, after allegations of improper treatment of athletes. Both of the head coaches involved in those inquiries were hired by the current athletic director, who whacked Beckman on Friday and then insisted that it was an “exciting time to be here.”
The place is a total mess, from the top on down, a fetid heap of skullduggery and incompetence befitting a state run right into the ground along the same principles.
Now it must attempt to fix a football program that isn’t anywhere near the sleeping giant some contend it is, all while any worthwhile candidates might be advised to run far, far away, as fast as their loafers will take them.
No, really, though: exciting times.
But field a football team Illinois must, and for this specific endeavor things are off to the right start. A total overhaul is due, but it’s hardly complete. Beckman’s 12—25 record put him in jeopardy already; his exit was hastened when an ongoing external review determined he attempted to influence injury reports, pressured players to avoid medical treatment and “treated inappropriately” the scholarship situations of second-semester seniors. Now athletic director Mike Thomas must go as well, for many reasons, not the least of which is the unacceptable breakdown in “avenues of reporting” that led to Beckman’s behavior and dismissal—avenues he is tasked with creating, maintaining and enforcing.
“I’m confident in the program I’m leading,” Thomas said Friday, when asked if he is concerned about his own job security. “I know when you’re trying to build a program that you’re going to have obstacles and adversity along the way.”
When the adversity is self-inflicted—to proportions that would be comic if there weren’t real people suffering real effects—the slate doesn’t need to be cleaned. It needs to be shot into the sun and replaced with completely new slate.
The more pernicious issue is whether a new slate matters at all.
It’s time to stop pretending that there is untapped greatness bubbling just below the surface in Champaign. It’s time to put to rest the myth that Illinois football has everything it needs to be a Big Ten champion-caliber program, when the reality is it maybe has enough to be regularly decent.
Toss in the more subjective problem of being a basketball-first school—and the apathy that compounds annually when the football product is uninspiring—and, no, this actually does not seem like a great job in the first place. Now Illinois must find a savior when its infrastructure is shaken and, in some very literal ways, no one knows who can make the long-term decisions in Champaign anyway.
The only option is to gut it and hope, to bring in another athletic director with energy who will lure another coach with energy. That energy, of course, can cut many ways. One is a coach forging a connection with players, current and future, that stokes momentum the place desperately needs. Another way is a wired Beckman stammering through an explanation of the “Oskee” acronym at Big Ten media days last month, sounding like he was having an allergic reaction to the English language. So someone else will run out a new schtick this winter, and Illinois will stand by, eyes closed and fingers crossed.
Meanwhile, here comes 2015, just now visible as you rub off the layers of dysfunction with your sleeve. “Crazy times in Champaign today,” senior guard Ted Karras said Friday. “Absolutely shocked. Dumbfounded, really. But it’s the reality now.”
“The cool thing about this team,” senior running back Josh Ferguson said, “is that we have a lot of old guys that have been through this kind of thing.”
Yes, this is the cool thing about Illinois, that a student-athlete can arrive on campus, spend years having a cheese grater run across his or her spirit and build up enough resistance to shrug off the many failures of the adults in charge. Good for the school that it ran out a guy as allegedly selfish and careless as Beckman, not that it had much choice with an investigation that would be public record at some point.
Beckman, for his part, issued a statement to multiple media outlets that disputed Thomas’s findings while adding that he “will vigorously defend both my reputation and my legal rights.” In other words, Beckman is pursuing the buyout money Illinois doesn’t think it has to pay him, which only confirms that everyone involved deserves each other.
All that’s left is to start over. Illinois isn’t necessarily doomed to fail in football, but it is doomed to try again, and by now that’s what everyone is afraid of.