But Can They Coach? September 30, 2012
If you think you’ve heard this post title before, you have. Back in January, right after all the assistants were hired. Here’s what that But Can They Coach post said:
My signature – the little thing that shows up at the bottom of all posts – on a certain Illini message board that I happen to post on (don’t worry – you couldn’t find it if you tried) says the following:
But can they coach?
Why? Because all I seem to talk about these days are the assistant coaches that Tim Beckman is hiring. And every time I discuss their recruiting acumen, I’m left to wonder one thing. Can they coach?
I guess not.
It’s totally unfair to say that after five games, but is it? Could we have looked more disorganized? A muffed punt and a running-into-the-kicker, all in the first five minutes? The Penn State coaches had to feel like dinner guests with a pushy host. “Here, you take the first points. No really, take the first points. TAKE THEM.”
But it got worse from there. Questionable play calls. Turnovers. A two minute drill with a timeout in our end with 1:56 on the clock. Penalties. And then, for me, the kicker: Penn State gains two yards on first down but is flagged for Illegal Shift. First and 15, right? Nope – we decline to set up second and 8. WHAT? I could understand (maybe) declining second and 15 to set up third and 8. It’s debatable. But turning down a penalty that would have given them negative yards after a play where they gained two on first down? WHAT?
This made the drive home full of some horrible thoughts. If this is a staff of recruiters with no coaching acumen, well, here we go again. If we can’t turn this season around immediately, we’re staring 3-9 right in the face. And this is likely the most experienced and talented roster of the next few years, so if we’re 3-9 this year then…
OK, can’t go there. Let’s get back to this staff. So… can they coach?
+ OK, let’s get into the “kicked out of the stands… AGAIN” thing. If you didn’t see the other post, EVENT STAFF came calling again. Actually, some may not be aware of the first time. Guess I’ll tell the whole story.
After the Charleston Southern game, I went to a somewhat quiet spot in the West Balcony to record my From The Stands podcast (I’ve done this for three years now). The band plays Illinois Loyalty and then follows up with Alma Mater, and during Alma Mater, while I was recording my postgame thoughts, an usher ushered me out of the stands. This wasn’t even five minutes after the game ended.
I posted it here, and many of you apparently forwarded that to the DIA. Two of you forwarded me the same response from the DIA, which Dan posted over at Illinois Loyalty (the website, not the song). Here’s the text of that response:
Please know that we have spoken to our event staff and this will no longer be a problem. We will wait till the Marching Illini have exited the stadium until we begin asking patrons politely to make their way to the exits as Memorial Stadium has closed. We always want our patrons to have the best fan experience possible when they come to an Illini game, so we are very sorry that you did not. Please know that we will work to correct this.
So today, it was with much confidence that I went to a quiet spot in the stands to record my mini-podcast. I waited for the band to finish Alma Mater (about three minutes after the final whistle), and I hit record. Just over two minutes into that recording, here he came. An usher, ushering me out. I told him of the policy change from the email and pointed to the band, still walking down the stairs from their section – he still insisted I leave. He tried to kick my two sons out as well (they were waiting for me in our seats one section over) – I yelled to them to stay. It was a matter of principle now.
He returned a minute later, I told him I knew the rules and he couldn’t kick me out. He told me he’d go get someone who could (a cop). I kind of regret the next part of the recording, me gleefully knowing that I had this conversation on tape, and that EVENT STAFF would have no way to mischaracterize our chat. But again, the fact that he was doing this less than two weeks after being informed that he couldn’t was ridiculous.
I said on the podcast that I wanted to record the conversation with the cop as well. I didn’t. It wasn’t necessary. I finished my recording and walked out of the stands, and as I reached the concourse, the cop was on his way. I told the him of the policy and the University statement above. He said “then someone should have informed the Champaign Police Department – you have to leave now”. So I left.
Do I want this EVENT STAFF guy fired? No. Am I angry at the DIA? Not really – I’ve met Mike Thomas, and I know he’ll personally talk to the Event Staff coordinators if he has to. Was the cop right to kick me out if he hadn’t heard the rules? Sure, why not. Is it yet another sign that we’re not focused on the fans, and that Memorial Stadium has become a pretty unfriendly place the last 10 years? Of course. The multiple emails I received after the first run-in, all from fans who had experienced rude ushers and unhelpful staff over the last few years, spoke volumes. It’s a problem. Most every fan will tell you that.
And my goal in this whole thing is just this: I want 60,000 fans to join me in Memorial Stadium at every home game for the next 30 years. I dream of a real, legitimate college football environment in Champaign. And if it takes me getting kicked out twice to draw attention to the fact that some EVENT STAFF walk around with Thor’s hammer, so be it.
I’ll be honest, though, I chuckled when reading that statement again. The whole “we will correct this” felt so much like the Ron Zook “we’ll get that fixed”. Say the right thing. Acknowledge the problem. But then it happens again two weeks later. That’s so Zook.
Oh crap – is that so Beckman?
+ Perfect segue right there. That’s my biggest struggle after today’s game. Is this a staff that will say the right things, or a staff that will do the right things?
Read any leadership book, talk to any mentor that’s worth a darn, and that will most certainly be a theme. There are leaders that say the right things – that have the right answers for all the questions – and then there are leaders that doggedly work on the implementation. Just telling me it’s fixed isn’t good enough – SHOW me you’ve fixed it. Demonstrate multiple times that it’s repaired. Anybody can just say “it won’t be a problem again”. That solves the immediate tension. But is the core issue being fixed?
With Ron Zook, it usually never was. Kickoff coverage issues? “We’ll get that fixed”. Timeout problems? “Won’t be a problem again”. But it always was. It never was fixed.
Tim Beckman doesn’t say “we’ll get that fixed” (at least I’ve not heard him say that), but I’m getting the same feeling from this staff. The defensive play calls still seem to be a problem when the opponent cranks the tempo. Turnover problems are still there. The same leaking tight ends from the Arizona State are still leaking out for 10-12-15 yard gains. And now we’ve added odd timeouts and declined penalties to the list.
Those were two new coaching staffs out there today. And Bill O’Brien’s players have been though a lot more than our players in the months leading up to this game. But one team looked disciplined, turnover-free, and precise. And the other team looked lost and uninspired.
Tim Beckman needs to fix this immediately. Wisconsin looked much improved tonight, and they were a wreck the first three weeks. I was OK with the Arizona State loss and even, to a degree, the Louisiana Tech loss (they beat Virginia today – beat Texas A&M at home and they’re going 12-0). But we HAD to show improvement today. And we lost by four touchdowns (again) and had the ball inside the 10 three times with zero points to show for it. Inexcusable.
+ I usually do a “positives” plus mark, right? Hmmm…
Yep, gotta go with Ferguson and Young again. My favorite play of the game was that route Josh Ferguson took up the seam. He’s coming across the middle on a crossing route, identifies the location of the safety, and when he catches the ball, immediately turns up the open seam. And I mean immediately. Reactions like that can’t be taught. Get this kid more space to work in.
Young, too. We struggled running the ball all day (Penn State front-7 just dominated us), but Donovonn did break the one long run and had a few “drag guys two extra yards” plays. He still struggles getting to the edge (that’s not really his thing), but he runs so hard. This is definitely a backfield we can work with for the next three seasons.
+ Everything else was frightening. Everything. Nate’s two interceptions. Offensive line getting dominated. Defensive line looking like a shell of their former selves. Back seven of the defense missing assignments. More injuries (PNY’s looked like a season-ender). Coaching decisions. Missed field goal. Poor kick returns. Muffed punt. Everything.
+ One good thing, though. As I mentioned last week, Verizon has come to my rescue. They’ve given me a free demo phone to try (Droid RAZR M) and a data package to use. They’re not paying me or anything – my job is to simply use the phone and post my honest opinions. I’ve received other offers like this before, but I always turned them down. With my struggles to even get a text in Memorial Stadium, I jumped at this one. And they said I could be honest about everything and post my real experience, so here goes.
Today was awesome. I could Tweet. I could text. I could look up scores and stats. If you’ve followed my Twitter the last three years, you know I’m always complaining, saying that I can’t get service in Memorial Stadium with my iPhone from another company (who I won’t name). I can’t even link to the wifi available at my seat.
Today, I didn’t need wifi. 4G LTE, baby (this is starting to sound like a commercial, isn’t it?). I was seriously giddy. I have no idea why I didn’t try this before. I love interacting with all of you on Twitter during games. But for the most part, I’ve been restricted to text-to-tweet, and when I do that I can’t see any mentions. And it doesn’t even work very much. Today, Twitter app, mobile browser, texts, you name it, I had it available. And super fast. Good call on this whole “let bloggers demo our new phones” thing, Verizon. Sometimes, those bloggers will be thrilled with the results.
Let’s segue back. BUT THOSE WERE THE ONLY RESULTS I WAS THRILLED WITH TODAY. *presses easy button*
That game today, ladies and gentlemen, was clownshoes. I’ll likely remember this game for a long time. That Game Where We Knew It Was Going To Be A Very Long Rebuild. I don’t think Mike Thomas can (financially) or will make any coaching decisions before Year 3. I saw a lot of that chatter on Twitter today – “how long can we retain Beckman when we look like this?” I think he’ll get at least three years to recruit and build the roster the way he wants it. And I think he’ll be a pretty good recruiter.
But can he coach?
This is where I put the badge for the Verizon blogger program. But I’ll almost assuredly do it wrong. But hey, great phone.