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Nobody Does Trainwreck Like Illinois Football November 25, 2012

Nobody. Seriously, no team in college football does this more that Illinois. I’ll just describe the last 20 years:

After an 0-3 start in 1993, we went on a little roll. 5-3 in the Big Ten in ’93 followed by Liberty Bowl in ’94. But the fall started in 1995, continued in ’96, and bottomed out in 1997 at the tail end of an 18 game losing streak. We started a long climb back in 1998 by rushing the field after a Middle Tennessee State win (those goal posts would not. come. down.), shocked everyone with a solid season and a bowl win in 1999, were ranked going into the Michigan game in 2000, and then three bad fumble calls (pre-replay) cost us the Michigan game (and yes, for you young kids, this was an actual “the call cost us the game” thing – Michigan’s tailback fumbled with under 2:00 to go and Michigan with no timeouts. If it was correctly called a fumble, we could have taken a knee.)

That game just killed our momentum, and we struggled to 5-6. But then 2001 was amazing. 10-1, Big Ten Champions, BCS Bowl, we’re on top of the world. And then 5-7 followed by 1-11 the next two seasons and we’re right back in the basement. And we’d stay there a while. A 2-30-in-the-Big-Ten-over-four-seasons while. But then, in the most Illinois way possible, when we returned, we returned to the top. 9-3 in 2007, knocking off #1 Ohio State in the process, and a Rose Bowl. With all these Zook recruits, we’re back, baby! And then 5-7 followed by 3-9. Why do we always do this? But Zook wasn’t done. Driven by a Vic Koenning defense, we finished 7-6 in 2010 and 2011, with bowl wins each season (including holding RGIII and Baylor to 14 meaningless 4th quarter points in a 38-14 drubbing). OK, maybe we’re not going to do the yoyo thing any more, and we can play in Mediocrity Land for a while. Nope. Tim Beckman takes over, and we go 2-10. Our Big Ten losing streak has reached 14 games, and with the Big Ten schedule opening with Nebraska, Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Penn State next year, it will reach 18 before we even blink.

Are you kiddin’ me? How is this possible?

Wait, there’s more: There have been eight winless-in-the-Big-Ten seasons the last 16 years – WE OWN FOUR OF THE EIGHT. No other team even has two. Not even Indiana. Illinois 1997, Northwestern 1998, Iowa 1999, Illinois 2003, Illinois 2005, Indiana 2011, Illinois 2012. Are you kiddin’ me?

But, of course, there’s a flipside. There have only been 27 college football programs with two or more BCS bowl appearances – and we’re one of them. Teams that only have one BCS bowl appearance: UCLA, Texas A&M, Pitt, K-State, Georgia Tech, Clemson, Arkansas, Washington, and Oklahoma State. Team that has two: Illinois.

THAT’S what is so maddening. If this was just a bad football program like Indiana or New Mexico, it would almost be easier to stomach. But just this new century we’ve gone BCS -> 2-30 -> BCS -> 3-9 -> back-to-back bowls -> 14 game B1G losing streak. Who does that?

+ There’s not much to break down from this game. It’s too painful. Northwestern is headed to a January bowl while we’re 2-10 at the same time as Notre Dame is headed to the title game. Michigan has made inroads into Chicago recruiting again, and combined with Notre Dame, will shut us out for years. Our schedule next year has games against #25 Washington and 8-3 Cincy, a parting gift left by our old AD who HONESTLY looked at that roller coaster above and thought that scheduling the MOST DIFFICULT NON CONFERENCE SCHEDULE IN ALL OF DIVISION I FOOTBALL THE LAST 12 SEASONS was the way to go.

You know what? No game breakdown this week. Can’t do it. Too hard. We just had our third train derailment in the last 15 years, the cars are scattered everywhere, and our old athletic director would still insist that the tracks are fine. It will be years before the new AD can fix the tracks and find a manageable schedule for this train.

But now the new conductor he hired doesn’t appear to have a clue.

ATOillini November 25th, 2012

Thought you might have titled this post “Requiem”. Seems appropriate. Glad you didn’t write a game breakdown. It would simply be the epitome of redundant.

illiniphil November 25th, 2012

I had hoped we could salvage some of the momentum from B2B bowls, but right back to the familiar cellar. I don’t blame it all on Beckman, we were just a bad FB team all the way around. As it stands, it looks like at least 2 more miserable seasons before it gets better. Can we ever break the cycle?

Joe John November 25th, 2012

Robert are you kidding me? Tim Beckman just had one of the most embarrassing seasons in Illinois history and hardly a word about him….yet you are STILL blaming Ron Guenther for making the schedule too hard? Seriously? It doesnt matter if you schedule 4 Charleston Southerns….if you go 0-8 in the B1G and arent competitive at all, you are a completely inept football program and it has nothing to do with who your opponents are, it has everything to do with who you are. Illinois has lost 14 straight B1G games. Probably will go 0-8 next year too. That has nothing to do with out of conference scheduling. I mean, Guenther scheduled some easy teams the last several seasons…Illinois managed to make a couple weedwacker bowls…did it help recruiting at all? No it didnt. Not at all. It even got Ron Zook fired.

You have got to get out of this mindset that “the opponents are too hard”…were they too hard this year? This was the easiest schedule Illinois has had in long time, coming off 2 straight bowl seasons, and Illinois was HORRIBLE.

Stop whining about the schedule.
Stop whining about “turnover faires” and luck, and “you see Illinois really isnt that bad…its all bad luck and not scheduling 4 Charleston Southerns”…
Stop whining about Ron Guenther.

Start looking at the actual problems of the team…Nate S is a bad QB…Tim Beckman is an awful coach. Recruiting’s going to be tough trying to sell anyone on this program. The defensive coordinators havent a clue. Mike Thomas made a terrible hire, and its up to him to fix this thru getting a GOOD COACH…not scheduling OOC games…you serious?

Your buddy Mike Thomas is the one that moved the Washington game to Soldier Field. You going to complain about that too?

Sorry Robert, but I was expecting more from you.
But alas, its the same ole “wont criticize the team no matter how bad they do” orange pollyanna stuff.

If you wont be negative after a season like this and tell it how it really is, you never will.

illiniranger November 25th, 2012

@ Joe John: what’s the point for Robert to criticize the coaches? Everyone else does. It’s not like Robert is adding anything to the discourse by joining the rest of us and complaining. Robert’s blog is the best about Illini sports because he DOESN’T do that stuff. If i want to see that, i’ll go to the scout board or read the Illini HQ comments section.
Also, Robert has increased his visibility within the DIA. He’s a non-profit blogger that is given the same respect and access that normal media members get. If he becomes hypercritical of the administration, that access pulled immediately. The DIA can’t do that to the NG – they can certainly do that to Robert. If Robert wants to grow his site beyond the rumblings of an Illini fan but give us real insight and analysis he must have access. I understand if he limits the direct personal criticism to preserve that access.

illiniranger November 25th, 2012

There is no point to talk about this football program until we get a new coach. It’s pretty much the single point of failure for this team. Nothing else matters at this point.
of course we all will talk about this program on this site, others, and with our friends and family. but it’s just an exercise in mental masturbation until Beckman is gone.

Joe John November 25th, 2012

Ranger – thats a good point. If Robert is holding his tongue because he doesnt want to lose access…then that makes sense. But I dont think thats the case bc even before Robert got access he’s always been on the scheduling thing and I bet he really thinks if somehow RG hadnt scheduled the Missouri series that Illinois would somehow be a better program today…delusional, yes. But I think he actually thinks that. That a few OOC games are the difference between Illinois being who they are, and Illinois being good…i just dont get it.

Actually, I think Robert letting loose in this blog would send a message to the administration that there is a serious problem with Illini football and if the diehard orange koolaiders like Robert are bailing, then something needs to be done. Its sort of like when the DIA doesnt wake up till they start losing season ticket holders…I think Robert and Bob Assmussen are the only media members left in Illini-dom that havent turned against Beckman.

Illinuts November 25th, 2012

The coaching ineptitude speaks for itself. Robert likely knows his readers are intelligent enough to to not need this pointed out to them. He has a sense of when the pile on is not necessary.

Illinigrad November 25th, 2012

Isn’t saying you have a train with a conductor who can’t keep on schedule pretty direct?

chief23 November 25th, 2012

118th ranked offense this year. 117 schools ahead of Illinois….I get really tired of the ‘there’s just no talent’ argument, yep there isn’t a ton of talent here..but 118th? Unacceptable, no excuses.

chief23 November 25th, 2012

Guenther was a horrible AD overall in my opinion but tough schedule, easy schedule..this is an awful awful football program right now.

Illinigrad November 25th, 2012

Without a doubt we are among the bottom 5 of BCS FB programs.

Lou-a-villini November 25th, 2012


FloridaIllini November 25th, 2012

It is tiresome to hear about our “back to back bowls”. The bowl schedule is so watered down as to be almost meaningless. I certainly don’t consider it an accomplishment. It’s better than not but not much. It only means you have a slightly better than .500 record. We are rather like Las Vegas. We win just enough to keep us coming back!

illinibacker November 25th, 2012

You know, it’s been mentioned before the Joe John is perhaps Robert’s alter ego. After reading the comments thus far it makes me wonder (ha ha)… It’s like Joe John said everything Robert wanted to say in his post but couldn’t.
With that being said, Joe John has a point – I don’t how after watching Beckman beclown himself – YET AGAIN – yesterday that the head coach doesn’t at least come up. Like Robert, I fancy myself a glass half full type of guy, especially when it comes to Illini sports. But for the life of me I can’t find one thing that Beckman has done that gives me hope for the future, and I usually don’t need much to hang on to. I say this from a perspective of coaching, game management, staff management, pr/media management, player relations (senior buy-in?). I haven’t seen anything I like. Recruiting has gone well, but I can see that unraveling quickly.
On that note, I hope Mike Thomas comes out and re-commits to Beckman in the next couple of days and reiterates that we are staying the course. That lingering drip of doubt could do even more harm to recruiting than the performance this season has already done. And with that being said, if Thomas sees from his view that Beckman isn’t the guy for the job I hope he admits that and lets him go asap. That scenario wouldn’t bother me in the least either.
Like Robert, I’m a fan and will support the program no matter what. I would like to hear directly from Beckman (without coachspeak BS) exactly why this season was such a trainwreck.

ATOillini November 25th, 2012

The Peter Principle is a belief that, in an organization where promotion is based on achievement, success, and merit, that organization’s members will eventually be promoted beyond their level of ability. The principle is commonly phrased, “employees tend to rise to their level of incompetence.” In more formal parlance, the effect could be stated as: employees tend to be given more authority until they cannot continue to work competently. It was formulated by Dr. Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull in their 1969 book The Peter Principle, a humorous [1] treatise, which also introduced the “salutary science of hierarchiology.”
Nuff said…..

travelmaster November 26th, 2012

By all accounts this season has been a total disaster and now what do Illinois fans have to look forward to for next year? Most of the best players were seniors that won’t be coming back. What hope is there that adding a few mid level recruits and keeping the same coaches could possibly turn 2013 into a winning season? None. The way I see it Mike Thomas has to pull the trigger. He must be able to somehow land a coach that is a proven,winning leader. Someone that recruits are going to want to play for and someone who can install confidence and respect for returning players. Good luck with that. We’re gonna need a miracle hire or it’s going to be several more years of losing football.

Harry Lime November 26th, 2012

It’s amazing to me that this post addresses an almost complete lack of competence over 20 years, yet most of these comments address a problem (and it is a big one) that has been present only one of those years. Hmmm, what was the constant over most of those years…….

Lou-a-villini November 26th, 2012

Harry: I hope you don’t mean Robert! :)

GrogsBBQPepperoni November 26th, 2012

So if we do what we all want and fire Beckman, we now have 3 former coaches who we have fired and who we will still be paying? Seems like the epitome of ridiculousness. I understand that we’re kind of damned if we do, damned if we don’t, but 3 fired coaches still on the payroll and 2 of those being football coaches – wow. That alone will probably keep Beckman as the coach. Right or wrong. I imagine the coordinators are losing their jobs, though. Some heads have to roll.

Illinigrad November 26th, 2012

“Right or wrong. I imagine the coordinators are losing their jobs, though.”

This alone will be very expensive. Didn’t these guys sign on for two years? How much will it cost to replace 3-5 assistants?

wimble November 26th, 2012

Maybe we could use the tobacco thing to warrant dumping Beckman as a rules violation without the payout.

GrogsBBQPepperoni November 26th, 2012

OK, then at the very least fire just one of our TWO offensive coordinators. The fact that we have two is ridiculous. Somebody has to get fired for this ineptitude. It’s not always the right person either but the alumni will not be happy if we just sit tight with the status quo. These coordinators don’t make head coach money and nobody will remember if we’re paying two coordinators overlappingly like they would if we were paying 3 head coaches.

Eugene November 26th, 2012

GrogsBBQ – just because Illinois has not had co-coordinators doesn’t mean that it is ridiculous. Take a look around, here is a list of schools that have co-coordinators: Ohio St(both O and D), Oklahoma, K-State, Texas A&M, Ole Miss, Miss St., ASU, Arizona. It is useful, though it didn’t work here this past season.
Travelmaster – As far as recruiting, the upcoming class is ranked 4th in the B1G. It will be another year before anyone knows if they will pan out. Zooks last 2 classes ranked 9th and 10th. Firing Beckman is not the answer.
JoeJohn – Scheduling has a ton to do with it. When the OOC schedule has a winning % of better than 68%, the team is going to struggle. Most B1G schools begin play with a 3-1 or 4-0 record which starts the season with momentum.
Wimble – Not a chance that the tobacco issue eliminates his contract, sorry.

As for the season, it was a train wreck no matter how you look at it. As bad as it was, there have been worse. There are issues that must be addressed with coaching for sure. A lot of people want to fire Beckman and start over, but if he is fired after one season, NO COACH will want to coach the Illini, EVER. The only coaches that are 1 and done are the ones that break the rules or get arrested. Beckman and Co are here for at least 3 seasons.

Kilmers Black Workhorse November 26th, 2012


travelmaster November 27th, 2012

WTF Mike Thomas must have a lower SAT score than Beckman. The decision to keep one of the worst coaching staffs in the history of college sports defies logic.
If reports are correct, Thomas was only focused on ONE replacement candidate at a time when there are many coaches available with a much more impressive pedigree than coach Beckman. OMG watch ticket sales and fan interest plummet.