Originally written on Rumors and Rants  |  Last updated 11/19/14
The Illinois Fighting Illini football team isn’t doing so hot. Currently, the team is 2-5 and coming off a 31-17 loss to Indiana at home. In 2011, former head coach Ron Zook’s final season, the Illini were 7-6 and made a bowl game. The current situation would put any coach on the defensive, but first-year coach Tim Beckman is under pretty intense pressure. He’s even lost 22 pounds. He says it’s because he can’t take all the losing, but it seems there are plenty of Illini fans who are hoping it’s because he ran over an old gypsy woman and got cursed. My theory is that this is all sublimated hatred for basketball coach Bruce Weber. The “storied” Illinois program has been pretty mediocre for most of Weber’s tenure post-NCAA tournament final appearance, and that’s the program Illini fans actually care about. There’s no way anyone gives enough of a crap about Illinois football to fire the head coach and athletic director after one bad season. Besides, while Zook’s 7-6 season is about as good as anyone can realistically do with that football program (aside from backing into a Rose Bowl beating at the hands of USC), it isn’t like the team was exactly well-run by Beckman’s predecessors. Zook spent most of his time at Illinois on the hot seat because his teams routinely underachieved and looked mostly awful in the process. Now that Beckman is losing with Zook’s players, should anyone really be surprised? After the Rose Bowl appearance, the Illini were 5-7 and 3-9 before back to back 7-6 seasons and Zook’s firing. You really don’t want to look at Illinois’ time under Ron Turner, however. Reliving any part of that dark time in Illini history is probably a mistake if for no other reason than the fact that he’s Norv Turner’s brother. There have also been comments by anonymous sources saying Beckman is “in over his head at Illinois,” which is why the team is suddenly a disaster. You know, because there’s such a big difference between Toledo and Illinois’ football programs in terms of success and history. There aren’t many things worse than sniping at people while hiding behind the “anonymous source” label. Which is why, as an Indiana alumnus, I humbly suggest that Illinois keep Tim Beckman and see where this thing goes. Who knows, maybe more Penn State players will come available and he’ll improve his recruiting even more. And yes, his Oklahoma State defense in 2008 did allow 28 points and 400 yards of offense per game, but when has OSU ever been good at defense? Those numbers are actually hall-of-fame worthy compared to some of their units after he left. So give the guy a break. After all, Indiana stuck with Kevin Wilson after a disastrous 1-11 first season and look at how well they’re doing now!
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