Category Archives: Illini Football

Last

I did you all a favor and did something over the holiday.  I scoured the web for any prediction that had Illinois NOT finishing dead last in the Big Ten West.  How do you think I did?  That’s right, I couldn’t find ONE prediction that had the Illini in any other place than last.  Because we have Lovie and he will resurrect the program and stuff.  Or something.

Some good news, however – my “Fire Lovie Smith” tag is re-usable from his Bears days so at least I am saved that tiny bit of labor.

Meanwhile, you get a cool 150-1 for Illinois to win the Big Ten Title, only “bested” by Rutgers at 250-1.  I always laugh at these futures odds.  That Illinois bet should be at least a thousand to one if not more.  For Illinois to win the Big Ten every other team except perhaps Purdue and Rutgers would have to go down in a plane crash or get hit by a meteor.

Anyways, looking forward to another great year of football from Champaign.

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Lovely

I watched this presser by Lovie the other day and had a few thoughts:

Well, Lovie is still Lovie, that is for sure. Deadpan, monotone, fatherly in a way. He had some pretty funny answers in this presser, if you have the time to watch. He is likely seeing a lot of his old press buddies from the Bear days in that room and you can tell he is pretty comfortable.

I have thought about this hiring a lot over the Summer and besides the fact that we are soaking the Buccanneers for half of his salary for the first two years (awesome!), I think it was a good thing for the program. Even if we do some crap 3-9 or 4-8 deal this year, everyone will give Lovie some more time for having to pick up the pieces (and there are many) of the Tim Beckman era. I know that later this year when we are in a close game and Lovie wastes a time out or calls a dumb challenge I will probably go outside and toss my cocktail into the lawn (hey, I have to vent somehow), but the stability and presence he will bring will be a good thing. No more coaches shouting at each other on the sidelines, no more dumb bench penalties. Just Lovie. God help us.

One interesting side note for the blog will be seeing if the “Fire Lovie Smith” tag in the bubble graphic on the side will get larger than the “Fire Ron Turner” one. That is how terrible my life is.

Cubes Gets Extension

Illinois re-upped Bill Cubit for two years following a 5-7 season. While that isn’t an impressive record, and is pretty standard for our football team (sadly), we could still go to a bowl game because there aren’t enough bowl eligible teams to fill the FORTY ONE contests that we have slated for this year. What a great reward – a bowl game that your university will absolutely lose $$$$ on, all for going 5-7! Well done!

Anyways, the Cubit re-upping is interesting in a couple dimensions. The Illinois athletic department doesn’t even have a permanent athletic director yet so it was probably one of those deals where the powers that be sat in a room and just shrugged their shoulders, sighed, and asked Cubit if he wanted it. There has been scandal after scandal at Illinois over the past decade or so and since the house is now being cleaned, it was probably a pretty good move to re-up Cubes.

I imagine that the base issue is one that I have pounded the table on for a long time here on these pages. That issue is that nobody wakes up one day and says to themselves “Man, I really want to be the head football coach at Illinois”.

Beckman was a guy who probably enjoyed being the coach at U of I, but we saw what happened there. Cubes must not mind living in Champaign. Being the head coach at a Big Ten skool probably looks good on your coaching resume in a certain sense.

The University isn’t behind the program, the boosters don’t care, and with all of our scandals and ridiculous people we have had associated with the football program it is just a “dead zone”. The job is either a stepping stone for someone on the way up, or a place holder for a coach who is just playing out his last few years, working for a few more paychecks.

In addition, we got Cubes for only $1.2mm/year, cheapest in the Big Ten. It was a good fit for him as well, as he has helped recruit a lot of the kids in the program and does offer some continuity. I expect nothing less then some more mediocre seasons but that is what Illinois football is all about, isn’t it? A Tradition of Mediocrity. But this isn’t really Cubit’s fault. The athletic department has things that, if we were serious about fixing them, would take up to 5 years to fix.

The Cubit signing has more to do with the higher ups at Illinois knowing that Cubit doesn’t have baggage and will probably run a relatively clean program while they attempt to get the athletic department reeled in, and somehow fixed up a bit. It is years of work ahead of them, and the two year deal makes it easy for them to can Cubit and start over if he can’t keep us at least mediocre.

On the plus side, from what I have seen so far this year, Cubit seems to have decent game plans and doesn’t make insane errors on the sideline that hurt his team like Beckman did. But all the good gameplans in the world won’t help you when you don’t have the talent to make them work. Cubes has a lot of work ahead of him and so does the athletic department.

Our “Vacated Trophy” Tour Is Coming up to North Carolina

The Illini are clearly not a major player in college athletics.  We have had just a few teams that were exciting over the last few decades…

– the “Flying Illini” of 1988-9 where we ended up losing to Michigan (here’s the 25th anniversary site)

– the 2004-5 Illini men’s basketball team (no nickname) who made it all the way through the NCAA tournament to the final and lost to North Carolina

– the 2007-8 Illini football team who famously beat Ohio State to ruin their season (that day was one of my single favorite sports memories I watched it with my sister in her house in Champaign and went crazy) and lost to USC in the Rose Bowl

So that’s it. And while I am always hopeful it doesn’t seem like the Illini are going to mount some sort of big comeback anytime soon, especially since the state is broke and we aren’t going to do the sort of epic things necessary to win in “division zero”.

But even by the standards of the NCAA (which are abysmally low), it turns out that the 2004-5 Men’s basketball team in North Carolina had a giant scam academia process where many of the players signed up for no-show classes where you had to “write” a single paper to get credit (really just a couple of paragraphs that maybe a 4th grader could have done) for many of the classes.

Bloomberg – the giant financial company – did a big expose of the scandal here, and of course you can see it all over on awesome Deadspin.

I’m not going to get into the scandal because it is boring.  What I want to do is to get this trophy “vacated” (that’s the NCAA’s favorite word) so that Dan and I can go down to North Carolina (good barbecue) to get a photo next to “our” trophy, since it is as close to a winner as we are going to get in our lifetime. Come on NCAA, it is just a word, do it!

Illini Vacated Trophy

While we are at it let’s go visit that Rose Bowl trophy at USC can’t be long before some giant scandal comes out from the Pete Carroll era…

The Harbaugh Effect on the Illini

Time for everyone to watch college football until we puke!  Along those lines, here is a little something I was thinking about.

harbaugh khakis

Earlier this week, Jim Harbaugh signed a contract to be the Michigan head football coach for a bazillion dollars and all the rest.  There was great fanfare, the Michigan alums are all fired up and blah blah blah.

In an odd way, this hiring, I think, will help Illinois football.  Work with me.  Admittedly I am probably moving into tinfoil hat territory with this but here we go.

Michigan and Harbaugh will not be recruiting the same guys that Illinois will.  They will be competing with the Ohio States, Wisconsins, Notre Dames and the other gigantic programs of the world.  There is exactly zero chance that Illinois will ever draw five star recruits, nor four star.  Our focus needs to be three stars and under, plus JuCo tranfers.  I think (hope) Beckman is smart enough to know this.

With the gravitational pull that Harbaugh is about to exhibit, I think that will take up much more recruiting time and visits for the bigger programs.  With the big programs attention being diverted to keeping Michigan from stealing the good recruits, I can see some three and maybe even a four star guy from time to time falling through the cracks and perhaps landing at Illinois.  Playing time would be guaranteed for a four star guy at Illinois, where that same guy might be riding the pines at tOSU or Alabama, just to name a few skools.

Beckman needs to remember what Illinois is and what it is not.  Illinois is not, nor will ever be (at least for the forseeable future) any sort of power program.  We have to concentrate on keeping our out of conference schedule soft, ensuring at least three of those four games as wins, and keep our eyes on the only real prize that we can get at this time – an 8 win season.  Anything above 8 wins is gravy.  I think Harbaugh is going to help us get there.

So Long, Year 2014

Warning: Long read!

I’ll try to go in chronological order, as much as possible. I got the impression that the 2014 season began with a lot of optimism about what kind of a season the Bears would have. And there didn’t seem to be too many people that were disbelieving.

Granted, there were plenty of raised eyebrows with the Cutler contract, but persuasive alternative choices at the time that the deal was done weren’t overpowering arguments. It was in January that this website sought out reasoned analyses as to what choices the Bears had besides to sign Cutler, come up with the name of an experienced available QB, or opt to draft and pray for a QB.  Having read what was written, I didn’t see a viable alternative to signing Cutler. As has been necessary to repeat, however, the price tag was an altogether different animal.  But, let’s not forget that QB contracts after Cutler’s deal was done, as a whole, have included less guaranteed money than they did before Cutler’s contract.  The point being, negotiators of the Cutler contract could still point to more, rather than less, guaranteed money, as indications of what Cutler, even as merely a quarterback with a pulse, should be getting in light of what QB contracts before his contract had escalated to include.

There was probably not enough emphasis and attention paid to certain developments that would come back to haunt the Bears. While the site certainly  didn’t endorse things like Briggs leaving town to open his BBQ place and B. Marshall going on The View (?) to sign his contract, stinking horseshit  like these events didn’t draw the hot flaming ire that we now hold for them.

As for the actual start of the season. the majority of us figured that the Buffalo game would be a win for the Bears. Instead, it would prove to be an omen. The win against the 49ers was an unexpected win. But again, the Buffalo loss and the San Francisco win had us doing some meaningless mental gymnastics,  trying to rationalize a loss to Buffalo with a win against the 49ers. Not something a good team does to people’s expectations.

It was after the 38 – 17 home loss to the Packers that, more than confusion about the Bears consistency, but the season’s true ugliness began to show. It was then that we had to realize that with Jay’s lifetime record against the Packers and our remaining schedule, things were grim.

Dan made the call on Jared Allen’s invisibility as early as September 23,  when the team was just 2 – 1, stating that Allen “has to start getting sacks.”And, as the season progressed into a lost cause, Allen’s practice and polish in front of the TV cameras seemed to allow him to avoid and escape being cornered  as the rat he was this season. Pneumonia my left nut.

As to the team, Dan posted “Conditional Critical” as early as October 9, a few days after the Carolina game.

I think it was around the Miami game on October 19 that most of the readership  started to fully admit that the Bears were not who we hoped they were. Of course, it was the week after the Miami game that the Patriots put up 51 points and any and all hope seemed to absolutely turn into delusion.

The site has been exploring damage control since at least October 20, when the “What is to be Done?” thread appeared.  Interestingly, a comment back from that thread is as follows:

“…start showing the high priced vets the door via trade and begin grooming a qb.”

It was on November 10 that Dan floated “Put A Fork In IT” on the site,  following up by declaring that from that point on, he would be giving the remainder of his tickets for the season away. Actions, people, speak volumes.

The site didn’t really rake Lamaar Houston over the coals too badly, though the (expletive deleted) more than deserved it.  The guy was so completely and utterly a sorry excuse for a Bear he seemed to be creatively exploring new ways to be a distraction.

“Stop Harassing Marc Trestman’s Daughters”  had to be published by the gentlemen in charge here at the site.  Apparently, there are people in the population at large who call themselves fans with too little honor and self-respect than to terrorize offspring about their father, who is a public figure, though the children are not.

The website included a podcast and a poll in 2014.  As well as several pieces about the U. of I.  The talk about the Bears cap situation has been interspersed throughout the year  and Dan has made this one of the few forums, if there are any others, devoted to the Bears where the readers  have gained some understanding about this thing called the cap because someone took the time to focus on it, in an environment that is conducive to learning.

As for the content of the majority of the posts throughout the year, it seems to be that the love of the Bears out of a sense of history and faithfulness remains strong. As is true about at least a few players, like Forte, Bennett, Long, and Paea, most of the time. But, as far as liking every single player or coach that puts on the uniform of the Bears, well that has been impossible.

Black Monday came and the Bears told Phil Emery and Marc Trestman that they would be parting ways from the Bears  before 9:00 am. George McCaskey  and Ted Phillips held a press conference stating that they’ve retained Ernie Accorsi, an expert consultant, to guide them in reaching out to a new GM and HC.  Perhaps Accorsi will be given a lot of weight. Perhaps McCaskey and Phillips think that they need to continue to think the way that they have been thinking.  Certainly we’ll all be doing a lot of reading in the coming weeks about the new blood, whomever it may be.

Worst Beer for the Worst Football

I looked at the stats from the Illini win vs. Penn State… they were 3 for 16 on third down conversions and 1 for 4 in terms of TD’s while in the red zone.  That’s some brutal football.  But I guess we will take the win in any form, just like we do with the Bears.

Coors_Light_Illini_Beer

While driving on Elston yesterday I saw this far off billboard and hey – the official beer of the Illini is Coors Light! For Dan and I Coors Light is synonymous with the worst beer imaginable. When we are at our annual Super Bowl trip in Reno playing craps our term for the worst outcome, which occurs when you get a number set up (like a 6), put down odds, and buy a bunch of numbers (like 5,8,9), and then the FIRST die roll after that is a 7 and you crap out, is “Coors Light” because that’s the worst thing to happen at the craps table, and this is the worst beer you can ingest.