There aren't many times when Chicago columnists start paying attention to Illinois football. Yes, both of the major Chicago papers have beat reporters for Illinois, but columns are a rarity. Those only come at one of two times: when the Illini are exceeding expectations or the Illini are terrible.
As we're all aware, the Illini are terrible this season. So Chicago Sun-Times columnist Joe Cowley decided it was time to not only write about Illinois football, but to jump on the Fire Tim Beckman bandwagon. Which is getting very, very crowded.
Not only does Cowley think Illinois should fire Beckman, but he even provides his ideal replacement: Bobby Petrino.
Meanwhile, the Big Ten coaching bar was set in Columbus when Ohio State hired Urban Meyer. The Buckeyes are unbeaten after a disastrous 2011 season in which they lost seven games.
It's not a coincidence. College football is about the coach as much as the recruits. When Illinois is serious about having a real program, there is one person to call.
Alabama's Kirby Smart is out of its range. Former Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino isn't.
Sure, you have to get past the skinned nose and the neck brace at the news conference and all the visuals dealing with motorcycles. But beyond that, Petrino is an elite coach with SEC pedigree who's looking for a second chance. He likely will get one soon if the Illini don't act.
Now this is where I point out once again that Tim Beckman's not going to get fired. Not unless he goes Petrino. You can't fire a coach after only one season and expect any other coach is going to want to take the job but....
If there was one coach who might be willing to take that job, it just might be Bobby Petrino. Considering how things ended at Arkansas, and his past, I don't think Petrino would look at that situation and think it was a terrible thing. And as far as Petrino coaching at Illinois, I'd be all right with it.
I don't need my football coach to be a beacon of morality. I also know that many people don't share that opinion.
Of course, none of this is going to happen. First of all, even if Illinois wanted to hire Petrino -- and I really don't see Illinois being the kind of school to push Petrino's past to the side for the sake of its football program, that's just not how we work -- I'm not even sure that it could get Petrino.
Yes, he'd be willing to look past the school firing Beckman after a season, but with so many other job openings across the country -- including plenty in the SEC -- I can't help but think Petrino could find better options elsewhere.
Which is quite the indictment on this football program, isn't it?