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#AskTCR: I Think Illini Football Fans Are Desperate


Tom Pennington

You know, a few weeks ago in #AskTCR there was a question about whether or not Nick Saban would be coming to Illinois. It was a funny question, and it was meant to be. Which is why I tried to be funnier in my answer. However, I'm starting to get the feeling that some of you are a bit desperate when it comes to our football program.

You might not believe this, but it turns out there are quite a few Illini fans who don't have a lot of faith in Tim Beckman. I know, I'm shocked too.

But the fact of the matter is that fans have such little faith in Beckman that ever since the news broke on Tuesday that Mack Brown was likely done at Texas I've received more than one question about whether or not Illinois should hire Brown. But before I get to answering those questions, let me remind you how you can send in your questions about Mack Brown.

There are two ways to ask The Champaign Room your questions. You can tweet them at us on Twitter using the hashtag #AskTCR -- it just makes it easier to keep track -- or you can email them to us at And if you've got a personal question and you're worried about your privacy, just tell us. Well change your name to Tom Crean when we publish it on the site. And remember, you can ask us ANYTHING. It doesn't have to be about Illinois or even sports.

And now for the Mack Brown questions.

In a word? NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOPE. Listen, I'm not going to take any credit away from Mack Brown for what he's accomplished in his career. He's had plenty of success. He's got a national title, but before that he helped build North Carolina's program up from just about nothing before going to Texas.

But no.

You have to remember that there's a reason Texas is basically shoving him out the door. As great as Brown has done in his career, that greatness hasn't been evident in the last four seasons when the Longhorns have gone 30-20 overall and 18-17 in Big 12 play. Now, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking it would be awesome if Illinois had that same record over a four-year span, and you're right. Compared to what we've  had around here, that would be awesome.

But there are other things to consider here. The biggest being think of all the advantages that Brown has at Texas. He's at a school that makes more money than anybody else and spends that money on its football program. Texas football is the king of a state that fucking loves football. Brown has his pick of just about any kid from Texas -- one of the most fertile recruiting grounds there is -- that he wants. He simply points, says "you," and that kid commits to Texas. He has everything he needs.

And he still has only gone 30-20 and 18-17 the last four years. How is he going to do at Illinois without all of those advantages? Exactly.

Also, he's 62 years old, so if he did come to Illinois, odds are he wouldn't be here very long.

So while Brown has been a great coach, at this point he's really more of a figurehead than a program builder. He needs strong assistants around him if he's going to win, and he hasn't had those assistants at Texas lately. I don't think he'd get them here, either, where Illinois is never going to spend the kind of money they would need to get them anyway.

So I'm guessing my answer to your questions is no twice. No, Illinois wouldn't do it, and no Illinois shouldn't do it.

Seems like a natural follow-up to our previous questions.

Here's the thing you learn following this game. When it comes to coaches changing jobs, nothing should ever surprise you. They're always moving on to different challenges, and I wouldn't be surprised at all if Saban did end up leaving Alabama for Texas.

What does the man have left to accomplish at Alabama? Honestly, the opinion of Saban that Alabama fans currently have can only go down. He's already a god, and the longer he sticks around the more likely those Alabama fans start to see the imperfections, because like Mack Brown, Saban is 62 years old. So, in a way, leaving Alabama might be the best thing for Saban's legacy at Alabama.

Sure, fans will be hurt at first, but time will wash that away. It'd be kind of hard to stay mad at the man who restored their program.

And just imagine if you're Saban and you go to Texas and win a national title there. You won't finish your career with as many wins as Bobby Bowden or Joe Paterno had -- pre vacation -- but you'll have won national titles at LSU, Alabama and Texas. Would there be any question as to whom the greatest college football coach of all time was?

Hell no. It'd be Saban. And that's what going to Texas could do for his legacy, and if  you think he doesn't know that you're kidding yourself.

I enjoyed your article on the recent World Cup draw, thought it was some very good analysis. Not sure if you follow the EPL or not, but which English team most reminds you of Illinois football? Illinois basketball? Or feel free to use national teams if that's easier/more interesting. Or feel free to ignore this question since it's obviously a silly attempt to give you an excuse to talk about soccer some more. -- Scott Stein

Well, it just so happens that the very first Open Bar post I ever wrote at The Champaign Room was comparing Big Ten teams to their Premier League counterparts.

Yes, I follow the Premier League. I also follow Serie A, though not as closely since seeing the games isn't nearly as easy as EPL -- side note, with ESPN missing out on EPL, the World Cup and now the Champions League, I have my fingers crossed so hard that they go after Serie A. In the EPL I support Aston Villa, which I compared to Illinois even though there were probably better options. My Serie A team is Napoli because my people come from a tiny little town about an hour northeast of Naples.

Now, if I were to compare Illinois basketball to a Premier League team, I think I'd go with Tottenham Hotspur. It's a good program, and it's had its fair share of success at time, but it's not what you would consider the class of the league. It's not Chelsea, it's not Manchester United, it's not Manchester City, it's not Arsenal, it's not even Liverpool. But it's good, and it's got everything you need in a club to be successful.

Sure. But I'm also going to give him his fourth straight week in the process.

I like quite a few guys in the class and I think Nick Alegretti will end up being the best player in it. However, picking an offensive lineman isn't exactly fun, is it? Yeah, they're extremely important, but unless you're a whore for line play, you probably aren't going to notice.

So for the sake of picking a skill guy, I'll say Malik Turner. I think Mikey Dudek will be very useful, but I feel like Turner has the highest ceiling of any receiver we have in the 2014 class. Whether or not he'll achieve his potential, I have no idea, but it's there.

Now I just wish they'd add a few defensive linemen and linebackers before February.

I'm sure I have, yes. Hell, just last year the Illini needed a buzzer-beater from Tyler Griffey to beat Gardner-Webb at home before having a relatively easy time with Georgia Tech three days later. Then six days after that Tech win the Illini had trouble putting Western Carolina away most of the night, winning by eight before going out west four days later and beating Gonzaga.

These are college kids we're dealing with here. Roller coaster rides are just part of the territory.

I'm dedicating my CMN 101 speech to make it a pre-game speech I would give as the Illini football coach before a game against Northwestern. What are the best shots at Northwestern I can take in my pre-game speech? -- Martin R.

Northwestern Fan is hard to make fun of because Northwestern Fan does not exist. Northwestern Fan used to exist, for a few months, but then Northwestern Fan saw Northwestern lose and Northwestern Fan went back to Northwestern Fan's studies.

But, if you want to make fun of Northwestern, there's not exactly a shortage of material. I mean, for a school that prides itself on academics you'd at least think it would realize that Evanston isn't in Chicago.

Holy shit this isn't easy to answer. No, wait, yes it is. Illinois football will win eight games or more before Northwestern makes the NCAA tournament. I know this because at some point the Illini will win eight games because we're prone to having awesome seasons at random intervals.

But mostly because Northwestern is never going to make the NCAA tournament.

What movie line never gets old for you? -- Shane Baker

There isn't one, really. I'm not the type that goes around quoting movies. I enjoy a lot of movies, but it's not the one-liners that I remember.

How did your fantasy football teams do this year? -- Fom Tornelli

Well I'm glad you asked that question, person who has a strange name eerily similar to my own, but is definitely not me. I'll be glad to tell you that I am in two fantasy football leagues and I have made the playoffs in both with a combined record of 18-7-1.

Yes, there was a tie in one league, and yes it was extremely annoying.

But I would like to point out that both of the leagues I'm in are keeper leagues in which you're allowed to keep a player or players -- in one league you keep two, in the other only one -- from the previous year. Well, in one league I kept Dez Bryant and Ray Rice. In the other league I kept Trent Richardson.

If you play fantasy football I don't need to tell you about the seasons Rice and Richardson had. Yet, in spite of the fact I kept those two absolute fucking duds I still made the playoffs over teams who kept the likes of Peyton Manning, LeSean McCoy and Calvin Johnson.

Because I'm fucking awesome.


Thanks for the questions! If you submitted a question that didn't get answered, don't worry, it's possible that I'm just saving it for the next mailbag. It's also possible the question sucked and you need to ask better questions next time. I guess you'll just have to wait to find out.

Follow The Champaign Room on Twitter at @Champaign_Room and Like us on Facebook. You can follow Tom Fornelli on Twitter at @TomFornelli.