Illinois is a bad football school. Other than a decade out of the darkness from 1981 to 1991, this has been true since the 50s. This is going to remain true for the foreseeable future and that's because the University of Illinois does not care about its football program.
That's not really breaking news nor is it a secret. It's just an uncomfortable truth we all like to avoid. But then the school went out and handed Bill Cubit a two-year extension yesterday after a 5-7 season and they decided to broadcast it loudly and in HD to the entire country.
Illinois does not care about football.
I could talk about how the entire system is beyond incompetent. That firing your AD three months after firing your football coach shows a complete lack of understanding anything about how hiring processes and college football timelines work. But we all know that. Somehow we all understand it better than the interims in charge. The powers that be just gave an extension to a coach who went 1-6 over the past two months with that lone win being over Purdue.
I get that it's all but impossible to hire a coach when you don't have an actual AD. And that this is a really bad winter to be a bad program looking for a new coach. There's more openings this year than any offseason I can remember. But choosing to wait it out a year isn't really going to change that.
There's never going to be an offseason where Illinois is one of the top three jobs available. And while yeah, this year has an absurd amount of teams looking for new leadership, next year isn't actually looking that much better. Just giving it a quick glance, the following schools all have good odds of being in that same market next year: Louisville, Wake Forest, Virginia, NC State, Boston College, Texas, Kansas State, Penn State, Indiana, Purdue, Nebraska, Colorado, Washington, Arizona, Kentucky, Mississippi State, Auburn, Georgia, and Tennessee. And that's not even accounting for surprises like what happened to Missouri this year. Illinois is a better job than some of those, but not most of them.
There's also the matter of recruiting. Illinois currently has the 57th ranked recruiting class in the nation. That's bad. The fact that it's 12th in the Big Ten is even worse. Rutgers is outrecruiting Illinois right now. Rutgers. And things are going to get worse before they get better. This is where the two-year extension hurts the most. Recruits are not going to choose a program that's coach is going to get axed right after they arrive and that's what a two year deal says will happen. It's the ultimate no-show vote of no confidence. So instead of a new coach coming in and inheriting this current roster and making recruiting moves of his own, he's going to inherit one that's far worse.
Our Twitter account has been inundated with people saying next year will be better because the team will be healthier, the receivers will drop fewer balls, and the schedule is more favorable. Let's look at those individually. The team should be healthier. That one is true. But this is also football and injuries happen. The dropped passes may be my least favorite excuse. Cubit trots it out every press conference. If you've recognized a problem and the problem continues to persist, then the problem might just be on the coaching staff. Dropped passes should be fixable via coaching. The problem continued throughout the year. Hell, it worsened.
So that leaves us with the schedule. Have you looked at next year's schedule? I'm not really seeing what's favorable about it at all. We'll beat Murray State. Then we have North Carolina and Western Michigan. Best case scenario has us going 2-1 in the OOC. There's a very real chance we go 1-2. The Big Ten schedule does us no favors. Away games at Nebraska, Rutgers, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Northwestern. Home games against Purdue, Minnesota, Michigan State, and Iowa. Do you see six wins in that pile? Because I don't.
So we've got a lame duck coach, another year without a bowl game, recruiting on the downswing, and a livid fanbase when all of this could have been avoided if the University had just fired Beckman last fall. But this is Illinois, home of kicking the can down the road. Yesterday made it more clear than ever that the school does not care about you, football fans. It never has and probably never will.