I don’t even know where to start. So many thoughts running through my head. Back on August 29th, when in the early-afternoon the tweets and rumors started to roll in that Tim Beckman had been fired, I just had one thought: "well, here we go." You just knew that if the 20 percent of the investigative report that had been released was enough for Mike Thomas to fire Beckman, things were going to get ugly.
Fast forward to exactly three months later and boy did things ever get ugly. The athletic director is gone, the University’s chancellor is gone, and Bill Cubit is now the full-time head coach. Congratulations to all of you who predicted Cubit would get the permanent gig back in August when he took over the team, you liars. No matter how you looked at Illinois football on August 28th, 2015, you couldn’t have seen this coming. Almost as if it were a joke, every time someone declares that the program has hit rock bottom something even more unthinkable happens the following week as if someone were reminding you, "Oh no, Illini nation, things can get even worse!"
In case you were living under the rock-that-has-yet-to-hit-bottom this past weekend, before putting up an embarrassing performance against an in-state rival with a bowl game on the line in front of very few fans, interim head coach Bill Cubit received a two-year deal from interim athletic director Paul Kowalczyk who answers to interim chancellor Barbara Wilson who works for a first-year president in Timothy Killen. Got all that? That’s okay, we’ll review later on before I make you take the "Getting to Know You: Illinois Administrators" quiz. Here’s a hint though; they all have one thing in common: none of them know what the hell they’re doing. But do you know what’s the only thing that’s worse than knowing that you have no idea what you’re doing? Announcing it. Publicly. To the world. At the most tumultuous time possible.
Barbara Wilson: I'm learning quickly about how athletics works.— Jeremy Werner (@JWernerScout) November 9, 2015
So she doesn’t know how athletics works? Okay, that’s pretty disappointing considering she is the chancellor, but let’s just hope she leaves the decision up to somebody who’s a little more competent, right?
Kowalczyk said he won't hire coach without interim chancellor Barbara Wilson's approval.— Jeremy Werner (@JWernerScout) November 25, 2015
Wrong. It seems it's debatable how much the current athletic director knows about athletics:
#illini AD Paul Kowalczyk on 2-year deal: "It's not ideal but for now, I don't think it'll put a dagger in the heart of the program."— Jeremy Werner (@JWernerScout) November 28, 2015
That is just absolutely insane for someone in his position to admit that in front of the media. That is worse than any blunder Tim Beckman has ever uttered during a presser. Kowalczyk went on to say:
"The feeling is that it’d be best for the new, permanent AD to make a better decision that they can live with. Somebody of their choosing, whether it be Bill Cubit or somebody else, so that position right now is important to fill in the interim. But right now it’s that this deal will help get us to where we need to be in order to make a better decision."
That’s even more insane. I don’t even know what to say. Read that again. He just admitted that he doesn’t believe in Cubit’s long-term ability to lead this program. That this contract was a non-ideal placeholder that the new athletic director can deal with when he eventually arrives. That is the press conference equivalent to Ken Jeong in the Hangover.
Then, when asked who’s call it was to retain Cubit for two more years, he said:
"That’s kind of the key word here. There were a lot of different calls. A lot of different opinions. If it had been up to me, I would’ve done it sooner."
So who’s call was it? Kowalczyk’s the athletic director, shouldn’t he be the one making the decisions? Besides the fact that the Cubit hiring was a horrible move in and of itself, the timing of the announcement made it even worse. Did the board of trustees and the administration all get together in a Soldier Field suite box and throw darts at a board to decide when they’d release the news about Cubit’s hiring?
There are often fears from fanbases that their program's administration has no idea what it's doing. That you could pull any somewhat-knowledgable fan from Twitter and they would do a better job of running the team. Illinois’ problem, however, is that is actually the case. And that’s not coming from me, that’s coming straight from the administration’s mouths. I mean, read those quotes again. The person who is in charge of hiring a new athletic director who will then hire a new coach has publicly stated that she does not know how athletics work. The person who is tasked with holding the DIA together in the interim has told the media that he’s just hoping he doesn’t drive a dagger through the program’s heart and kill it off entirely. These are the people that are in charge at the University of Illinois. For once, a fanbase actually has proof to back up the claim "I could do a better job than these idiots!" For once, any random person selected from Twitter might've legitimately handled this better than Illinois’ leadership did. No one who’s in charge in Champaign right now has any long-term vision for how to fix things and they’ve publicly admitted it. No one seems to care about the well-being of the student-athletes. No one seems to have any idea of how to dig this program out of the supermassive black hole that they created for themselves. And it’s a joke.