I don't know why anyone would want to be the Athletic Director at the University of Illinois. I mean, I get the actual why. If it's your line of business, being the top guy at a Power 5 university is pretty much the goal. It's just not a job I would ever want.
Much like being the head football coach of the Fighting Illini, you start your career behind the eight ball largely thanks to your predecessors actions. Throw in a fanbase with industrial-sized chips on their shoulders and you've got a recipe for a pretty miserable time.
Yesterday the school announced that the homer opener for the 2015 football season is being moved to a Friday night. And because this is Illinois football, there was a noticeable outcry. Our Twitter account received multiple tweets decrying the move for multiple reasons. But here's the thing:
Attendance, for the lack of a better word, sucks. There are a lot of reasons for this. Let's break them down:
- People want Tim Beckman (and Mike Thomas fired). Tim Beckman has not be very successful, but once the Illini became bowl eligible last season there was no chance Thomas could fire him. That's just how it is.
- Illinois football is not a draw. I love Illinois football. But it's generally been bad. The only time the program has made bowl games in at least three consecutive seasons happened three years before Mike Dudek was born. Since 2000, Illinois has averaged 4.73 wins per season. That's horrible.
- The home openers tend to be boring. The last time Illinois played a Power 5 team in the homer opener was in 2005 when now-conference mate Rutgers came to town. I don't begrudge people for not wanting to come watch Illinois play MAC and FCS schools.
- A complete and utter lack of night games. Illinois did not play a single night game last season. Not one. By opening weekend this year, we'll have already topped that number.
Illinois football has not been mired in mediocrity. It's been worse than that. It's an incredibly hard school to win at and a harder one to recruit a great coach to come fix. So Mike Thomas is getting creative. Like it or not, Beckman is here at least through this season. So you have to get creative with other things.
Yes, a Friday night game means that high school recruits won't be able to attend the game. We're playing Kent State. The Golden Flashes went 2-10 last season. That's not exactly a marquee opponent. And if you'd honestly rather stay home and watch high school football, that's your weird decision.
"But why are we playing on a weeknight! What are we, a MAC school!?!" Because as we all know, only small and unimportant games happen on days that aren't Saturday.
Much like the Northwestern games being moved to Soldier Field in an attempt to drum up more interest/ticket sales/recruits, complaining about the game being moved a night forward is pretty pointless. It's just an angry part of an angry fanbase looking for one more thing to be upset about.