Shortly after interim AD Paul Kowalcyzk gave then-interim football coach Bill Cubit the stupidest contract extension in all of college football, I wrote a very angry missive towards the University of Illinois accusing the school of not caring about football. I still stand by what I wrote in November because at that time the school had an administration that more or less did not care. The athletic department was in complete shambles and it showed.
Illinois finally hired a new athletic director and if the goal was to go out and get someone who cares about Illinois football, who better to hire than a former Illini football player? No one could accuse Josh Whitman of not caring about Illinois football without either being insane or knowing they're lying.
And now that he somehow managed to not only rid the school of the Cubits but convince former Chicago Bears head coach Lovie Smith to move to Champaign and attempt a resurrection, it's obvious that he's got the school finally caring about the program as well.
That's the most important part of this hiring and the main thing people outside the fanbase seem to have trouble understanding. The fanbase was done. Apathy had long since become the norm and the Cubit extension was the final slap in the face for a lot of folks. If the school wasn't going to pretend to give a damn, why should they?
The administration just gave out the biggest contract in school history to the most exciting head coaching hire they've ever made. After years of begging the school to shut up and put their money where their mouth is, the school finally did. Over 170 season ticket packages have already been sold today. The ticket office phones have not stopped ringing all morning. The major Chicago papers had Illinois football as their cover sports stories all weekend. In March. Illinois football is not out of the wilderness yet, but for the first time in a very long time it looks like they actually have a plan to change that. And the fans are ready.