For those of you that have a twitter account, search #wewillwin (or simply enjoy these posts):
Having got off a plane from Orlando Florida about 14 hours ago, there has been more talk about the University of Illinois football team than there has been since maybe the 2001 season (maybe). Heck, walking through the parks of the Disney World resort and seeing fellow Illini fans suddenly became an exciting experience!
For the longest time, running into fellow Illini/Illini fans in public was an emotionally taxing time. There was always the initial adrenaline rush when you recognize the Block I or Chief Illiniwek logo, and usually a standard "ILL-INI" greeting came next. But what usually followed suit was a look of sympathy as both fans understand the level of stress and anxiety that comes with being a Fighting Illini fan.
Those days are over.
To the handful of people I exchanged greetings with in Orlando, there was a renewed sense of pride, excitement, and optimism in the interaction. The sense of "things are going to be better" was overwhelming, and that smile never left our faces. My phone was blowing up all weekend with talk about the head coach position, and every word seemed to hold a certain amount of electricity that hasn't been felt in a LONG time.
Yes, there is a lot of attention towards Lovie Smith and his hiring as the new Head Football Coach of the Fighting Illini. But understand that there's an architect behind the buzz, and his name is Josh Whitman. Since last November, the one thing I wanted to see happen at Illinois was the hiring of a new AD followed by a permanent football coach.
"Get the house in order. Build the foundation. Find [a] new AD first and give him time to make a plan." This. https://t.co/F84X1qCtFS— Brad Repplinger (@TCRBrad) November 24, 2015
Whitman is EXACTLY the person this
program school needed. LOOK AT THE EXCITEMENT AND TALK AND BUZZ AND OPTIMISM THAT'S BEEN GENERATED IN THE LAST 72 HOURS!!! The lack of hesitation to start making moves (when the school STILL doesn't have a permanent Chancellor) has already shown that Whitman is ready to move things forward. There's a clip from the recent 1985 Chicago Bears' ESPN 30 for 30 special where Mike Ditka is explaining why he accepted the job as the Head Coach of the Bears. Here's a clip:
Let's not diminish the opportunity that lies at the U of I though, as there is PLENTY of financial support and investments in the school's pipeline that does not leave an athletic director without resources. Also, the job of athletic director is WAY more important than any Head Coaching job on the market...so let's not put the cart before the horse. However, the task at hand in Champaign-Urbana was one where the recipient of the position would be asked to redefine a program.
And that is EXACTLY what Josh Whitman has done (and in 72 hours if you didn't see that earlier)
Ryan Baker (@RyanBakerMedia) March 5, 2016
So what's next? The football team still needs a complete staff and Coach Smith (chills) has $4 million to fill those spots. The basketball team is coming off their 3rd consecutive season of missing the NCAA tournament. Ticket sales and attendance were dwindling year after year (although the hiring of Lovie Smith has already changed that trend). Where will AD Whitman take the program next?
All we know, is his intentions are clear.
"I will not let you down. I know what this place means." "We will win." - Josh Whitman