Illinois Director of Athletics Josh Whitman spoke at a press conference inside the Memorial Stadium press box today about the announcement of a Dick Butkus statue and the renewal of the Illinois-Missouri football series, which will not begin until 2026.
While Whitman’s comments about the two announcements were eloquent, as always, an analogy he made about the current state of Illinois football and his message to fans resonated much more.
Here’s his transcript.
One thing a lot of you guys know about me is that I'm a runner. I waddle around sometimes, but I like to exercise. I haven't run a lot of races, but I do occasionally in these big races. Before I'd ever done one, I never realized that the gun sounds, the clock starts, and if you start a race with 10,000 people, it may take you 2, 3, 4 minutes just to get to the start line.
I think sometimes people think that when you make a coaching change, the gun sounds, the clock starts. But what they fail to understand is that the clock starts in a different place. To carry that race analogy through, some programs start five seconds behind the start line, some start 30 seconds behind the start line, and other programs start three minutes behind the start line.
Our challenge the past two years has been getting back to the start line. We've had a lot of work to do, a lot of heavy lifting in terms of creating a culture, upgrading the roster, getting people in the right places. There was a lot in front of hurdles in front of us, and the last two years has really been about knocking down those hurdles and putting us in a place to run the race.
I feel very confident that we're getting to that place now. We can soon see the light at the end of the tunnel. The last thing we can do now is to stop running. We have to force ourselves to continue to be positive.
When we get to the finish line it will feel so much better because people were here from the beginning.