Our very own Brandon Birkhead said something very insightful comments this week on the We Know You Have Sand Illinois podcast on The TCR Podcast Channel. (If you’re not listening to that, you should, by the way.)
He said something to the nature of, “this entire Jeff Thomas situation should end the discussion of people complaining about guys ‘not wanting to be Illini.’ Everyone wanted Jeff Thomas to be an Illini, and everyone was thrilled about it in mid-December when he announced he was coming. Thus, if he doesn’t end up coming, nobody can say they don’t want guys who don’t want to be Illini. We wanted him. Bad.”
That’s me paraphrasing, of course, but it was thoughtful.
And then, after that episode was released, Thomas was supposedly going to stay at Illinois.
Then, after that, Thomas announced via Instagram that he will be returning to Miami.
That led to tweets like this one from a Miami CB:
And this response, from Miami’s HEAD COACH:
— Manny Diaz (@Coach_MannyDiaz) January 16, 2019
I quote tweeted Diaz’s tweet, calling it #Class.
(It’s not class, in case you missed the sarcasm.)
And I get it. Mark Richt couldn’t do it at Miami, and he ended up retiring. Now it’s Diaz’s turn to bring Miami back to national relevance, for reasons other than a turnover chain. And how does Miami do that? By being Miami.
And this is as Miami as it gets.
With that, I applaud Illinois and its staff for not stooping to such levels. Programs win by having a well-defined culture that everyone buys into and believes in, and it resonates and recruits come and the teams win and championships are won and McDonald’s is served in the White House.
Clemson’s culture? The Dabo Way. Alabama’s culture? The Saban Way. Miami’s culture? The Miami Way.
Illinois’ culture? Undefined.
If we want to eventually start winning, Illinois needs to develop a culture. And that culture, from my perspective over the past three years with Lovie Smith, is becoming that idea of #Littyville. “This is the place to be, because it will be the place to be, and you want to be on ground zero.”
Illinois chose not to stoop to Miami’s level here in effort to build up its own culture. Congrats to them. Again, the heartbreak continues. Nonstop.
But, this wasn’t going to be worth the drama.
It’s not that I’m going to say I don’t want Jeff Thomas because “he doesn’t want to be an Illini.”
It’s that I don't want Jeff Thomas because “he doesn’t need to be an Illini.”