Billionaire alum Shahid Khan speaks at the dedication of the Khan Annex at University of Illinois.
From the Saturday, Sept. 5, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …
By Dave Wischnowsky
The WISCH LIST
The Illini football season was supposed to have kicked off last night.
But, really, the action started last week when Illinois’ embattled athletic director Mike Thomas booted embattled head coach Tim Beckman just seven days before his team was scheduled to battle Kent State.
The stunning firing was the result of a preliminary external review alleging Beckman influenced medical decisions and pressured players to play hurt, but there had long been ample reason to fire him for his on-field failures.
And that’s what should have happened last October when Illinois lost to Purdue, dropping Beckman’s Big Ten record to 1-17. Had Thomas simply replaced Beckman then and named offensive coordinator Bill Cubit interim coach – a move that I strongly encouraged 11 months ago – the messy saga that’s unfolded since could have easily been avoided.
Alas, Thomas chose to hitch his wagon to Beckman’s star. That was foolish. And as a result, Thomas needs to hit the road too so an untarnished AD can lead the coaching search and department makeover.
I expect that’s likely to happen once Illinois names a permanent chancellor. And if (or when) that new AD is hired, here’s my checklist of what should be done to finally get the Illini football program on track.
And avoid future embattle scars.
1. Ask admissions to relax
Illinois’ admissions standards for athletes are more stringent than the minimum requirements established by the NCAA, which has long been used as an excuse for Illini football struggles.
I think the bigger problem has been poor coaching hires. But that said, it would behoove an AD to ask the new president and chancellor if a small number of marginal qualifiers could be admitted each year. That could help the school’s athletic reputation without harming its academic one.