Tim Beckman was fired by Illinois eight days before the start of the 2015 season. Illinois fans feel that their program has hit rock bottom. It made me ask myself: Who's in worse shape, Kansas or Illinois? I thought I'd explore that thought and allow you, dear reader, to tag along.
According to fellow SB Nation site The Champaign Room:
School administrators are facing pressure to resign, the university chancellor already has resigned, and the athletic director is on the hot seat thanks to several sports-related lawsuits.
Sounds like the Lew Perkins regime, doesn't it.... ? I digress. So the administration is in shambles. Here at Kansas, we (currently) don't have that issue. Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little has been in office since 2009. Athletic director Sheahon Zenger has been on the job since 2011. Under Zenger's watch, on-field performance of non-revenue sports is up pretty much across the board, with the only major wart I see being the Charlie Weis hire in 2012 (or more specifically, the Charlie Weis contract).
Ok, so the Jayhawks have more stable leadership. Great. Let's look at a few other things.
Being an Illinois football fan has always been a massively masochistic exercise in stupidity. That's just a fact. This is a program that has ten winning seasons since I was born. I turn 28 next summer. Don't mention the historical greatness. Don't mention Dick Butkus and Red Grange. Let's talk about the world post-Vietnam. Let's talk about what Illinois football has been since computers stopped being bigger than Buicks.
Ok - looks like I'm gonna need a spreadsheet for this one. Hold on, I'll be right back.
|Since 2010 (post Mangino)||0||2|
|The Commodore computer (1977)||8||15|
|Since Dick Butkus (1964)||13||18|
|Since Red Grange (1925)||26||38|
|Consective coaches with sub-.500 record||2||4|
|Number of scholarship players (2015)||64||*85|
|2015 Over/Under Wins||1.5||3.5|
|All-time bowl record||6-6||8-10|
*Ok, so in full disclosure, I'm guessing on the Illinois scholarship players. It's been pretty well documented that the cupboard was pretty empty for David Beaty when he took this job last December.
Anyway, I think we're to the point to where I can attempt to come to a conclusion, but I'm not sure what my (admittedly brief) research tells me. Illinois has been a little bit better both historically and recently. Yes, both programs are historically, well.... meh.
And yes, the Illini are having some major issues. (I mean, duh. It's pretty rare a coach gets canned a week before the season opener.) KU's issues seem to be - hopefully anyway - behind them. We got to deal with Lew Perkins and the ticket scandal and the Mangino firing and the Gill years... UGH. Hopefully all of that is behind us. But at this point, we don't know that. We're still trying to get out of that hole, and right now, all we have is hope that David Beaty has a solid ladder.
My gut tells me that no, Illinois, you haven't hit rock bottom yet. (Hire Turner Gill followed by Charlie Weis if you want to see what rock bottom looks like.) Who knows what this season has in store for the Illini. Maybe they fall apart and only win two games. Maybe the interim coach rallies the troops and they win six or seven. Looking at their schedule, I think they've got several winnable games on there - Kent State, Western Illinois, North Carolina, Middle Tennessee, Iowa, Penn State, Purdue, Northwestern - those are all winnable games for the Illini. Only one or maybe two of those would be "winnable" games for Kansas. (Ok, maybe three. I see you, Purdue.)
The Jayhawks are literally starting up (again, hopefully) from rock bottom. Illinois hasn't quite made it there yet.
One more quote from The Champaign Room:
This program is every joke that other schools say. It's a tire fire getting hit by a tornado that made a recent pass over a manure field.
Ha! Sorry guys... right now, that's Kansas (especially when talking about on-field performance). And I'm not sure it's even that close - administration issues excepted. It might feel like "rock bottom" to you, Illinois, and you may indeed be headed there. But I'm here to tell you - it could still get worse.
Ask any KU football fan.