Dec 07, 2018

I feel like it's my job (duty?) to never let anyone forget what this fanbase is currently being put through. It seems obvious - basketball is bad, football is bad - but I feel like it still gets lost. It's why my pinned tweet is currently the 10 longest NCAA Tournament droughts (high major teams) and the five longest bowl-less droughts (Power Five conference teams). Care to guess which school is on each list?

It's also why I'm writing this post. I know that people know, but do they really know? I get that the school needs to promote ticket sales and that official Twitter accounts need to at least have some positivity, but I'm still left with this feeling that no one really understands the current plight of this fanbase. Opposing fanbases really don't understand how bad it is, the media doesn't touch on it much - everything is discussed as a "rebuild" (as it should be) but I don't think anyone really understands the pain.

Here's just a few things that I'm not sure everyone understands:

  1. When the school goes over the top promoting the good teams (volleyball or golf, for example) - AS THEY SHOULD - it makes this whole football/basketball mess feel so much worse. "See? Teams CAN win at Illinois." Just not the ones that provide the entire athletic budget.
  2. When the 19XX football team is honored on the field at the end of the first quarter of some game where we're going to give up 60+, I find myself infuriated. It's just so hard to be reminded that it's possible to win in Champaign when we're watching a team fail at that very moment.
  3. I cannot look away fast enough when I see an Illini Hall Of Fame tweet in my timeline. I get that it was long overdue. I get that this was just bad timing to start it up now. But please, I'm mourning here, and your excitement about great athletes of the past sounds like laughter at a funeral to me.
  4. #WeWillWin is now rage-inducing for the vast majority of the fanbase. Again, I think it's correct for a leader to state the goal and rally everyone around it. This is an "everyone understands how we feel, right?" list, not a "change these things" list.

My point: we just need everyone to understand where we're at. Some fans go to far with that and fire off angry tweets at the Athletic Director, some fans are already at "fire both coaches!" - that's not what I'm going for here. The Athletic Director has arrived on campus, fired both coaches, hired two new coaches, and is outfitting them with new practice facilities as we await a turnaround. I'm a patient man and willing to see where each of these rebuilds goes.

But I still feel like the true lack of success - and the depth of our mourning as a fanbase - is being overlooked. Or perhaps misunderstood. It's really, really, REALLY hard to be an Illini fan right now.

How hard? I got to thinking last night that we probably have the single worst fan experience in the country. Yes, even worse than Rutgers. So I thought I'd make it simple: I'd simply look up wins. In the last two years - football in 2017 and 2018, basketball in 2017/18 and at the start of this season - how many wins for each Power Five team? How many times did fans get to walk out of an arena or stadium and feel good? I'm not looking at strength of schedule or even winning percentage (obviously, basketball provides a lot more opportunities for "wins") - this is a simply "how many times has the fanbase been pleased since the start of the 2017 football season?".

Here's the list of wins. The first two are, of course, infuriating.

60 Michigan
57 Ohio State
56 Clemson
54 Michigan State
52 Virginia
51 Alabama
51 Duke
50 Auburn
50 Penn State
49 Kentucky
49 Mississippi State
49 USC
49 Oklahoma
49 Notre Dame
48 Purdue
47 Georgia
47 Washington
47 North Carolina State
46 West Virginia
46 Texas Tech
45 Arizona
44 Texas Christian
44 Kansas State
44 Miami (FL)
43 Utah
43 Wisconsin
43 Virginia Tech
42 LSU
42 Oregon
42 Kansas
42 Florida State
42 Syracuse
41 Tennessee
41 Arizona State
41 Oklahoma State
40 Missouri
40 Texas A&M
40 Stanford
40 Texas
39 Florida
39 Northwestern
39 Boston College
38 Louisville
38 North Carolina
37 South Carolina
37 Nebraska
36 Washington State
36 Iowa
36 Iowa State
35 Arkansas
35 Maryland
33 Colorado
33 Indiana
33 Minnesota
31 Baylor
29 Vanderbilt
29 Wake Forest
29 Georgia Tech
28 Ole Miss
27 Pitt
25 Oregon State
25 Rutgers
22 California
22 Illinois


Again, I want to be careful here. This is not a "FIRE EVERYONE" post. Everyone was already fired, and the 22 wins are still mostly on them, not the current guys. This is the hole. It might not be going anywhere, and we might have to fire these guys too, but the main reason for 22 wins is the basketball decline since 2007 and the football decline since 1995. No one has been able to resurrect either program since those dates. One year bursts, sure, but we haven't had a football program since Mackovic was hired away by Texas and we haven't had a basketball program since Self was hired away by Kansas. Tepper did OK for three years with what Mackovic left him, and Weber did great for three years with what Self left him, but since then, we're fighting with Rutgers, California, Wake Forest, and Oregon State for the title of "worst Power Five athletic department".

Right now, in the current, we're tied with California with 22 wins since the start of the 2017 football season. And Cal's number is worse because of their basketball program. 10 total basketball wins (8 in 17/18, 2 so far this season) plus 12 football wins. So they have something to hang their hat on. A football team that won seven games this year and earned their head coach a five-year extension yesterday. They have a thing to feel good about.

We have nothing. And really, it's mostly just Illinois, Rutgers, and Oregon State in that boat. Basketball has been awful at Georgia Tech and Wake Forest the last ten years, but at least they have football. I mean, Wake Forest football is going to its third consecutive bowl (!).

You have no idea what a statistic like that does to me. It's my whole woe-is-we point here. We have nothing. 22 wins and 43 losses, the worst record in the country over the last 15 months. Every other fanbase has something a little bit better. Even Rutgers basketball.

And I just want everyone to know. Please, no excitement, no laughter. We're mourning over here.


hoop on December 07 @ 11:12 AM CST

Now I'm really depressed. Worst thing for me is Weber. He is having a very solid run at KSU, so it's not that he can't win, he just couldn't win consistently here. It's not them, it's us.

GilThorpe on December 07 @ 11:32 AM CST

sadly, the only team we would be favored to beat next year in football on that list would be Rutgers and in basketball this year, right now we might only be favored at home against 7 or 8 of them.
We are at rock bottom.
The last 2 years have been the worst I can ever remember for the two sports combined. Sadly, I cant yet see the light at the end of the tunnel

hoop on December 07 @ 12:09 PM CST

BTW did you CGI the people in the stands on that picture? If not it must be from 10 yrs ago.

Boneyard Surfer on December 07 @ 01:26 PM CST

It looks like a rendering from an architectural proposal.

Robert on December 07 @ 02:44 PM CST

I believe the photo is from the night of the North Carolina game in 2016 (a sellout). There's obviously some filtering and photo processing going on, but the stands were full. I was there.

DB50 on December 07 @ 02:09 PM CST

Recruit, Recruit, Recruit- it is the only answer out of this pit.

IBFan on December 07 @ 05:14 PM CST

You can't say athletic department or athletics as a whole at UofI. There are successes, just not football/basketball. Weber didn't cheat at recruiting, Groce didn't cheat either. For those that were around some of the players and donors, Weber despised what was going on. Gene Keady got out when he did because he was going to have to pay recruits and has said as much. Weber, advised by Keady, was not going to play the Chicago way or what other Big10 teams were doing. Weber's and the basketball program demise has a poster child and that's Eric Gordon. JG was brought in with same caveat. "They" knew what was going on and we were not to cheat, period. Someone with a lot more knowledge one day will write a book, maybe then some of the basketball pain will subside. I wished for more at that time, wish for more now, but it's a rebuild and hopefully being done with clean bricks. Football needs stability. I think Robert is 100% correct about the time needed to fix the program. Hopefully Lovie will endure as he Is considered one of the best "player" coaches around, is highly respected in his profession, grabbed a great OC, runs a high integrity program, and they are busting arse on the recruiting trail. Need more players! I believe in both coach's visions. Most likely too much orange aid still in the body.
Whitman is huge upgrade. Facilities being improved. Underwood and staff is an upgrade. Lovie and staff is an upgrade. No shortcuts, nothing easy. This isn't Mizznoz, creighton, Kansas, Zona. If WE get caught cheating it's the death penalty. Like the real thing, the NCAA will actually start hanging Illini fans. Patience and www.

Bear8287 on December 07 @ 08:41 PM CST

You bring up some interesting points. Everyone talks about the draw of being so close to all of the talent in Chicago, but how many coaches stay away because of the nonsense with Chicago HS basketball?

Anyone besides me wonder, while THT was carving up the Illini in Maui with his Iowa State teammates, what it would've been like to have him and Ayo on the same team?

I thought that it was also said that the whole Chicago pressure thing was one of the reasons that Shaka Smart wasn't interested in Illinois. It also seemed to have an adverse impact on Weber too in that it appeared that he was feeling pressure to go after the highest rated Chicago recruits rather than players he felt might have been a better fit for his system. The whole Eric Gordon fiasco really put an exclamation point on the slide of the program.

Groundhogday on December 10 @ 04:45 PM CST

THT would be huge not only for this year's team, but also for the trajectory of the program. We just don't have a player like him on the roster, nor do we have anyone like him coming in next year. Failing to work out the THT situation + losing out Liddell, two very talented, positionless in-state kids will slow the improvement of Underwood's program.

Eagle on December 08 @ 08:55 AM CST

In any other real life competition, one would have to be totally incompetent to end up 65 out of 65. That’s not who Whitman, Underwood and Smith are. This goes much deeper than the current DIA staff. It’s an accumulation of multiple prior DIA managers and coaches plus the administration. We’ll have to be patient.

blackdeath on December 08 @ 12:36 PM CST

This is the proper perspective. Apparently, it's just not as easy to undo what ails Illinois football and men's basketball as many people would like to wish. We can't just "expectations" the program out of this. The problem is clearly systemic and has been, and I believe that stretches far beyond the boundaries of the programs, AD, or university itself and into the dynamics of the state's high schools and recruiting processes, negative recruiting, admissions, and on and on.

Illinois is in a uniquely bad situation, one that has been hammered relentlessly by so many factors and ill winds that we're not likely ever to fire one, hire another, and turn the whole thing around with either program. Doesn't that much seem clear?

Patience. Let those in position do their work without axes hovering over their necks. God knows that firing coach after coach hasn't fixed it, and that's been our mode since the late 1980s. Just sit tight. Wait. It's not like we have any choice, after all.

CapitalCityOutlaw50 on December 08 @ 06:14 PM CST

Meh. The past is the past. if you don't like the Hall of Fame, or the 19xx Championship teams, why worry about the last two seasons. We will spend the rest of our lives in the future.

iluvrt on December 10 @ 03:36 PM CST

I'm with the posters who say "patience". The frequent wheel of fortune spins for a good coach has failed miserably. Now we know the coaches we have and each is building in their own way. Ranting and raving is over rated.

IBFan on December 11 @ 06:54 PM CST

Someone get Lovie to offer Miami's preferred walk on from Rochester, Cade Eddington.
At least get him a matching preferred walk on offer. 1) Good hands - we need possession receivers 2) Good athlete 3) Super hard worker 4) Smart 5) Great program and teacher in Derek Leonard

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