Pick My Post - Pick My College Years
Just your normal 17 hour day today. I have about 45 minutes before I crash, so I asked for a Pick My Post on Twitter. Lots of good responses, but I chose this one. If I could move my college years to any span of years in the Illini timeline, what would it be?
Here's the full question:
If you could move your college years at U of I to any equal span of years of Illini sports timeline, what would it be?
-- Sam (@JustSamTweets) April 19, 2018
First off, I'm glad Sam said "equal span of years" because that gives me five years, not four. I can still remember the moment when I decided to go on the five year plan. Early in the first semester of my sophomore year, I'm really struggling with a class because the normal professor was on sabbatical so the angry old department head was teaching the class. And he was going to teach us lazy kids how people used to learn back in the 1960's. I'm studying with this girl who had taken the class with the other professor the year before and she says "why don't you just drop the class, go on the five-year plan, and take it again next fall when the other professor returns?". I literally packed up my backpack right there, went home, dropped the class the next day, called my parents to tell them I was officially on the five year plan, and that was that.
So, five years. Where do I find the best five years? Obviously the first year that jumps out is 1983/84. We go undefeated in the Big Ten and go to the Rose Bowl, and then we win the Big Ten in basketball and go to the Elite Eight (where we were forced to play Kentucky AT Rupp Arena in the game that changed the rule and teams could no longer play on their home court in the NCAA Tournament). Rose Bowl/Elite Eight with two Big Ten titles is hard to beat. It almost has to be on there.
But I also remember 1999/2000 so fondly. Fall of 1999 was such a breath of fresh air. We had seen 2-9 and then 0-11 and then 3-8. So when we beat Louisville that September to go to 3-0, I remember where I was when I was telling my roommate "uh, we're totally going to a bowl game and then with Frankie Williams and Marcus Griffin and Brian Cook joining the basketball team I'm pretty sure we're going deep in the Tournament and HOLY CRAP ILLINI ATHLETICS ARE BACK."
In recent memory, I'd say five years spanning both the 2005 NCAA Tournament and the 2007 Rose Bowl season would be a good move. Maybe something like five years where I enter school in 2003/04 and graduate in 2007/08. That gives me the 2004 Deron Is Too Pretty To Beat Cincinnati run to the Sweet 16, the greatest season in Illini basketball history in 2005, and the 2007 run to the Rose Bowl. That's a pretty good run.
Is it better than being a freshman in 1983/84 up through 1987/88? Win the Big Ten in both sports your freshman year (can you imagine? Seriously, with what we've had to endure this decade, CAN YOU EVEN IMAGINE?), and then you still get the Ken Norman basketball teams, the 1985 Peach Bowl (and the Sweet 16 in 1985), with the only drawback being your final two years you saw these great basketball teams lose to Austin Peay in the first round (oof) and then 6-seed Villanova in the Round of 32 your final year. And that's all while the football team had to rebuild after the Mike White sanctions (which they did, quite well, but just not while you were in school).
Of course, maybe I should center this around the 1989 Final Four and the 1990 Big Ten football title. I entered school in the fall of 1991, and I only got to see one NCAA Tournament win (Long Beach State, 1993 tournament) and one bowl win (1994 Liberty Bowl). So if I was going to include the '89 Final Four and the 1990 Big Ten football co-championship (Iowa went to the Rose Bowl on a tiebreaker), maybe I'd do 1987/88 through 1991/92?
But I'm not going with any of those. I'm going back to the 1950's. Was Deluxe there in the 1950's? It was? So I can head up to Deluxe on Friday night to shoot pool with my pals while chatting up the girl in the poodle skirt? I'm in.
Make my freshman year 1948/49. Get me to walk around campus singing "Over there, over there, send the word, send the word, over there" as I celebrate the recent victory in Europe (wait, was "Over There" World War I? I think it was.). Anyway, the Baby Boom is about to start and I'm a fresh-faced freshman with a crew cut (stunningly similar to my 1991 self) moving into Taft or Van Doren in the fall of 1948.
What do I get to see? THREE FINAL FOURS AND A ROSE BOWL. I mean, sure, maybe they weren't on television back then, but you know me - I would have traveled to the games. Freshman year I get a Final Four, sophomore year Illinois is 4th in the Big Ten in football and 3rd in basketball, junior year we go to the Final Four AGAIN, senior year we go to the Rose Bowl and Final Four the same year, (and we won the Rose Bowl and one of the services used at the time named us National Champions). And then my fifth year, OK, a step back (well, basketball finished 2nd in the Big Ten, but football finished 6th), but after I graduated we won the Big Ten again (in football) in '53 and finished 3rd in basketball that winter.
So that seems like the easy choice. I'd tell my grandkids about Andy Philip, Johnny "Red" Kerr, and Johnny Karras. I'd hop on trains to get to Pasadena (or the Final Four). My best friend? That's easy: 1951 football captain Chuck Studley.