Tag Archives: Tim Beckman

Illinois Needs to Make Lovie Smith Happy

Hidden behind ESPN’s Insider Access and well, probably ignored by most except the most die-hard college football fans, an article was published by Adam Rittenberg in which he discussed how big buyout clauses might prevent some schools from firing their coaches. Even if I had Insider access, I probably wouldn’t have read the article since my team is not going to part with Jim Harbaugh until he is buried in the ground. An interesting little tidbit did emerge from the story though in that Lovie Smith is not happy at Illinois.

Now Smith has come out to refute that claim which was rather predictable. What coach is actively going to declare that he’s unhappy with his current position, in his first year, with four games to go? Not one that wants to have a shot at winning another game. Has any coach ever copped to the idea that he’s unhappy with anything other than the current record of a team? If so, I don’t remember it.

It’s possible that Lovie Smith actually isn’t happy at Illinois. Maybe he figured that going from the NFL to the NCAA would be a breeze. Pete Carroll did it and built a dynasty before running back to the NFL to try and create another. Bobby Petrino ditched the Miami Dolphins mid-season to go to Arkansas. Jim Harbaugh did it and turned a garbage Michigan team into a College Football Playoff contender. How hard could it be?

Well, Harbaugh and Petrino walked into schools that were loaded with talent. Illinois wasn’t teed up nicely for Smith when he arrived, having previous gone 5-7 the year before and done so without players that make you go “Why isn’t this team better?”. Illinois hasn’t really been loaded with talent since Ron Zook was there and took them to a Rose Bowl.

So yeah, it’s not as easy as it looks and just maybe, Lovie Smith really is unhappy.

Well Illinois needs to figure out a way to make him happy.

Illinois doesn’t have that “wow” factor when it comes to college football. They don’t have their pick of the recruits or the pick of the coaches. The only other Illinois coach I can name besides Zook is Tim Beckman who got fired right before the 2015 under a slew of allegation. Yes, they play in a Power Five conference but they are more or less a second class citizen there.

Quite frankly, Lovie Smith might be the best coach that Illinois is going to be able to land until the program turns the corner and starts producing regular winning seasons. I bet even if they threw all sorts of money at him, PJ Fleck wouldn’t leave Western Michigan for the Illini. Maybe an FCS coach might take the leap but how many hot coaching prospects do we hear about coming from there? This is a guy you want to keep around, at least for a bit.

Lovie Smith may not have a lot of college coaching under his belt but the fact that he took a Chicago Bears team to the Super Bowl with an absolutely terrible quarterback says something about him as a coach. He didn’t win, but he got there. He can tell kids that he knows what it takes to get to the ultimate level and they have to believe him. He’s got a credibility that you really can’t deny.

Most importantly though, he wanted to be at Illinois. Someone with actual coaching ability and actual credibility wanted to be at this school even when he knew it was going to be a rebuilding year. Not a lot of coaches want to willingly step into a program that they’re going to have to remake from the ground up. Going in Illinois’ favor is that it’s a lot easier to remake a college team than a pro team. Any pro team that comes calling is going to be an absolute mess which is going to make staying in Champagne look even better.

Illinois needs to pull Lovie Smith aside and figure out if he’s happy and if he’s not, figure out what will make him happy. This program is never going to get off the ground and become what it was in the 50’s if it keeps the revolving door of coaching going.

Might want to keep that checkbook handy.

E-mail Tim at .

Image courtesy Flickr via Creative Commons

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All Aboard the Tar Heel Bandwagon

Down the stretch last fall, a good buddy of mine hopped on the North Carolina Tar Heels’ bandwagon.  He’s a big fan of this guy, Ryan Switzer.  Why exactly, I couldn’t tell you.

Now, contrary to popular belief, being a bandwagon fan is not a bad thing.  If your hometown team sucks, or if you lack one altogether, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with taking up an alternate rooting interest.

Doing so can revitalize your love for the game.  Believe me, as a Michigan fan that spent his high school and college years watching Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke coached teams, I know.  If you have a true love for the game, you’ll be able to pick up that side team no problem.

Anyway, I had been watching last year’s Heels somewhat closely ever since they’d proven me wrong, winning at Georgia Tech in early October.  Then, when they popped Pitt on the road at the end of the month, I was ready to ride the Fighting Michael Jordans all the way to a surprise playoff appearance.

I called for the upset in the ACC Championship Game, but the Heels and I can’t get no (dunh nuh nuh) satis-faction.  So, I’m here now to double down.

ACC Ripe for Picking

The Tar Heels are the team to beat on the East Coast this fall.

A quick aside: UNC’s athletic director’s name is Bubba Cunningham.  Without knowing anything about him personally, that’s a man I want to see succeed, if only because we’ll get to hear the name Bubba Cunningham more often.

Clemson is good, yes.  DeShaun Watson will likely be the best quarterback in the draft class.  Florida State is also good.  Dalvin Cook will be a top pick, too.  The Tigers and the Seminoles will come up short this season, though.

What Clemson did last year was captivating.  We all wanted that team to succeed so we could watch Dabo Swinney act a fool after big wins.  Realistically, a repeat performance will be tremendously difficult.

Say goodbye to seven key members of last year’s defense, including ends Shaw Lawson and Kevin Dodd, corner Mackensie Alexander, and safety T.J. Green, who all went in the first two rounds of the draft.

Overwhelming firepower only takes you so far when you lack proper fortifications.  I’ll err on the side of Clemson’s replacements not being as sturdy as the now pros they’re taking over for.

Florida State is the new USC.  That 2013 national championship was supposed to be a springboard for FSU, not the pinnacle.

We keep hearing about how loaded Jimbo Fisher’s group is but we’ve not seen enough supporting evidence the past two years to legitimize the hype.  The Seminoles have lost the benefit of the doubt.  They’ve got a lot to prove in order to earn it back.

Closing Statement

North Carolina wins the ACC this year because it replaces its gamebreaker with a steady hand that can utilize all the returning talent around him.  Mitch Trubisky is taking over for Marquise Williams and with a name like that he’s got to be good.

Five All-ACC selections return on the offensive side.  Switzer, along with running back Elijah Hood, receiver Mack Hollins, guard Caleb Peterson, and tackle Jon Heck will all be reliable cogs in the UNC machine.  Receiver Bug Howard, tackle Bentley Spain, and center Lucas Crowley are all back as well.

Interestingly enough, former Illinois head coach Tim Beckman is now a volunteer coach for the Tar Heels.  Beckman, who was fired almost a year ago to the day for mistreatment of players, will help scout and evaluate film.

This is an excellent move by head coach Larry Fedora, who’s familiar with Beckman from their time together on the 2007 Oklahoma State staff.  Basically, Fedora is getting a major bargain, adding a veteran defensive-minded coach with plenty of incentive to get his act together at no cost.

Normally, having to replace a quarterback, particularly one of Williams’ stature, is a great way for me to not pick you to do much.  However, the progress report on Trubisky and the supporting cast he’ll be able to lean on have me sipping the Carolina blue kool-aid.

No, it won’t be either one of the usual suspects representing the ACC in this season’s playoff.  It’ll be the team whose bandwagon is about to pick up many more interested travelers along the way.

Feature image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

E-mail Mitch at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @GreatGatzke.

Firing the Coach in March? Josh Whitman Starts Illinois AD Career with a Bang

Waking up on an early March Saturday morning, Bill Cubit was probably excited about the possibilities of his Illinois football team with spring practice coming up. Where could he improve his team, after a 5-7 2015 finish, enough to make it to a bowl game in 2016? Cubit had plenty of reason for hope. After a tumultuous off-season for the program, Cubit made it through unscathed as the interim coach and even signed a new two-year deal to officially be the football team’s head coach. Well the Fighting Illini might make a bowl game this upcoming season, but it won’t be under Cubit’s watch. Cubit was fired Saturday on new AD Josh Whitman’s first day on the job and swiftly replaced by former Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith.

On the surface, the timing of the move seems questionable at best. It happened days before spring practice was set to begin. Not exactly a smooth start for a program that has had little success in recent memory. It was also rumored that there were recruits either on campus or set to be on campus in the coming days. Whitman sure did his best to show the kids what the college football world is really like right off the bat didn’t he? As far as the players currently on the team, they didn’t seem pleased that they didn’t find out directly from the new AD. When you step back and look at all this from Whitman’s point of view however, I think he probably made the best move that he could. Cubit isn’t a big name and he’s not an up-and-comer in the coaching ranks. There’s little evidence that he could have taken the Illini to the next level, or any level really. As the new AD, was Whitman supposed to sit around and waste a year with a head coach he knew he was set to get rid of at the end of the year anyway? He probably feels as a young AD he needs to prove himself as quickly as possible and in the college football world, guys don’t get unlimited time to make that happen.

As far as the state of the current team, I understand the players being upset they didn’t hear about it from Whitman. Is it possible he could have scheduled meetings with the players and Bill Cubit back-to-back? Sure, but he had to tell someone first. It would have been just as unfair to Cubit as it was the players if Whitman had told the team first and they took to twitter (college athletes would never do that right?) resulting in Cubit finding out before Whitman had a chance to tell him. And is it a bit inconvenient for a change in coach so close to spring practice? Definitely. In the long run though, it will be more beneficial for the program to have this extra time with a coach who should be there for at least three or four years as opposed to having one uninterrupted year with a coach who is sure to be gone after the year anyway.

Aside from Whitman wanting to bring someone in who is “his guy”, there were other reasons to let Cubit go. Prior to the 2015 season, Cubit was offensive coordinator for previous Illinois coach Tim Beckman. Shortly before last year, Beckman was fired for allegations of player abuse mostly centered around treatment of players with injuries. Cubit also was implicated by the same player, but ultimately cleared of wrongdoing. The allegations were also far less numerous and serious as the ones claimed against Beckman. On the other hand, the situation left the athletic department in complete disarray and the football program a mess. Left to lead the team out of this was a guy who was very close, and originally implicated, in said mess. In the future, teams competing with the Illini for recruits could bring this up with Cubit as coach and say, “Can you be sure injured player mistreatment still isn’t going on?” It’s understandable for the new AD to want to cut ties completely to the mess that ultimately landed him his job there.

However odd the timing of this move may be, both in terms of Whitman’s short reign as AD to this point as well as the football team in general, no one will blink an eye if new coach Lovie Smith can bring success to a program that has seen little of it recently. But is Smith the right guy to get that done? That’s what makes this whole situation more interesting. It’s not as if Whitman let Cubit go and had a slam dunk hire waiting in the wings. Sure Lovie Smith is a big name, and one that certainly resonates in the state of Illinois, but he hasn’t been in the college game in over two decades and has never even been a college football coordinator, let alone a head coach. How will he feel about year-round recruiting trips? Can he learn quickly to press the right buttons with college kids, buttons that are surely different than the ones he need to press for professionals getting paid millions? Whitman is banking his early career on it and on Smith’s reputation. It’s easy to say ‘Hey, Lovie Smith coached the Chicago Bears to the Super Bowl, come play for the Fighting Illini’. It’s less easy when you remember the kids Smith will be recruiting were under 10 years old when the Bears went to that Super Bowl, and these kids have grown up in an era where people don’t feel obligated to root for the hometown team. Will it matter in some cases? Sure, but it won’t make up for nearly enough if Lovie can’t handle the other aforementioned questions. Besides, it’s not like Illinois is a hotbed for recruiting talent.

On Smith’s side will be Illinois’ expectations, or lack thereof. The Illini have made just five bowl games this century, so the bar has been set low. If Smith can get them to bowl games consistently, or have a random nine-win season during his first contract, it should be enough to get him a second one. Ultimately if Smith is a good college coach, this shouldn’t be a problem considering he gets to coach in one of the worst divisions in the nation, the Big Ten West.

In the end, new AD Josh Whitman wanted to bring in someone who was “his guy”, just as new coaches like to bring in their own quarterback and new NFL GMs like to bring in a hand-picked NFL coach. The only thing different here is that Whitman didn’t start his job until March and didn’t have the luxury of getting his pick during the normal coaching carousel. Rather than sitting on his hands for a year, Whitman decided to go against the grain. His connections to Lovie Smith surely made making the decision easier, he’ll just have to hope it doesn’t end up costing him his own job down the road.

Photo courtesy

Missouri’s Michael Scherer has been Wronged by Someone, but he Isn’t Sure by Who

Warning: This column may be considered a micro-aggression. Proceed reading at your own risk.

In The Coddling of the American Mind, authors Greg Lukianoff and Jonathen Haidt sum up the mind set of the contemporary college student in perfect fashion:

“In the name of emotional well-being, college students are increasingly demanding protection from words and ideas they don’t like.”

College athletes are not the exception to this mindset and they seem to think that playing a sport provides them a safe zone where criticism is off limits and only praise will be accepted.

One of my preferred college football websites is Rock M Nation, and two of my preferred writers at the site are Bill Connelly and Oscar Gambler. Bill seemed to spark a small outrage when he dared to publish an article that was critical of starting Linebacker, Michael Scherer. At least Scherer believed that he was being unfairly singled out by Rock M Nation.

Scherer seemed to feel emotionally violated by Connelly’s criticism and voiced his concern to Connelly via Twitter.

The kicker in all of this is that Bill was not the author of the article that Scherer went on the defensive over. This article was the work of Oscar. The junior linebacker is of the opinion that “guys in a closet” shouldn’t be criticizing football players. However, guys like Scherer have no problem with receiving praise from these same “guys in a closet” and, furthermore, do not tend to comment when positive critiques are offered up by these same writers. This leads me to believe that these kids believe praise is a right and that it is the media and fans responsibility to keep them on a pedestal. And here’s a little message to Scherer; not everyone on the internet is some “guy in a closet.” Sometimes the people writing these articles actually played football, and yes, that is the case with Oscar. As the “The Atlantic” authors stated: “trigger warnings are hurting mental health on campus.” I can only assume that this mentality is supported by coaching staffs around the country. While I am certain that coaching staffs are doing their jobs and pointing out deficiencies that need to be corrected, I also am of the belief that the coaches feel a need to temper their criticism towards their players. To not temper their criticism risks kids transferring out of the program and can lead to bogus accusations of player mistreatment. One coach in particular made demands on the media in regards to how their program would be portrayed to the public. Before Tim Beckman was relieved of his duties at Illinois, he went on a rant against the media. Beckman’s contention was that the media should only be reporting the positive aspects of his program. Beckman was attempting to create a narrative that was not the actual story. The story soon caught up to him, but he was attempting to cover his own butt as well as attempting to insulate the fragile egos of his players. Stroking the egos of these kids does not do them any favors. In an attempt to keep all of these kids in “safe spaces,” the coaches and universities are doing a huge disservice to everyone involved. Take Richie Incognito as an example. Incognito’s locker room issues in the NFL have been well documented. His issues did not start once he began his NFL career. Incognito’s issues with bullying go back at least to his freshman year at Nebraska. In the case of Incognito and Nebraska, this kind of behavior was tolerated. As outlined in the USA Today article, Incognito was bullying walk-on lineman, Jack Limbaugh and, as teammate Jack Kolowski stated:

“Jack was a walk-on just trying to make the team. There was a bit of that kind of bullying with Jack. He didn’t appreciate it, but in that culture you don’t run and cry to the coaches.”

A far more extreme example of this kind of behavior can be seen in current Nebraska offensive lineman, Alex Lewis. If you aren’t familiar with Lewis’ story, he originally played for the Colorado Buffalos prior to transferring to Nebraska. Nebraska was his dream school and he was considered to be a legacy recruit of sorts. For starters, I have a difficult time believing that this was the first attitude and behavior issue with Lewis. My guess and it is just that, a guess, is that he was coddled and protected by his coaches as he “matured” through his adolescent years. Yes, everyone deserves a second chance, but at some point the expectations placed on the kid must change. In the case of Lewis, he hasn’t assaulted anyone since arriving in Lincoln, but his attitude has been anything but glowing. After Nebraska’s stunning loss to Illinois, Lewis had some choice words for the fans in the stands and also aired his grievances with the fans on his Twitter page. The Husker captain deleted his comments but not before the media captured his comments for all to see.

“I’m done playing for the state of the Nebraska! You want to blame me for the loss, that’s fine! But I have done everything right to prove I belong and yet you say I’m not a husker! So you want to see what Alex Lewis is about? Then sit back and criticize because I’m going to prove to myself and my family that I am better than these fair weather fans that themselves huskers! You have let loose a storm that the huskers havent seen seen since 95 and you will kiss my feet when im done with you!”

If you ever doubted the entitlement mentality of many of these kids, just go back and read the last sentence that Lewis exclaimed’ “…you (the fans) will kiss my feet when i’m done with you!” Coach Riley had this to say about Lewis and his actions:

“I know he feels bad and sorry about his response,” Riley said. “Alex is a good guy, he’s sensitive, he made a mistake on a penalty that was bad and he knows that. We all know that. “And then his response was bad because, first of all, he doesn’t need to do that — you don’t need to gain your identity from social media and react like that. And, second of all, you don’t generalize like that about a group of people. And he knows that. That, basically, was the nature of the conversation.”

I have to disagree with Riley on this issue with Lewis. This was not Lewis’ first instance of lashing out at the fans this year and his actions at Colorado proved just how much of a hot head the kid can be. Yet Riley still views Lewis as a suitable captain? There are some people that believe Lewis should not just be stripped of his captainship but should be removed from the team. Former Husker, Jason Peter, isn’t happy with Lewis or Riley. Peter believes that Riley is bending the rules for an average player. Riley may not be winning like Tom Osborne did, but he’s starting to handle behavior issues in much the same way as the legendary coach. This is but one example of a coach feeling a need to coddle these kids in the name of not offending them. This is completely preposterous. The examples of Incognito and Lewis are not made in an attempt to equate Michael Scherer with their transgressions, however, it is a slippery slope. Scherer seemed genuinely hurt through criticism of his on the field performance. Bill Connelly and Oscar Gamble did not attack Scherer as a person. Let me repeat myself, Bill Connelly and Oscar Gamble did not make it personal with Scherer. Even though Scherer wants to be treated in a coddled way, he is not above lobbing personal attacks at the expense of others. Take for example this conversation he had on Twitter with Patrick Crawford, Assistant Director of Strategic Communications at the University of Missouri.

So it’s not acceptable to criticize a player’s performance, but it is acceptable to make fun of someone being short? If Austin Kim were a University of Missouri student, he’d be the victim of a micro-aggression. But we all know that it is Michael Scherer who is the true victim this season. At least that is what he would like us all to believe. He just loves people and has a person’s individual feelings in mind when making comments about them.

Perhaps college students everywhere should reassess what it means to be emotionally traumatized. When a player has the expectation of being coddled, it can be a fast track to becoming like Incognito and Lewis. This isn’t college athletics’ issue, this is our country’s issue.

E-mail Seth at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @SMerenbloom.

The Pipeline – August 29, 2015: A Firing, some Fines, and a new Television Deal

1. Illinois Fires Tim Beckman Seven Days before Season Opener

Our top news story in this week’s Pipeline comes from the University of Illinois.  (Never thought you’d read that, did you?)  Yes, the Illini have attracted national attention, at least for a couple days.

Head coach Tim Beckman was fired Friday afternoon just seven days before Illinois opens its season against Kent State.  Director of Athletics Mike Thomas dismissed Beckman due to the findings of an external investigation into the mistreatment of players.

Beckman is alleged to have deterred the reporting of player injuries, and pressured players to avoid or postpone medical treatment and play through injuries.  There are also some questions as to whether or not seniors were treated fairly with respect to their scholarship status during the spring semester once they were done playing.  He has, of course, denied that the allegations are accurate, setting the stage for a future lawsuit.

These are very serious accusations.  And there must have been quite a lot of damning evidence to substantiate these claims for Thomas to can Beckman so close to the season opener.

Bill Cubit will take over for the 2015 as interim head coach.  He joined the Illini coaching staff in 2013 as offensive coordinator.

The issue of player safety became real for us last fall when Brady Hoke and the Michigan training staff failed miserably in protecting quarterback Shane Morris.  Excuse the video quality, but you should hear how Mike Patrick and Ed Cunningham brought this to a live audience.  Now that a coach has been fired for mismanaging his players, it’s officially a hot button issue.

2. Fining College Football Players?

On Wednesday, Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster said some things he shouldn’t have about the possibility of fining players.  Athletic director Whit Babcock was quick to shut the idea down, saying Tech would be doing no such thing.

On Thursday a list of all finable offenses is spotted outside the Tech locker room.  A picture is taken.  The picture makes its way around the internet.  And Foster’s words are legitimized, proving that there was a plan in place to fine Hokie players for misbehavior.

Then, Cincinnati head coach Tommy Tuberville seconds Foster’s motion.  The AD in this case, UC’s Mike Bohn does not squash his coach’s idea, but instead agrees with him.

There’s some confusion about whether this is legal.  NCAA rules state that taking money from a student’s scholarship is impermissible.  However, there is supposedly some language in these financial aid contracts which states the school may subtract aid if the violations go against department policy or the student code of conduct.

I’m no legal eagle.  I’ll let the lawyers decide what exactly the contracts allow schools to do with players’ financial aid.  I can say that this will undoubtedly add another convoluted layer to the already complicated cake that is the controversy over compensating college athletes.

3. Pac-12 Network on DirecTV

As our own Mike Wilson wrote last week, west coast football fans might be able to relax soon.  After years of not carrying the Pac-12 Network on their cable package, DirecTV will finally give fans out west what they want.

DirecTV, which was recently bought by AT&T, began testing on Friday that appears to be the first step towards bringing the Pac-12 Network to their customers’ television sets.

Imagine the frustration of paying for sports packages you’re not interested in while your favorite conference’s network is unavailable to you.  This is what some fans have been dealing with since the Pac-12 Network’s inception in 2012.

Luckily for them it seems to be coming to an end just in time for the 2015 season.

4. Sarkisian Apologizes for “Inappropriate” Behavior

Steve Sarkisian addressed the media on Tuesday concerning his “inappropriate” behavior at a USC donor event last Saturday.  Apparently, he had too much to drink and had taken some pills he was prescribed.

The press conference was short, but notably odd.

There were unnecessarily personal questions about specifically what medication Sarkisian was referring to in his statement.  Rightfully, he declined to disclose that information.

When asked if he had a drinking problem, Sarkisian said, “No, I don’t believe so, but through Pat [Haden] and the University, I’m going to find that out.”

“I don’t know if I even need rehab,” Sarkisian said.  “That’s part of the process, and I credit Pat Haden for this, that he has put things in place for me to have meetings to figure that out.”

He was quick to ‘swear off’ drinking for the rest of the season, and clarified that while there was never any alcohol in the players’ locker room, it will now be completely banned from all USC football facilities.

The USC players had their coach do a set of down-ups, just as they would have had to do for breaking team rules.

The team has moved on and so should the media.  This was a big mistake, but it was not an accurate reflection of Sarkisian’s character.

5. Vernon Adams Wins Oregon’s Starting QB Job

Anyone who was following the quarterback battle at Oregon knew there was a good chance Vernon Adams would end up winning the job.  The Ducks’ week one depth chart was released on Friday, and sure enough Adams was at the top.

This is news mostly because it wasn’t news to those of us who were paying attention.

Adams is a graduate transfer student who played three seasons at Eastern Washington.  He put up the type of numbers you see from Oregon quarterbacks, throwing for 10,438 yards and 110 touchdowns while with the Eagles.  With Marcus Mariota gone to the NFL and the rest of the team in place, the Ducks needed a new quarterback who could step in and preform immediately.  In Adams, they’ve got just that.

USA Today Sports
USA Today Sports

Interestingly, Adams will make his first start against his alma mater next weekend when the Ducks host the Eagles.  That’s right, just three weeks after graduating from Eastern Washington he will take the field against his former team.

Ahh, what a glorious loophole in the NCAA’s transfer rules.

Coaching With A Hotseat

Big_Game_Bob

Every year it happens as soon as the season ends. Fans, writers, and anybody else with a rooting interest in college football starts to speculate about which coaches may be coaching with a hot seat underneath them. It can be a difficult thing to coach under this type of condition, but it comes with the territory of being a big time college football coach. Which coaches in 2015 will need to improve their situation and avoid the “ex-coach” moniker?

Here’s my list of current Power 5 Conference coaches that will have a hot seat underneath them in 2015.

Bob Stoops is first up on my list of coaches on the short leash. The Sooners ended 2013 with a dominating performance in the Sugar Bowl against Alabama. That game was not even close in the score and in how each team played. Alabama played like they didn’t care and very flat. Oklahoma, on the other hand, dominated from the opening kick-off to final gun at the end of the game. Most thought that the Sooners would be coming into 2014 with the mindset of getting into the playoff and winning not only the Big 12, but a National Championship. As we all know, things didn’t go as planned in Norman, Oklahoma. Bob Stoops and his Sooners finished the 2014 season with an 8-5 record which was the worst record for Stoops since his first year at the helm. Plus, his team got annihilated 40-6 in the Russell Athletic Bowl and that did not go over well in Norman. The Sooners haven’t won a National Championship since 2000 and let’s just say that Sooner fans are not accustomed to waiting 15 years for their next title.

Next on this list is Mike Leach, Head Coach of Washington State University.  Getting a hire such as Leach for a school like Washington State was certainly a coup. It even raised some eyebrows in terms why would Leach go out to the Palouse to coach? Well, it may have been a great hire back then, but it hasn’t turned out the way people at Wazzu had thought. Leach fell victim to some very unfortunate injuries last season which ruined any chance at finishing with a decent record. He has been trying to lay a foundation Washington State, but the foundation keeps getting chopped down by injuries or players not performing to their potential. Washington State has a lot of players that are coming back for 2015, so the outlook may be up in Pullman, but another year like they have had recently in the rough and tumble Pac-12 and that could make things for Mike Leach extremely interesting.

Moving onto the Big-10 I would have to say that Illinois Head Coach, Tim Beckman would be at the top of Big-10 list. He did make a bowl game last year, but even in reaching that bowl game he and his Illini team lost the bowl game by three scores. Any safety that he may have found in reaching that bowl game was summarily wasted in getting torched in their bowl game. His predecessor Ron Zook was fired because being average was not acceptable, well, if you take a look at what Beckman has done, it’s not even close to what Zook did. His conference record is a paltry 4-20 after this past season.  Only one of those wins came by more than four points, so his teams are not blowing teams apart even when they win. Beckman’s overall record at Illinois is 12-25 in three seasons.  Some of his wins are over teams that you would expect a Power 5 school to beat, but they barely escaped with victories over a Texas State team (42-35) and Western Kentucky (42-34). They also did lose to Purdue and that didn’t sit well with fans because they have a mindset of being a better program than Purdue, but to many, including a very knowledgeable writer on the Big-10 that I know, Illinois is the toughest job in the conference. It almost seems like his departure is inevitable regardless of how he does in 2015.

The ACC is really a one horse team to me with Florida State reigning supreme over everybody. The coach that I look at as probably having the term hot seat attached to him is Virginia Head Coach Mike London. This is a tough job as it is with all the academic requirements it takes to get into UVA. London’s recruiting classes have been ranked in the top half of the ACC, but those successes off the field have turned into successes on the field for London and his teams. London lone winning season was in 2011, going 8-5, and since then he has had nothing but losing records. Since that first season, he has gone 15-33 overall and 6-26 in conference play. If the bottom line is winning, then Mike London has not done that. His recruiting issues with turning talent into wins is the perfect example of how much of a gamble recruiting really is for coaches in college football. You just never know how these players will turn out and if enough players don’t turn out well then the coach is looking for another job. Whether London makes it through 2015 remains to be seen, but another losing record and he’s done for good at Virginia.

Last, but certainly not least, the SEC. The conference where fans are little more rabid than other fans and even a winning record can get you in hot water. I would say that in the tough SEC where coaches can be chewed up and spit out, Derek Mason would be on the hot seat. I know he’s only been at Vanderbilt for a one season, but when you lose all your conference games and fire your coordinators at the end of the season then you put yourself on this list. Mason has to prove to administration, alumni, and fans that he deserves to be an SEC coach. His predecessor Coach Franklin, got the program to adequacy, but Mason hasn’t reached that level in the least.  Vandy is a tough place to recruit because of academics. They can’t really “smooth” over academics to bring a kid in. Bottom line with Mason and Vandy, he has to provide a glimmer of hope to the school that he is just going to be a cautionary tale in the mighty SEC.

In the end, coaches are graded on the records and these five coaches have yet to prove that they can win on a consistent basis. I never root for people to get fired and never like seeing good people get fired, but coaching is a cutthroat business where winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.

 

Mark Silverman: Five College Football Coaches on the 2015 Hot Seat

We’re less than three months away from the kickoff of the 2015 college football season and it’s time to look at the top-five coaches who are feeling the heat. Let the speculation begin.

1. Al Golden – Miami

Who could blame Al Golden for registering a 12-11 record through his first two seasons at Miami? The guy walked right into an NCAA investigation that he didn’t know was coming. However, the mood has changed in South Florida.

This is the U we are talking about. Golden seemed like he was destined to return the Hurricane program to elite status following a 9-4 campaign in 2013. After a near-upset against defending national champion Florida State last season, Golden and the Hurricanes plummeted to a 6-7 record and the Miami brain trust won’t stand for that going forward.

Miami is just 16-16 under Golden in an ACC Coastal Division that could be described as “pedestrian” at best. It’s hard to believe that the Hurricanes haven’t reached the ACC Championship Game since 2004 and Golden certainly has yet to prove he can halt the streak. Golden has plenty of chances to impress in 2015 with conference opponents Clemson, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech all traveling to Sun Life Stadium. Miami has been a stagnant program throughout Golden’s tenure and we shall see if the Hurricane swagger will return in 2015.

2. Tim Beckman – Illinois

While Illinois is miles away from reaching contender status in the Big Ten, Tim Beckman has managed to improve his win total in each of his first three seasons in Champaign. Following back-to-back two and four-win seasons, respectively, it would be difficult to not improve. Beckman led Illinois to a 6-7 record in 2014, which included a berth in the Heart of Dallas Bowl. At the end of the day, Beckman is 4-20 in conference play and his job is in serious jeopardy if the Illini fail to reach at least seven or eight wins.

[Bach: Illinois and the Tim Beckman Problem]

If former Illinois coach Ron Zook can be fired following consecutive six-win seasons, then Beckman certainly can be. Even some of Beckman’s victories have raised an eyebrow. Last season, Illinois narrowly defeated Western Kentucky and Texas State at home. The margin of victory was a combined 15 points and along with their abysmal record in conference play under Beckman, Illinois flat out has to be better than that in 2015.

3. Darrell Hazell – Purdue

Just two games into the Darrell Hazell tenure at Purdue, you knew it was going to be awhile before the Boilermakers would ever become relevant. Hazell’s Boilermakers narrowly defeated the mighty Indiana State Sycamores 20-14 in what would be their lone victory of the season. Unfortunately, things haven’t gotten much better for Hazell. The third-year coach has compiled a 4-20 record in his first two seasons, which includes a 1-15 mark in Big Ten play.

Ouch.

Hazell’s lone victory came at Illinois last season with a 38-27 defeat of the Illini. Somebody had to win that game and it was thought to possibly be the beginning of a turnaround for Hazell and Purdue football. It wasn’t the case. Purdue dropped its final six games to finish the season at 3-9.

Hazell has a lot of work ahead of him if he wishes to be the head man in West Lafayette when 2016 rolls around. The upcoming season includes tough matchups at Marshall and at home against Virginia Tech prior to the Big Ten slate. The conference schedule won’t get any easier with the league much improved and road games at Michigan State and Wisconsin. On the bright side, Indiana State is back on the schedule.

4. Kirk Ferentz – Iowa

How long has Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz been on the hot seat? It seems like forever. Ferentz is paid like a top-15 coach but is not producing anything close to a top-15 program. Iowa hasn’t been ranked in the AP poll since 2010 and it could be the end of an era for the Hawkeyes if there isn’t drastic improvement in 2015. What could be saving Ferentz is his $13 million buyout as that would be a hefty price to pay for the Iowa brass.

Every five to six years, Ferentz usually produces a decent team that is amongst the thick of the Big Ten race. What you see is what you’re going to get from Ferentz and the Hawkeyes. Who knows? Maybe 2015 is the year Iowa once again cracks the top-25 and plays Nebraska in the regular season finale for the right to go to the Big Ten Championship Game. The timing would be right for Ferentz as the leash on his job security is continuing to shorten. Ferentz has reached double-digit victories in a single-season just once over the last decade. The longest tenured coach in the Big Ten could finally be out if Ferentz can’t achieve a similar win total in 2015. We’re way past 2002 when the Hawkeyes finished 8-0 in the Big Ten and were unquestionably one of the top teams in the country.

5. Frank Beamer – Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer and “Beamer Ball” were once considered untouchable following eight straight 10-win seasons which resulted in six BCS Bowl appearances.

My how the tables have turned.

Even when Beamer and the Hokies were having consistent success early in the BCS era, they couldn’t quite get over the hump and land a championship, while failing on the big stage many times. Now, the Hokies are just 22-17 since 2012 and Beamer’s job security isn’t so invincible. Virginia Tech isn’t among the college football big boys anymore and unless can compete in a somewhat lackluster ACC Coastal Division, a fresh face on the sidelines in 2016 wouldn’t be out of the question.

An upset victory in the 2015 season-opener to make it a clean sweep over the defending national champion Ohio State Buckeyes could put an immediate end to any job security speculation. That is, of course, considering the Hokies don’t implode like they did last season following their victory over Ohio State in Columbus. Virginia Tech lost six of their next nine games and finished the season at a mediocre 7-6.

Just like Texas had to make a tough decision and part ways with former coach Mack Brown, don’t be surprised if the same can be said for the legendary Beamer if things don’t improve quickly.

E-mail Mark at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @msilverman25.

Illinois and the Tim Beckman Problem

There’s surprisingly little uproar coming from the state of Illinois. Or even from the NCAA or the public in general.

It’s been less than a week since former Illinois offensive lineman Simon Cvijanovic unleashed a series of tweets in which he accused current head football coach Tim Beckman of forcing him and other players to play through injuries. Cvijanovic supposedly was forced by Beckman to play through shoulder and knee injuries that would wind up costing him his playing career.

This is a pretty big deal, especially when you consider that other students have emerged to back Cvijanovic’s claims that Beckman was abusing his power and allegedly doing things such as threatening to revoke scholarships. Nick North, former Illini defensive back, claimed that Beckman forced him back early from his PCL injury and then drug tested him constantly, appearing to be looking for a reason to remove him from the team and his scholarship.

Just yesterday former wide receiver Darius Millines alleged that Beckman punished him for visiting his father who had cancer on his father’s 50th birthday. Maybe Millines did go AWOL from the team but come on, the kid’s dad had cancer and wasn’t even supposed to make it to 50. Even if it was a violation of rules, that’s still just being a jerk. Some players from Beckman’s last coaching stop at Toledo back up the claims that if nothing else, he’s a giant jerk.

So here’s the real question: why doesn’t anyone care?

There’s a coach of a school in a Power Five conference being accused of mistreating his players by multiple sources and it’s largely being ignored. People are more concerned about Tom Brady and his deflated balls than they are about someone potentially ruining the futures of the young men who entrust their football careers to him.

Take a look at this screen capture from the front page of ESPN. I took this at roughly 7:30pm May 14 which for those screenshot-espn.go.com 2015-05-14 19-38-34of you keeping score at home is 4 days after Cvijanovic went public with his accusations. The red arrows denote the first mention of Illinois on the front page and just how far down I had to go in order to find that first mention. Almost halfway down the page before it’s mentioned in any fashion. I had to double check because I was sure that couldn’t be right. It was. The main headline on the actual college football homepage is a preview of the Mountain West conference. The Mountain West!

I’m going to make a statement that a lot of our writers here at the Campus Pressbox and at our mother site More Than A Fan will probably agree with.

If this was Ohio State, it would be front page news and be covered non-stop by the media.

I’m not even 100% sure that I got an ESPN “Breaking News” alert but you can bet that if Urban Meyer was being accused of this we’d be getting wall to wall coverage. Or if the patron saint of Michigan Jim Harbaugh had done this it would be on endless loop on all stations.

Think I’m exaggerating?

Remember that time some Ohio State players traded trinkets and stuff for tattoos? Yeah, yeah you do. It was everywhere. The media backlash at players getting things for free drove people into a frenzy. It basically cost Jim Tressel his job when it was all said and done.

If you want a more recent example, how about Jameis Winston? The fact that Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden just called him an embarrassment appeared higher on ESPN than Tim Beckman mistreating his players. Winston stealing crab legs was like gold to the media and internet. More words and memes were dedicated to crab legs than whatever the most recent crisis humanity was facing.

It just kind of exposes the hypocrisy of the NCAA. My apologies to any Illinois fans out there but on a national level, no one cares about the Illinois football. They aren’t a name that makes people sit up and take notice. Tim Beckman is hardly a household name but he might yet become one if this suddenly turns ugly. It’s not grabbing the headlines yet so expect the NCAA to largely ignore the whole thing until it gets big and they can be in the spotlight.

What’s really the problem though is what if Cvijanovic is right? What if Tim Beckman is forcing these kids into playing while they’re hurt and costing them potentially lucrative futures? In all honesty, it could go on for years until something extreme happens. Then we’ll all pretend like we always thought he was a shady fellow but that’s not going to help these kids now.

It shouldn’t matter if it’s Alabama or some Division 3 school no one’s ever heard of. These claims should be taken seriously and looked into, especially since they’ve been corroborated. Kids shouldn’t have to lose their futures just because they don’t play for a premier football team.

Tim Beckman’s Last Stand

After a disappointing 1-7 Big Ten (4-8 overall) record last year, Tim Beckman’s job security is not at an all-time high.  His overall record with Illinois is 6-18 and boasts only a single Big Ten win, last year’s victory over a Purdue team that only had one win.  Beckman’s coaching track record shows that he is able to take teams and show consistent improvement, but the Big Ten is a far tougher place to consistently improve than his previous conference, the MAC.  With the young players he inherited when he took over as coach as the leaders of his team and some of his own recruits on the roster, Beckman is quickly running out of reasons for why he deserves more time as coach.
Beckman comes into this season with Oklahoma State transfer Wes Lunt, a talented quarterback with some bad luck.  Injuries hampered Lunt in his 2012 season with Oklahoma State and robbed him of the opportunity to gain valuable experience and become entrenched as the starting quarterback.  Lunt has a wealth of talent as a passer and has experienced players at running back and wide receiver with Josh Ferguson, Donovonn Young, Justin Hardee, Martize Barr, and Geronimo Allison.  With three seniors on the offensive line to protect him, Lunt seems to have been given a very strong hand to stay healthy and succeed this season.
Much like the NFL, the “what have you done for me lately” moniker is in full effect with Beckman.  He has had time to bring in his own recruits that fit his system and needs to put together a winning season.   Since talented recruits don’t typically want to go to schools coming off of 4-8 seasons, Beckman is depending on some experienced “veterans” to play key roles this year.  Lunt is the most important of the new players, but JUCO wide receivers Geronimo Allison and Martize Barr will also need to have strong showings for Illinois to improve.  On defense, Zane Petty, Eric Finney, Jihad Ward, and Carroll Phillips will need to provide consistent production to keep games within reach.
Best realistic case:  Wes Lunt provides consistent production, a few (or all) of the JUCO transfers pan out and Illinois is a middle of the pack team, finishing with a much improved record.  Beckman gets his team into a bowl game and lives to coach for at least one more year, possibly signing one of the top in-state prospects in the process.
Worst realistic case:  Lunt can’t stay healthy or doesn’t produce as expected (think Danny O’Brien for the Wisconsin Badgers a few seasons ago).  The quarterback position is wildly inconsistent throughout the year and Beckman loses his job.
The future for Illinois is a moving target with so many factors needing to fall into place for the team to become a contender once more.  Bringing in JUCO players is a good short-term fix, but ideally, playmakers would be recruited out of high school and develop over 3 or 4 years as opposed to coming in with fewer years of eligibility.  Beckman seems to have acquired the best weapons available for what could be his last season in Champaign, but unless he turns into the next Bill Snyder, his strategy will probably need an overhaul if he survives.  Or, maybe, Beckman is just another coach who could succeed at the lower levels of college football and isn’t cut out, at least not right now, for a job in one of the power conferences.

Big Ten: The I's Have it…At Least This Week!

ILLINI
 
Starting the 2014 season is the only thing that’s going to make Illinois Coach Tim Beckman and his team forget the 2013 campaign. With major questions on both sides of the ball and not one four-star or better recruit coming in this year, no one is expecting many answers from this year’s Illini team. Although often criticized by the media, QB Nathan Scheelhaase is going to be missed ridiculously by O-coordinator Bill Cubit. He’s going to go from having an athletic coach on the field to maybe having to stand on the field himself (a la Pee Wee ball) with his inexperienced offense.
peewee
 
Early non conference opponents will look to jump on the inexperienced and sometimes Fightless Illini to get that BIG conference victory notch on their belt, and by the last week of September The University of Illinois could be walking into Lincoln 1-3 to start the BIG season. Beckman already knows that another “ofer” or “one and done” conference season will have him looking for a real estate agent and shopping moving companies by Christmas. It’s been six years since the Illini has had a recruiting class worth talking about, and the players that they have had in the program have not developed into players who could compete on the BIG level. So if Coach Beckman has any tricks up his sleeves, he should cut those sleeves off, or better yet just wear a “wife beater” because it’s now or never to let it all hang out
 
 
IU
I expect much of the same from the Indiana Hoosier football team in 2014. They’re going to go up and down the field running and passing like nobody’s business, but when it’s all said and done they still may not make it to a bowl game. The Hoosiers first problem is their schedule. Besides having Missouri, Iowa, Michigan, and Ohio all on the road, the Hoosiers will be welcoming MSU, and Penn State to Bloomington as well. I couldn’t pick the three teams that the Hoosiers can beat out out of that six to go .500, but head coach Kevin Wilson better.
 
The last problem is going to be trying to stop other teams from scoring at will. The basketball Hoosiers gave up almost 67 points a game last year. Not to compare the teams, but the football Hoosiers gave up 39 points a game last season…that’s too many for any team to give up and to try to win let alone a team with young and untapped talent.
New D- coordinator Brian Knorr is installing a 3-4 look and he hopes that his athletic linebacking corps shows up ready to turn a few facemasks in the wrong direction. He’s got a lot of other young talent at his disposal and he’ll need all of it to play fundamentally sound ball. If not, we can expect more basketball scores from the Hoosiers long before November.
 
IOWA
Of the “I” schools, Iowa is the cream of the crop…(pun intended)! Coming off an 8-5 season with an Outback Bowl bid, Coach Kirk Ferentz is hoping for lightning to strike twice or maybe three times in Iowa City this season.

The Hawkeyes will once again rely on the run to move the ball down field. With O-coordinator Greg Davis logging in for his 3rd season, the Hawkeyes passing game should see some improvement with
QB Jake Rudock once again taking the snaps with a ton of young receivers to sling it to. The defensive side of the ball doesn’t look quite as promising on paper, or my laptop…because truly no one looks at anything on paper anymore! The Hawkeyes are without the services of six defensive starters from 2013, including three linebackers. So the first few weeks of the season will be like an office potluck… You hope other people bring something good to the table, but if they can’t bring something good… Just bring something!
 
 
Forever Football,
 
One Man Shan