Tim Beckman will likely return to the University of Illinois for 2014. Barring an epic collapse of going O-fer down the stretch here, Becks will get a third season leading the Illini. With five games remaining for the Illini, 2-3 or better guarantees Tim Beckman comes back to Champaign. 2-3 in the last 5 is also the best case scenario for Illinois, but 1-4 is also likely. At 1-4, you can kind of, maybe go either way in terms of saying whether or not Tim Beckman returns.
However, this isn’t about what value judgments. It’s not about whether you or I think he deserves another chance. It’s about whether or not Mike Thomas gives him one. And he probably will.
What if Tim Beckman goes 0-5 to finish 0-16 in Big Ten play in his first two years?
Well 0-8 in league play in 2013, 0-16 in his first two years is pretty awful. And certainly no one who performs like that deserves to come back for an encore. However, even in that nightmare scenario, Thomas could still retain him and here’s why.
1. it’s all about the Benjamins
Tim Beckman, if canned, would then be the fourth former University of Illinois Coach on the school’s payroll who would not be coach. The state is still paying off the buyouts of Bruce Weber, Ron Zook and Jollette Law. (Who buys out a women’s basketball coach contract? I know, bizarre, right. Who even cares enough about women’s basketball, good or bad to even think about it? Why would you even bother? For a sport no one shows up for)
Even if UI has money to burn enough for that fourth buyout, it would still reflect quite poorly on the school. And as for Mike Thomas being on the hot seat or not, that’s another discussion for another time. So who gets the axe for what’s happened since conference play began? The lack of progress shown in 2013? Probably Defensive Coordinator Tim Banks. Who’s been about as successful a DC as Greg Robinson at Michigan and Syracuse. The numbers verify that. Whether it’s Banks’ fault is debatable. And whether or not Banks deserves to be dismissed is also another discussion for another time.
2. Everyone gets three years…barring a complete train wreck.
It used to be everyone got four years, let a coach have a chance with a complete program of all his guys: four recruiting classes. That’s gone by the wayside today. And even the three year minimum will be pushing it soon enough. But you have to be Vinny Del Negro level incompetent to not survive your third year. Of course, 0-16 in Big Ten play would be in fact Del Negro bad, but it remains to be seen.
3. Big Ten opponents are 9-2 in league play
Okay Nebraska isn’t a good team, but Michigan State and Wisconsin certainly are. And there isn’t a lot of shame in losing to good teams. Of course, the way that Illinois lost those three games is rather alarming. They were not even close to competitive in any of the three contests. And I take back what I said last month about this team showing progress. A 3-1 start looked like progress, but in league play there has been zero progress from 2012. There’s no denying that. Up until the Michigan State loss, you had a case that the Illini have improved. Now you have no case. At all. Because Big Ten play is the measuring stick. Plain and simple.
4. Jim Tressel or Bobby Petrino will have to wait until 2014
When you have more players in the NFL than Nebraska or Michigan, you should be…..AT THE LEVEL OF NEBRASKA OR MICHIGAN! OMG WHAT A NOVEL CONCEPT.
When you have 4 players picked in the 2013 NFL Draft, most of any Big Ten school, YOU SHOULD BE BETTER THAN 2-10! OMG WHAT A CRAZY IDEA.
However, the brutal cold truth is that the next Nick Saban is just not walking through that door. You saw that in 2012 when Thomas had to hire Tim Beckman in the first place. Thomas couldn’t land anyone that you’ve heard of. Kevin Sumlin never really considered Champaign. It’s just not a destination job right now. It certainly could be though. According to former Illini OL Marques Sullivan, who played several years in the NFL, Illinois currently has 11 guys starting in the NFL right now. It shows you what kind of talent this school can produce: most 1st round draft picks of any Big Ten school the past five years. However, a real coach at UI will likely have to be someone who’s a little bit damaged goods. And we’ll explore those possibilities later. With Petrino and Tressel at the top of the list.
5. This ineptitude isn’t unprecedented at Illinois
Okay things have been bad for Illini football. However, it’s not as bad as you think it is.
Or saying I must be high when I wrote that.
Illinois has as many BCS appearances as Iowa, and 2 more than Northwestern or Michigan State. So as much as the Illini win NFL Draft in April, they have won on some Saturdays in Autumn too. And as bad as the losing is under Beckman, this has happened at Illinois before. Tim Beckman is currently 5-14. Ron Zook was 34-51; he stuck around for 7 seasons. Ron Turner was 32-49; he had 8 years at UI. Lou Tepper was 25-31-2. John Mackovic and Mike White were actually good! With records above .500!
Beckman is more on par with Gary Moeller who went 6-24-3. And he got three years!
Or Jim Valek, who went 8-32. And even he got four seasons!
Do not misread this as an endorsement for Tim Beckman. I do not believe Tim Beckman deserves to return; however I firmly believe he will.
Catch me every Tuesday at 10:30 AM Central talking Northwestern and Illini for 1620 The Zone Omaha
Paul M. Banks is the owner of The Sports Bank.net, an affiliate of Fox Sports. He’s also an analyst for multiple news talk radio stations across the world; with regular weekly segments on NBC, CBS and Fox Sports Radio. Follow him on Twitter (@paulmbanks) and RSSFollow paulmbanks