Congratulations on your fine start with the original Orange-and-Blue. As you know, Illini alum George Halas brought the school colors to the Bears when he founded Chicago’s historic pro franchise, where you were fired despite going 10-6 in 2012.
If John Fox guides the Bears to 10-6 this fall, it will be considered excellent progress.
You are, as you know, in a strange business. [membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]
If you were slow about cleaning out your closet, you’ll save on school-color ties—not that you need to with a six-year contract that could be worth up to $29 million.
You’ve already started earning it. The angst of the Tim Beckman ``era’’ is in the rear-view mirror.
Illinois football is relevant again with your arrival and the energy you are showing. Recruiting is pointing up. Ticket sales are up.
Illini Nation is excited again.
``When you’ve never lost a game, why wouldn���t you be excited?’’ you said at Big Ten media day.
A good point. You are saying and doing the right things.
Here’s hoping you can continue in that direction.
That’s never easy for football coaches—especially football coaches who go through the humbling feeling of losing football games.
But try to remember that when the going gets tough, being an ambassador for University of Illinois football will remain a key part of your job.
No one expects you to set the Big Ten on fire this fall. A well-coached team that wins the games it gives itself a chance to win will be more than acceptable.
The 8-4 record that puts coaches in hot water at some traditional powers will make you the toast of Champaign. (And nobody is expecting anything close to that this year.)
Meanwhile, while you are building for the future through recruiting and the weight room, please try to be engaging.
We get it. It’s not easy for modern coaches to feel the need to keep fans and media entertained and informed.
I don’t remember the exact salary figure, but an old line from former Michigan State coach George Perles--``Without the media, we’d all be coaching girls’ volleyball for $8,000 a year.’’— no longer applies.
Sports is a much bigger deal now, involving boggling amounts of money.
But where is it written that all this money has to turn everything so serious?
Fans and media are fickle. They love you one day, and want you fired the next.
But holding back doesn’t help. It probably makes it worse.
I have come to the conclusion that distrust is self-fulfilling. I also know that that’s not going to stop football coaches from shrouding what they do in secrecy.
Much of what coaches do demands secrecy. But opening up in the non-secret areas can build support.
Not everybody can be Mike Ditka—who lacked a straw hat and a cane, but did have RollerBlades. He put all kinds of things out there while running a tight football ship. But that approach has its positives, judging by his public staying power.
I know you had some difficult moments with my friends in the Chicago Bears media corps. But please don’t hold that against my friends in the University of Illinois media corps.
Yes, football is important. And yes, it requires serious dedication.
But it’s supposed to be fun. It must have been when you were starting out in football, and became passionate about it.
And remember, all of my friends in Illini Nation want nothing but the best for you.