Two Steps Forward.......Three Steps Back.

Two Steps Forward.......Three Steps Back.
The rebuild of the Illinois football program continues as they drop a tough 34-31 loss in overtime to Purdue.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


I always knew that coaching searches involved quite a bit of stress, but nothing compares to the one that University of Illinois Athletic Director Mike Thomas is putting forth. This search keeps getting more and more wacky by the day, and it appears just when there is movement and a possible decision has been made, a snag develops and nothing is done. Case in point with the way the past week has gone regarding the search.

First of all, the main choice of Thomas, Shaka Smart, turned down the offer to come to Champaign, instead opting to stay at Virginia Commonwealth, where he is comfortable and building quite a history. The next choice on the list, Butler's Brad Stevens, also turned down the Illini to remain the Bulldogs' coach. There was some confusion as to whether or not an offer was actually made to Stevens, but apparently he was in fact contacted and decided that where he was currently was good enough for him. You really cannot blame these coaches for wanting to stay put, especially since the U of I is undergoing some changes at the top of the administration, which is causing a lot of undue stress to many at the campus.

Which leads us to the current week and the three-ring circus that this has become. Once Smart and Stevens were out of the picture, Thomas set his sights on Ohio University coach John Groce, who just led the Bobcats to a Sweet Sixteen berth in the NCAA Tournament and came within an eyelash of knocking North Carolina to advance to the Elite 8 (the Tar Heels ended up winning in overtime). Groce was an assistant at Ohio State under Thad Matta and was responsible for recruiting Greg Oden, Mike Conley and Daequan Cook to Columbus. With all of the social media avenues out there today, things really can take on a life of its own, and this search certainly has fallen into that category. There was even talk of a press conference scheduled for Tuesday afternoon to announce Groce as the new Illini coach, but the Illinois Sports Information office quickly put that rumor to rest when it was revealed that there was no agreement in place after all. Apparently, one of the Illinois trustees is not backing the hire on a matter of racial issues. This dates back to when Tim Beckman was hired as football coach and the same trustee and another one, both of whom are African-American, wanted a minority candidate hired.

So, we wait yet another day for news of an imminent hire of a basketball coach at the University of Illlinois. It still appears that the new coach will be John Groce, but when that is officially announced is still anybody's guess at this point.

Stay tuned.

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