Praise and Criticism of Athletic Department and Coaching Staff

Praise and Criticism of Athletic Department and Coaching Staff

  • Fair enough new topic. It would be great if this was used as opposed to the recruiting forum. I was thinking a bit more about Mike Thomas. During what has been described as the Thomas Reign of Terror (2011-2015), the University of Illinois won Big Ten championships in all four 2015 men's spring sports: baseball, tennis, track and field, and golf. I am not sure how often that has happened, but I am sure someone can tell us.

    During his time as AD, Illinois Football went to two bowls and appeared in the NCAA tournament. There were top ten national finishes in baseball, volleyball, men's golf, men's track and field, men's tennis, wrestling, and men's gymnastics. While Thomas was the Director of Athletics at UI, he is credited with putting programs in place that elevated the overall student-athlete GPA average from 3.05 to 3.25. He also increased annual student-athlete community service hours from 5,000 to 7,000.

    In 2014, Thomas was awarded the University of Illinois Award for Communications and Marketing Excellence. In 2015, Thomas received the Western Illinois University Alumni Achievement Award. Football had a record of 24-38 and in basketball had a record of 95-74 with Groce as his coach. (This followed the Weber years at 210-101 with 6 NCAA appearances.) Thomas is sometimes described as the worst ever. Should that description be limited to the revenue sports win loss records?

  • Discussion
  • MT is considered worst ever not because of minor sports but because of 3 coaches he hired (maybe 4?) in FB, MBB and WBB? Nobody would hire on to work with him that knew him or wasn’t desperate. His success was due to the work of people before him.

  • First week in June, Coach Smith accepted a 10-percent cut in pay for six months. It will cost Smith $200,000 according to the school. Last year, the coach pulled in $4 million according to the USA Today coaches salary database.

    “Out of our personal commitment to demonstrating that shared responsibility, I, along with all five of our vice chancellors, have volunteered to take a 10-percent pay reduction for the next six months... This savings will be directed specifically to our Illinois Cares: COVID-19 Emergency Support Fund to assist students in need. And I am very proud to announce that Director of Athletics Josh Whitman, Coach Lovie Smith and Coach Brad Underwood have stepped forward and volunteered to take the same reduction.” said Illinois chancellor Robert Jones.

    Other colleges have followed the lead. Is it enough of a pay cut?

  • Enough? $200,000 For him will not cause any worries about what he will eat because of it. Different impact of $200K out of $4M vs $3k out of a $60k salary. It is the thought as he is under no obligation to give back any of his salary. Same for all of them.

    Side note, people whose livelihoods come from sports might want to reconsider how much everything costs as people adapt to the “new normal” and realize our lives go on without sports just fine. Just like FBI lowered the price of buying athletes, this virus may force lower prices on attending sporting events thus lowering the pile of money to pay labor, rent, etc....

  • mabprudence said... (original post)First week in June, Coach Smith accepted a 10-percent cut in pay for six months. It will cost Smith $200,000 according to the school. Last year, ...

    I wish they got rid of 10% or more of the overpaid chanclers and other useles admin and tell the president to find his own place to live

  • mabprudence said... (original post)Fair enough new topic. It would be great if this was used as opposed to the recruiting forum. I was thinking a bit more about Mike Thomas. Durin...

    What I believe this tells us is that we can recruit and perform at conference and sometimes national championship level with the right HCs and staff. There's really no overwhelming negatives about the school, location or facilities. It's all about making the right hires....

  • Bob success on occasion, but not really sustained success in the revenue sports on any consistent basis, right?

    When fans talk about lack of success in recruiting Chicago, why do folks fail to mention that North Western is the local B1G school? Similarly, Notre Dame is only 96 miles away from Chicago whereas Champaign is 136 miles away, so why would a Chicago recruit consider U of I its hometown school?

  • SW, the pay cut won't kill the head football coach or the AD; however, it was a nice gesture. Ironically, Illinois was one of the first schools to do so and many have followed its lead. Nice to be leading in something, right?

  • SW: The 3 coach hires were bad for Illinois. Groce seems to have turned around Akron with a 24-7 record. If he keeps it up, he may be a candidate for a P5 job again in the immediate future.

    Beckman was a disaster. But to be fair, his term at Illinois evolved into a career ending death sentence with only 4 B1G wins and a player abuse scandal.

  • mabprudence said... (original post)SW, the pay cut won't kill the head football coach or the AD; however, it was a nice gesture. Ironically, Illinois was one of the first sch...

    Nice gesture is correct. So can we post that we are #1?

    Not that it is any of my business, my question before praising them is did they cut back on other charitable contributions and just reallocate or is this really a short-term pay cut?

  • mabprudence said... (original post)SW: The 3 coach hires were bad for Illinois. Groce seems to have turned around Akron with a 24-7 record. If he keeps it up, he may be a candidat...


    It was time to move on from Groce, but MAN did he have some tough breaks
  • SW: Good point. Many of us whose income has been affected by COVID have scaled back our charitable donations. Hard to say what Coach Smith has done; however, I personally can't judge him if he did cut his donations.

  • COVID is likely to force Illinois not to play as mentioned in the other threads. This will pose a huge issue for the AD because Football and basketball help fund the other sports. Title 9 requires attention to women's sports. Without the football revenue, the whole athletic department may face serious issues.

  • mabprudence said... (original post)COVID is likely to force Illinois not to play as mentioned in the other threads. This will pose a huge issue for the AD because Football and bas...

    This is true for pretty much every school. We are not unique in this regard.

  • JMS, U of I is not unique as it applies to other programs provided you are referring to other programs trying to claw out of the bottom to change the status quo. That is a totally different position than Blue Blood programs who currently enjoy getting the top recruits.

    Trying to change the status quo has required the current U of I staff to rely on transfers and recruiting the best players (that want to play for U of I) regardless of zip code. As you know, many on this board do not agree with that strategy. That's why (in my opinion) Illinois needs to win this year to affirm that their recruiting strategy is the correct one for U of I. The elimination of the season promotes the status quo and thus helps the blue-bloods while doing nothing to silence the critiques of this staff.

    I said it over a year ago, this staff sold out to win in 2020. Not winning in 2020 and proving the critics wrong, hurts the perception of this staff badly. It is analogous to a major recession. It hurts everyone, but the folks who are already rich are in a better position to survive than the poor.

  • "That's one thing I really don't understand about the way Lovie builds his staff... It's much like a bombardier on a bomber. You don't get paid for bringing home bombs, like you don't get to pocket what you don't spend on staff...."

    Bob: This is much more simple than many suspect. Coach Smith is very grateful for having been given a chance to break into coaching at a time that it was rare for an African American coach to get on the track of head coach projection. Once he became a head coach, he recognized the benefit in giving other minorities the chance to succeed. The only way to do that is to give them experience.

    Fast forward to 2020: Coach Smith feels tremendous pressure to succeed at Illinois as its first minority head coach. Along with this role, he wants to give other young minority coaches as much opportunity as possible. He feels that if he fails in either role, it will set back not only the program, but the career path of African American Coaches.

    This is not something shared exclusively with me. Read some of the 2019 and 2020 articles where he has stated all of the above. Coach Smith has great confidence in his ability to mentor players and coaches. He said he could win at Illinois in 5 years. Wittman said Okay, do it! Now that Coach Smith has Illinois at 6-6 regular season, are folks getting nervous that in 2020 he will do just that, have a winning record? (Almost an impossible task now without playing a non-conference season in 2020.)

    Recruiting Resources: Every coach has to decide. How much do you spend on the kids who are unlikely to come to Illinois. Illinois caught a lot of flak in not pushing harder and devoting more resources to secure Warren and Thompson. Both would have boosted recruiting class ranking.

    The staff knew neither would be accepted at Illinois. Same is true for some others. In order to get qualified 5 star recruits to choose Illinois over OSU, Alabama, Clemson, LSU, etc, Illinois would have to cheat. Say what you want, but this staff is not willing to go down that path.

    This post was edited by mabprudence 4 months ago

  • https://www.news-gazette.com/sports/peters-making-strides-amid-pandemic/article_ae6c9967-fcc5-5de3-8165-ba6aa68d2679.html?utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter&utm_campaign=user-share

    Scott Richey has a nice article about how Brandon Peters has improved his physique. As I recall, I mentioned this in perhaps the 2020 thread back in February. Body by Lou has helped improved Brandon's chances at playing on the next level in 2021.

    This post was edited by mabprudence 4 months ago

  • mabprudence said... (original post)COVID is likely to force Illinois not to play as mentioned in the other threads. This will pose a huge issue for the AD because Football and bas...

    Not to mention the enormous amount of debt the Illinois athletic department carries compared to other schools (both in the Big Ten and nationally). We have to service well over $200,000,000 and that catches up to you even in the best of times; in the worst of times - uh...................................

  • mabprudence said... (original post)Bob success on occasion, but not really sustained success in the revenue sports on any consistent basis, right? When fans talk about lack of suc...

    Based on the number of students that come from the player's high school, mab. WAyyyyyy back when came to UIUC, there was a school called Homewood Flossmoor that was typically the best academic HS South of Hinsdale. The had a graduating class of about 1,000, and about 400 of them went to UIUC. There were similar numbers for other high quality HS like the Maine Township Schools (at that time). Far fewer went to ND or NW, let alone Michigan.

    When they came to Urbana, as they do now, they had a built in "cheering section" and didn't have to worry about feeling alone.

    That made us the "home team" for those players in the "golden triangle" of HS FB talent that went from Kankakee to Aurora to North Chicago. Pretty much all the blue chippers in Illinois were in that triangle. Most are today as well. Having a lot of your friends at a school can make a BIG difference if a recruiter knows how to play it. It's just another recruiting advantage Lovie's staff doesn't seem to know how to play very well...

  • mabprudence said... (original post)First week in June, Coach Smith accepted a 10-percent cut in pay for six months. It will cost Smith $200,000 according to the school. Last year, ...

    That wasn't a "pay cut" the way you described it, mab. It's an "on behalf of" contribution by an employer, pre-tax. Some accountants out there may correct me on this, but if he accepted the pay and donated it to his cause only about $10K would've been deductible under current tax law. He probably wouldn't have been able to deduct any of it since his other deductible taxes and contributions probably used up his deduction anyway. By doing it this way he's not losing a thing if he wanted to contribute to this cause. The cost to the UI is the same.

    Bottom line is that it's likely that the "cause" benefited the most, the university and AA had no benefit from this, and the Feds were cheated out of revenues they desperately need at this time due to the pandemic.

    Sorry, but this is no cause for praise for Lovie except from the group getting his money....

  • mabprudence said... (original post)"That's one thing I really don't understand about the way Lovie builds his staff... It's much like a bombardier on a bomber. ...

    "Once he became a head coach, he recognized the benefit in giving other minorities the chance to succeed. The only way to do that is to give them experience."

    Mab, some years ago I was brought into the CPS capital program to improve quality and better serve the students and community. Part of the vision of the program was to bring minority and disadvantaged firms to the level of quality we needed for success. A big part of it was NOT putting the firm in a position in which they couldn't succeed based on their skills and talent. In short, we hired those who could succeed with the extra effort we put in to teach them how to successfully manage the projects, manage personnel and provide work that was of high technical quality. We also assembled teams that didn't have too much "dead weight" with a good mix of experienced and novice team members. I provided initial and frequent input to them to help them produce a quality product efficiently and on schedule. If I'd just brought in a bunch of minimally qualified minority firms I wouldn't have had enough time to properly mentor up a few of them and make them successful to move forward. We ALL would've failed...

    This is the flaw I see in Lovie's assembling staff. A person who has done this minority opportunity program successfully would've hired top recruiting and technically experienced and successful coordinators and brought in one or two coaching "projects" at position coaching. The coordinators would then mentor them and they would become part of the "coaching tree" for those coaches and Lovie.

    Lovie's made poor decisions as to his hire's "potential" and it seems the major criteria for hire was primarily race, former associations with Lovie, and NFL experience that in no way prepared them to be successful in P5. I believe turnover is evidence of that.

    Lovie is paid A LOT to make Illinois a successful program to the best of his ability. It seems he has other higher personal priorities, as did Lou Tepper.

    Working for equal racial opportunity is a noble cause, but as I've written before it's "AND", not "OR" as it seems to be with Lovie....

  • brucestruggles said... (original post)Not to mention the enormous amount of debt the Illinois athletic department carries compared to other schools (both in the Big Ten and nation...

    Isn't that $200,000,000 capital debt that's secured by donation commitments and not payable from taxpayer supported funds? If they're accumulating much of that debt for operations, or any significant amount that can't be repaid within a year, that's a BIG problem.....

    Over the years I've worked with some non-profits that were to fully fund certain capital projects like museums and observatories. The rules we always had to follow was that we needed all funding for the project IN HAND before proceeding (not just "pledges"), as well as five years of operating expenses.

    Does anyone know if capital projects like the Smith FB center and other "named" facilities are required to meet those requirements by the BOT?

  • PPBob said... (original post)"Once he became a head coach, he recognized the benefit in giving other minorities the chance to succeed. The only way to do that is to give them ...

    Great hot take. Lovie the minority failure leader...

  • wewillwint said... (original post)Great hot take. Lovie the minority failure leader...

    Hey, what minority coaches has he mentored at Illinois (or with the Bears or Bucs for that matter) that went on to bigger and better things? Just putting minority out there wo can't make a career of it doesn't accomplish much. Helping those that CAN succeed in P5 and beyond is what counts, and that's a VERY thin book for Lovie at Illinois.....

  • Bob: I am sure Coach Smith could answer your questions directly. I simply am not going to put any effort into deciphering exactly what Coach Smith means other than the obvious. But perhaps even you would probably agree that one could disagree as to definitions of "minority"... (Rivera) "coaching tree"... , "accomplishment" etc.

    What I can say from experience is that coaching is a close knit fraternity with few opportunities for anyone (regardless of race) to get a foot in the door. I can assure you, those assistants currently on the staff are very grateful for the opportunity. Soon, and very soon Illinois will either succeed or fail on the field (assuming there is a season.)

    If Illinois does not win, the boo birds will have another coach to criticize concerning recruiting, hiring, and on the field decisions. If they do win, they probably will still end up with a new coach sooner rather than later. In any event, Illinois fans will always think that they deserve better.

  • mabprudence said... (original post)Bob: I am sure Coach Smith could answer your questions directly. I simply am not going to put any effort into deciphering exactly what Coach Smi...

    We all want Lovie to succeed. Assuming he is successful this year, I can see Lovie hanging around for anywhere from 1-3 years. Do you have any insight regarding when and under what circumstances Lovie might/will retire?