Friday, February 09, 2007

Alanis Morissette on Line One, Coach

Call the Webster folks, their definition of irony is about to get a refresh.

The big story in the post-NLOI day flotsam is poor poor wronged Ron Zook. He just can't understand why people are looking askance at this year's recruiting effort. It baffles him that folks would wonder why highly-ranked prospects would want to play at a school in the middle of nowhere with bad facilities and next to zero fan interest. He wonders why people are raising their eyebrows at the ability of a guy who was mediocre at his previous coaching stop and (so far) downright horrible at this one to sway blue-chip players to cast their lot with the Illini. He's stupefied folks would assume wrongdoing from a school that has a laundry list of recruiting violations in major sports and a recruiting coordinator, Mike Locksley, who was at least proximately involved with at least one high-profile violation at his last port of call.

It's irresponsible, says he. There's no proof, says he. It's not right, says he.

Then in his next breath, he asks for rain on his wedding day.

It's no secret the IL folks think the Notre Dame coaching staff is behind all this. Apparently they're not shy saying it off the record, and the volume of articles in the past two days backs this up, including this one, for which I was interviewed but not quoted.

Never mind that Michigan and Ohio State have more to lose with IL being a recruiting power than ND does. Never mind that both those schools lost players to Zook this season as well. And never mind that Michigan has a history of being quick to tattle on their Illini brethren the minute they get uppity. It's Notre Dame's fault, dammit, because Charlie Weis is just plain terrified of the Coaching Juggernaut that is the Zooker.

Do they have any proof of ND's involvement? Not any more than their recruiting detractors do. But that's not stopping them from going to the media and whining about it and defaming ND just as Zook's critics are allegedly defaming him.

Illinois is just as good as "playing the game" as anyone else. Is it a coincidence the same day the NYT piece appeared, a corresponding puff piece on Arrelious Benn -- a player who had enrolled in December and who hadn't had anything newsworthy happen to him in the month he'd been in Champaign -- was run in the Washington Post? Local paper or no, I'm sure Locksley's connections from his Maryland days had nothing to do with it. After all, in a medium where every cent counts, the Washington Post has plenty of inches to spare on a story with no actual news in it.

The facts of the matter are these: (1) Ron Zook may be a good person and a great salesman, but he's also a horse-manure coach. (2) Illinois may be a great school, but it's a crappy football program with zero tradition or support and a history of not exactly keeping to the letter of the law NCAA-wise. If Zook or Guenther think they're going to pull a top-15 class into that environment after two seasons of 4-19 ball and no one is going to whisper, or if they think college football aficionados would need prompting by coaches to find that whole thing suspicious ... well, in the words of Dan Hawkins, go play intramurals, brother.

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Anonymous Kbyrnes said...

at Illinois, these players will

A) Be with guys they know and/or
B) Have the tantalizing promise of immediate playing time and
C) Not have to do hardly a lick of school work.

I think that last item, as politically incorrect as it might seem, is fairly significant.

2/09/2007 02:34:00 PM  
Anonymous bigtimedomer said...

Illinois = gnat.

2/09/2007 06:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Coffey, you STILL crack me up!!!


2/09/2007 07:42:00 PM  
Blogger El Kabong said...


Long way from the Fifer days, eh?

2/09/2007 09:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Joe said...

I am sure that Zook can point towards the renovations at Memorial Stadium, which has had quite a bit of fan support, as well as the indoor facility they built around 2000. The facilites at Illinois aren't exactly crap. As a kid who grew up in the shadows of Champaign, I know the amount of bandwagon fans in the area who will support a winner as well.

However, as an Illini fan, I can see where the critics are coming from. But to be honest, this recruiting season has been especially bad for all involved. From the last minute recruiting changes to all of the talk about the Illini, I can't wait until this recruiting season is over and we can all just move on to the real football on the field. As an ND grad who also is a big Illini fan, I realize that even with the last minute defections, Weis will win, and even with the great recruits, the Illini will get to the level of a mediocre bowl team in about two seasons.

2/10/2007 10:09:00 PM  

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