We always, ALWAYS, get excited and hyped up for college football and opening day for the Fighting Illini. Doesn’t matter where the team is projected to finish, what holes the roster has, how suspect they may have been the previous year… This is part of what it means to be a fan. You’re positive and optimistic at the onset, ready to support your team and hope for more wins, more progress, more glory.
For Illini football, this has been especially difficult the last two decades. Wins have been in short supply, consistency – forget about it. At least there’s been excitement with a couple of unexpectedly good seasons. Robert sums it nicely over at A Lion Eye. The Orange and Blue have been schizophrenic on the football field, and as a result we’ve watched the likes of Iowa, Michigan State, and Wisconsin pass our programs up. Former AD Ron Guenther may have been good at balancing the books and upgrading facilities, but many of us are starting to understand just how lacking he was in vision and football team acumen.
As Robert says, Illini fans need to somehow forget the last 20 years and give the new guys a chance. AD Mike Thomas has cleaned house, bringing in Tim Beckman, John Groce, and others. There’s a new commitment to marketing the team and making the gameday experience an experience. And as for Coach Beckman, we all know he want to COMPETE! at everything. He’s also a man with a plan and a vision for how to build and manage a Big 10 football program. He doesn’t appear to have the obvious holes in his portfolio that plague our last three head coaches.
And for a die-hard Illini fan like me – well I only need a glimmer of hope to get excited again. Judging by attendance at Memorial Stadium on Saturday (I’ll estimate 30,000), more people are in wait-and-see mode. You can’t blame them – especially with the dire and rainy forecast.