Jun 10, 2019

I'm gonna get a little rant-y. Any time I feel this rant-y I give myself 24 hours to see if it goes away, but it's still there. I don't think I can write the Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk (that's a real name) LLUOI post until I get this rant out of my head.

So, I'm a guy who does this thing where he gives a rating to Illini recruits. I chose to do this mostly for the football side. The ratings for Illini recruits seemed to be so incredibly lazy - nobody watched the film, nobody looked at the late offers that were coming in from high-end programs, they just saw "committed to Illinois with few offers" and applied a low three-star status.

This was not all the time, mind you. There's a flipside to it where we're adding a Plan C recruit in January because everyone else said no and the rating that the services gave this kid after his poor showing at a few June camps was spot on - the player was just not a Power Five player. But when that becomes the norm, when it's the assumption (I mean, the film is right there to be watched), I just felt like we needed a new rating system.

I'm really happy with how it's gone. Again, this is not because I'm some A+ film-review guy. I feel like anyone could do this. The reason the Illini classes are ranked so inconsistently is not bad film reviewers - it's because there's a system that doesn't really review film. Find out who the top schools are chasing, go out of your way to rank those players, build rankings based on which of those players choose which schools, profit. As I've said a dozen times, if I was setting up a business to build subscribers to my college football recruiting website, that's exactly how I'd do it. Who cares about the 17 Illini fans? We have 85,000 LSU fans who want information.

But it doesn't really tell us which players in the latest Illini class might be ready to impact the program sooner rather than later. It doesn't accurately "rank" our class because the majority of our players fall into the "not choosing between Alabama, Clemson, and Ohio State" category which is where all of the player evaluation is applied for those lists. All of that led me to start ranking our players. Not to rank them in relation to, say, Purdue and Wisconsin's classes. Simply to rank them from 1-25 (or, for a basketball class, 1-4). Instead of stars I chose Cruises, I made ten categories (because ranking a player either five, four, or three starts is insanity), so you get anywhere from 0.5 to 5 Tom Cruises. And when it gets really tight (I just ranked one guy 3.5 and another guy 4.0 and this next player seems to fall right between them), I'll break out the 3.75.

How has it worked out? Like most things here, pretty good for football, fairly poorly for basketball. I probably need to back up my "pretty good for football" claim, so here's some stats.

Four true freshmen started three or more games last season: Cornerback Jartavius Martin started eight games, nickel/safety Delano Ware started eight games, safety Sydney Brown started seven games, and tight end Daniel Barker started three games. So let's go composite rankings vs. Tom Cruises for the class and look for those four players.

Composite Rankings:

1. Calvin Avery
2. Verdis Brown
3. Reuben Unije
4. Coran Taylor
5. Khalan Tolson
6. Jordyn Slaughter
7. MJ Rivers
8. Kievan Myers
9. Julian Pearl
10. Carlos Sandy
11. Ezekiel Holmes
12. Kenyon Sims
13. Jartavius Martin
14. Daniel Barker
15. Sydney Brown
16. Kerby Joseph
17. Edwin Carter
18. Delano Ware
19. Nick Walker
20. Ron Hardge
21. Dylan Wyatt
22. Jakari Norwood
23. Matt Robinson
24. Jacob Hollins

Tom Cruises:

1. Calvin Avery
2. Verdis Brown
3. Sydney Brown
4. Kievan Myers
5. Daniel Barker
6. Jartavius Martin
7. Delano Ware
8. Ezekiel Holmes
9. Dylan Wyatt
10. Khalan Tolson
11. Jordyn Slaughter
12. Ron Hardge
13. Kenyon Sims
14. Coran Taylor
15. Carlos Sandy
16. Nick Walker
17. MJ Rivers
18. Jakari Norwood
19. Reuben Unije
20. Matt Robinson
21. Jacob Hollins
22. Kerby Joseph
23. Edwin Carter
24. Julian Pearl

First off, let's just say that this doesn't always happen. In 2017 I ranked Bennett Williams dead last on my list, applying 1.5 Tom Cruises, and he was on some freshman All American lists. I think my rankings hold up over time - I had Dele Harding as the best player in the 2016 class plus Stanley Green, Tymir Oliver, and Jake Cerny in the top five (along with since-transferred wide receiver Dom Thieman), and I believe that held true (the only guy I missed on in that class was Jake Hansen) - but they're not going to be accurate all the time. Again, it was my attempt to get to a better ranking of the players coming in since the national services seemed to not be paying attention to Illini recruits.

I've applied the same to basketball recruits... with less accurate results. I gave JCL 4.5 Tom Cruises (I started doing this in 2014 and I think Leron was the only player to receive 4.5 Cruises up to that point), but JCL clearly wasn't a 4.5 Cruise player. I also gave this guy named Giorgi Bezhanishvili 1.5 Cruises (although, in my defense, the only thing we had to go on at the time was a video of Giorgi dribbling around chairs).

Which finally gets me to my rant. When I started doing this in 2014, it was kind of new. "New" in the sense that the national sites rated the players and the nobodies like me just kind of left it up to them. I started rating Illini recruits in 2014 and now, 5+ years later, I really don't even put my ratings out on Twitter anymore. They would get lost in a land of 15 tweets telling you how the latest player to sign on at Illinois is "extremely skilled". It drives me... insane.

Take Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk. I'm walking around a farmer's market with my wife on Saturday and I see on The Deuce that Illinois had signed some guy named Bosmans-Verdonk who not one of us had ever heard of. I get home from the farmer's market, put some of the veggies in the fridge where they will go bad because that's the natural conclusion to the Saturday morning "we should eat more vegetables let's go to the farmer's market" conversation, fire up Twitter, and see tweets about how solid of a player we just landed. What? How? Because of a few Belgian YouTube videos where the evaluator has no idea about the competition? This race to be the first person to tell Illini fans that everything is going to be fine is INSANE.

12:13 pm "Illini sign completely unknown Belgian forward you've never heard of"

12:36 pm "Illini land great shooter with excellent court vision"

It doesn't work like that, people. Cursory film review means nothing. There's a reason no one has ever heard of this player and we're signing him in June after some of the freshmen have already moved onto campus. We missed on Quincy Guerrier and EJ Liddell last fall and then EJ Holyfield and Olivier Nkamhoua this spring so this was Plan E. In JUNE. If "great shooter with excellent court vision" can be said of this kid's film, it could be said of THOUSANDS of kids. Literally thousands.

All of that to say this: it's both. Do the recruiting services wildly underrate Illini recruits? Yes. And because we, the fanbase, know this to be true, has Illini fanfic Twitter overcorrected by declaring every player to be awesome? Yes.

Do both of those things drive me insane? Yes. When no one pays attention to Malik Turner's senior season offers (after he had already verballed to Illinois) and he doesn't get a ratings bump, it drives me nuts. This player is MUCH BETTER than his ranking, people. It would be so obvious if the recruiting services weren't so focused on the players going to the top schools. And when I give Casey Washington 1.5 Tom Cruises and people get angry and cite Malik Turner as an example of why all 2-star receivers are great, it drive me even more nuts. I'm not going for "declare every Illini recruit to be awesome" here, people. If you're doing that, it's so obvious that you're not evaluating - you're just telling the fans what they want to hear.

And if you're like-hunting on Twitter with rosy evaluations of players you learned existed 15 minutes ago you need to stopppppp. Stop misleading this broken and bruised fanbase. Don't you think we've been through enough? No, we don't need new siding or windows. STOP CALLING.

One final thought. Yes, I understand how this post reads. "Look at how great my amateur 2018 football evaluations were", followed by "buncha amateurs out here 'evaluating' recruits and misleading people". But it's the only way I could see to make my point. The evaluators DO ignore us, and that has opened up an avenue for like-hunters to feed you evaluations that you want to hear. And when they do that, they're only perpetuating this idea that everything is fine in Illini land, goodnight.

Everything is not fine. We have two mountains to climb. And adding unknown players on June 8th, more than likely, is not helping. We certainly need to give the staff credit for finding Giorgi, and that gives us some hope that they can do it again, so I remain patient as we watch this rebuild. I'm still excited for next season. But, adding a nobody in June almost never works. "Silky-smooth" or not.

I'm sorry to say that, but it's the truth.


Hoppy on June 10 @ 02:31 PM CDT

You are way more plugged in to random Illini fans and the different beat writers/evaluators so you may see the blind optimism more than I do.

However, I really am not sure why this rant came after the recent b-ball commit. Are people saying he will be the next Giorgi? Or an amazing player from day one? Or even be the 7th man?

All I’ve seen is that we just added the 12th guy to our depth chart to see if he ends up being really good or not. Saying he is silky smooth and has good vision are nice and all but I don’t think people (as far as I’ve seen) are saying “amazing pick-up!” “Plan A guy all the way!” “He will push for minutes early and often”. It’s mostly been, “low risk, high reward”, “redshirt candidate”, and “if it doesn’t work out, he can always transfer.”

If people are saying we just found the next Luther Head and getting the commitment in June is exactly where we should be, yeah, that’s blowing smoke. I just haven’t seen that.

Robert on June 10 @ 02:53 PM CDT

I don't know how the Twitter algorithms work. I don't know if it's because I searched for someone's name or whatever. But I get "{someone I follow} liked this" tweets added to my timeline all the time, often surrounding a topic I've been engaged in.

So even though I follow almost no one who gives Illini opinions on Twitter, the stuff gets retweeted and "liked" across my timeline quite often (many times by Illini players - I try to follow almost all of them). It happens enough, and the the tweets usually have enough likes, that I can get a read on the momentum behind Illini Fanfic Twitter.

(Which, I should note, isn't even my phrase. Someone else used it on Twitter and it made it's way across my timeline. But it's perfect. We're one of the worst three college programs (football + basketball) this decade, so of course "let's just pretend like everything is great" is going to creep in. Of COURSE someone is going to write an alternate ending.)

Hoppy on June 10 @ 06:29 PM CDT

Interesting. Thanks for the response. I’m guessing that means you have seen at least some posts indicating this pickup was a well thought out tactical move to get a guy that is REALLY good and many people have agreed. (Via likes)

Although, a like doesn’t always mean “I feel the same way you do, 100%!” It could simply mean they like the tone of that post and hope it works out.

Never know. ¯_(?)_/¯

Sweetchuck13 on June 11 @ 08:59 AM CDT

A little Twitter tip Robert - when in the mobile app, click on the stars in the upper right corner and switch back to "Latest Tweets". You'll be taken back to Twitter's original chronological timeline instead of their new algorithm where you see stuff people like even if you don't follow them. It's so much better - especially during a live game you're trying to follow.

illiniranger on June 11 @ 10:05 AM CDT

good advice. i recently did this and unfollowed virtually all Illini accounts, and this stuff never floats across my timeline.

AHSIllini32 on June 10 @ 04:22 PM CDT

I think you're twitter hunting if you think that's been the overwhelming reaction to this pickup.

Like you said, there's always going to be someone saying "everything is great" no matter what (hell some would tell you I'm one of them even though I'm not).

I've seen a pretty measured response to this pick up. His highlights show some skills. The staff kept their interest quiet for a while. There were other schools involved (I'm not going to list them since it's Premium info on illiniinquirer). There's a chance he provides us something. There's a chance he doesn't.

When adding international players, they are almost always "never heard of". They just don't get scouted by the recruiting services that much.

Finally, I'm not sure I can continue to pay to read this site (and no I wouldn't just clear my cookies and read it for free either) with the change of attitude here. I don't know if it's an over-reaction to everyone telling you you've been too positive before or what. Yes, I know there hasn't been a ton positive to write about and I'm not suggesting the "everything is great" approach you mentioned.

However, this is almost the opposite of that. It seems like you've pivoted to the "make sure everyone knows how much everything sucks and will continue to suck and don't try to see the positive in adding a player like BBV".l

ATOillini on June 10 @ 05:20 PM CDT

Agree 100%

mmyers74 on June 10 @ 05:50 PM CDT

I'm not sure I can continue to read your comments, with the rebuke you are offering of someone who has dedicated SO much of his "free" (less free, recently, finally, and overdue) time to Illini sports and it's fans. I don't know if it's an over-reaction to an article (actually, I do know that it is) or what.

This is almost the opposite of a useful comment. It seems like you've pivoted to "I'll pop in and if you write an article that is too negative for what I was hoping for, or whatever, I'll literally "politely threaten" to take my ball an go home."

Dude wrote this stuff for free for YEARS.

And here, you might pull your 'funding'. C'mon man. You're better than that.

Agree, Disagree, Make your points, and don't be silly.

Robert lays it bare, on the line. Respect.

ballislife17 on June 11 @ 10:28 AM CDT

Totally agree. Nothing bothers me more on these sites than people who threaten to leave if the content doesn't change. Listen AHS, nobody gives %$#^ if you stop paying for the site! Good riddance. Robert creates the content that he wants to and that is what makes illiniboard so uniquely awesome.

ballislife17 on June 10 @ 05:27 PM CDT

I love your point here Robert. Especially the second part. I just want to read accurate news, so I have an accurate idea of what to expect in the fall. Unfortunately, the rose colored glasses type news is obviously more popular with most Illini fans so they can get drunk on illini koolaid and avoid some of the realities we face.

While I do agree that players are often underrated by recruiting services, this is definitely less of a problem than the "positive spin news". Especially for basketball, I feel like the rating services do a pretty good job. Unlike football we haven't had many players outperform their ratings other than Giorgi and Malcolm Hill (who Eric Bossi said was his biggest missed eval in 2013) . Also Seth Coleman became a 4 star on 247 when he was originally rated in the 2000s, so I do think that post commitment evaluation does happen, but it's not perfect.

illiniranger on June 11 @ 10:11 AM CDT

if Illinois players are always underrated, how come they don't outplay their rankings at a higher rate than anybody else's recruits?

For every Malik Turner there is a highly rated player that washed out. I think recruiting rankings are fairly accurate top to bottom. They are looking at thousands of players, there are going to be some misses. But going by offer list is probably the most accurate gauge of a player's ability.

ballislife17 on June 11 @ 10:22 AM CDT

It sounds like you're agreeing with me. I don't buy that our players are underrated because we are Illinois lol. That's what the "excuse" part of the fan base believes.

thumpasaurus on June 11 @ 10:48 AM CDT

Our players aren't underRATED because we're Illinois, they're underSCOUTED because we're Illinois. They're underEVALUATED because we're Illinois.

This is Robert's point: nobody's going to spend that much time evaluating a guy whose best offer was Illinois. I think Robert's right on the money, and there's just as many Illini commits that were OVERrated because of the lack of attention paid to them as there were those that were underrated.

ballislife17 on June 11 @ 12:05 PM CDT

I agree with you to a degree. Our players are not evaluated as much as Alabama players...sure. But we do have examples of players like Seth Coleman who jumped from 2 star to 4 star so they do get evaluated.

Dr. Chim Richalds on June 10 @ 05:47 PM CDT

I have to say I appreciate the honesty of this post, especially understanding that you know in advance you'll get some criticism for it (this will also happen anytime you write anything negative - see the level of complaining for just mentioning that we lost 63-0 to a 6-4 team on Homecoming).

While I think this post (perhaps intentionally, perhaps unintentionally) paints the "what a great pickup" opinion a bit too much as the dominant reaction from fans, I do agree to the extent the overall point is a more global one about a turn certain Illini fans have taken over the past year or two. The line about the race to tell people that everything is fine and "all part of the plan" seems quite true - just look at the number of people claiming when MJ Rivers transferred that the staff had known it for months and already had the next move in motion. It's been a month now, Stevens and Fink aren't coming, and we're left with 6 returning pass attempts and the hope to be chosen over Bowling Green and Miami (Ohio) by a QB who doesn't fit the system. Not saying any of the available QBs won't be the answer, or that BBV can't be another Giorgi, but not acknowledging that the QB situation or this basketball signing wasn't the staff's long term plan is willfully ignorant.

I've actually been a bit critical in the past of this site's commitment to believing "it's all part of the plan," particularly when something like 6 basketball players leaving after the coach's first season happens, so it's been refreshing this year to see a bit less blind faith that our coaches and administrators have it all figured out. I think there's plenty of space for acknowledging the reality of the situation, giving honest opinions, and hoping for the best for the team and the players.

Bear8287 on June 11 @ 03:47 AM CDT

just mentioning that we lost 63-0 to a 6-4 team on Homecoming

Yeah, I'm glad that you brought that up. I knew there was something missing from this post and I just couldn't quite put my finger on it.

I think that every post that Robert writes where he doesn't mention that game, you should be sure to mention it in the comments section.

thumpasaurus on June 11 @ 06:03 AM CDT

Robert’s point could easily be translated as “I’m sick of being told 63-0 isn’t a big deal and in fact it’s probably dangerous for Professional Takemongers to insist that 63-0 isn’t a big deal”

thumpasaurus on June 11 @ 09:13 AM CDT

For every dollar withheld by people hoping for content more in line with the ideology of Illini juche, I'll donate three.

I've been reading Robert's stuff since my search for the meaning of the 2009 implosion led me to A Lion Eye, and his macro-view attitude towards Illini sports hasn't really changed. What has changed is that two programs that once inspired so much hope and still have some promising components are throwing up red flag after red flag. Robert knows that blocking out those red flags with his hand doesn't make them go away.

If anything, I've noticed that having an opinion contrary to most of what he sees in the Illiniverse compels Robert to share that opinion in order to bring balance to said Illiniverse.

AHSIllini32 on June 11 @ 09:50 AM CDT

No one has suggested Robert pretend red flags aren't there. Part of what made Robert so fun to read was that he didn't get lost in the minutia of what likes he saw on Twitter. He had his opinion and wrote as a fan. Lately, he's been writing more like he's responding to replies on a message board.

Robert was also routinely chastised for taking his "it takes X years until we really know if a rebuild works" stance. It seems as though he's now decided to go the other route and just assume nothing will work until it works without providing the level-headed breakdown of events that led all of us to love his writing to begin with.

thumpasaurus on June 11 @ 10:27 AM CDT

He hasn't made any statements anywhere near as definitive as "assuming nothing will work."

He has, however, suggested that we are in territory not historically occupied by programs that end up succeeding. Yes, yes, I know, David Cutcliffe and John Beilein exist, but so do Darrell Hazell and Jeff Bzdelik.

illiniranger on June 11 @ 10:18 AM CDT

the funny thing is, Robert doesn't even acknowledge all the red flags! he treats the programs with kid gloves for the most part, which is fine because he's always stated this is a fan site, it's not supposed to be a windsock that is constantly evaluating the fitness of the coaches, players, etc. In fact, i can't remember him ever being critical of a player in this space. Which i think is good. and yet he still comes in for criticism for not being sufficiently optimistic.

Every warning light is flashing red with the football program. 9-27 overall, 4-23 in the B1G, recruiting classes that went 10, 12, 13, and 13 (currently, but still very early) in the B1G. Those big picture facts are hard to reconcile with and remain optimistic about the short to mid term prospects of the football team.

AHSIllini32 on June 11 @ 10:26 AM CDT

Well this rant is about a basketball recruit so the football recruiting class rankings should be a separate thing.

Also, your point would hold more merit regarding the class ranking if you used average star rating to mitigate class size which has a sizeable impact on class ranking.

illiniranger on June 11 @ 10:40 AM CDT

our average star rating last year was like 13 of 14 in the B1G.

illiniranger on June 11 @ 10:45 AM CDT

sorry, it was 13/14 on original signing day. it got up to 8/14 on the second signing day. an average of the B1G rank and the average rank would be 10.5, which probably puts the class in the bottom 4 or so of the league.

CubsInOctober on June 11 @ 10:51 AM CDT

I haven't posted here for a long freaking time. Like in, uh, maybe after the first year of the IB resurrection. Although I have checked the site from time to time, it has been a while as well.

What a change in tone and "body language." Even in the ever optimistic Super Fan aka A Lion Eye. Unfortunately, that is where we are right now. We can dissect, analyze and rationalize all we want. One simple fact, which is finally getting to even the most optimistic die-hard Illinois fans is that BB and FB have been a total failure, and the future doesn't look good.

And the fans are losing patience and interest. For the first time since late 1990s, essentially when Al Gore invented the Internet, I don't subscribe to any Illinois sports board. And, I haven't attended any Illinois FB or BB game for several years now because, yes, we all have choices.

The 3-year, 5-year or whatever year rebuilding process for BB and FB hasn't worked. Now, in the middle of the fourth year of the 5-year FB rebuilding process, it feels like the first year of rebuilding again with basic pieces missing (like a QB or WRs who are worthy of high MAC level offers, much less P5).

Brad Underwood, who should really be doing better than he has at Illinois on the court and in recruiting, has been a major disappointment. Yeah, he sounds and looks like the University of Illinois Basketball Head Coach from Central Casting. Yes, he was great at Stephen Austin/Austin Peay/whatever school in KY/TX/TN. He straddled both ends of the suckiness/awesomeness spectrum at OSU before doing enough at the end to attract Slim, uh I meant, Josh Whitman's attention.

But, the results speak for themselves. He has under-performed and is on his way to make John Groce look like, well, Bruce Weber and Bruce Weber look like Bill Self.

Why am I ranting in my first post in about 10 years? Well, because I am mad. But, I am also ranting because I want people to start getting mad and demand accountability not only from the coaches, but our beloved AD. I love the concept of hiring one of our own, but there is a reason why the guy was figuring out Coke vs. Pepsi in the beat-up vending machine in the staff's lounge and how to finder a supplier for cheaper paper clips at Wash U, a fine university if you want to be a doctor, but not exactly a power house in FB or BB - even in Division 3.

This season for BB and FB is a critical one not only for Underwood and Smith, but for Whitman. If we don't see real and significant progress, which means the dance for BB and at least 6 wins for FB, it is time to clean house. Underwood gone, Lovie gone and Whitman gone.

And, it is a very long shot. But, throw as much money as we can throw at Jim Phillips, get on our knees and beg him for mercy for not hiring him at Illinois as the AD-in-waiting when he was at NIU. Northwestern saw the future star in Phillips. RG either was too tone-deaf and tuned out to see it or was too threatened by Phillips to agree to hire him as the AD in waiting.

If RG didn't get in the way of blocking Jim Phillips from coming to Illinois, we would have been singing a much different tune today.

orangejulius on June 11 @ 11:17 AM CDT

If BU was recruiting well otherwise and not picking up last minute unknowns from Belgium, possibly you could let it pass. But the recruitment of TJ Holyfield said a lot about BU. This was set up on a tee for BU. He recruited the kid, coached the kid, started him every game his freshman year, and we could offer all the PT he could handle. We've got a chance to be a top 25 team. Yet, the kid doesn't want to play for BU. Why? Well probably the same reason all the other kids don't want to play for BU.

uofi08 on June 11 @ 11:51 AM CDT

I think both programs can be summed up as "not going to plan." Football enters year 4 without a QB or WRs, and a terrible defense. Basketball has had back to back losing seasons and a tournament drought for a length almost unheard of for this program. Both programs pushed out quality players to force freshman into difficult roles. On the recruiting side, football has yet to crack the top 10 in conference recruiting class rankings. Crazy for a 5 mil per year big name splash hire. Basketball has signed 1 recruit in the last 2 classes in the fall signing period. The basketball roster has turned over so significantly and taken such a strange turn, that they now have more international freshman signed this spring than they have instate scholarship players on the entire roster (3 vs 2).

Nobody in their right mind can think that a true frosh ATH was the grand plan at QB in year 4. Nobody can make a good argument for late spring signings being the grand plan when it comes to building a B1G basketball roster. There's just so much wrong with both programs, and yet so many people want to defend and rationalize everything: turnover of football coaches, transfers, recruiting misses, late signings, etc.

A lot of people will take this post as "hating" but I can still see a way for both programs to turn it around. I think basketball has a legit chance of turning the corner. They've shown glipses and won some big games. If they can figure out recruiting, I think Underwood can work. Lovie, I'm much more worried about. He has about as easy a non-con schedule as a P5 team can have. If he can't get to 6 wins this year, it's over.

IlliNYC on June 11 @ 12:32 PM CDT

Honestly the way this staff recruits is just not well matched with the way Robert thinks about recruiting. It's certainly not RSCI-based, so it's not surprising that he's finding it challenging.

I'm personally just trying to get used to this staff's recruiting style. It's hard to evaluate. I mean, they've landed 2 of the highest rated (Ayo & Kofi) recruits we've gotten and on the other hand recruiting seems like a mess. Still they've quickly compiled a roster that is (seems?) poised for a tournament bid. I think I've always had a "Jimmy Collins" vision for recruiting--get into Chicago and land the top kids in the state. But, instead, this staff seems to rely on pulling in guys from across the world, plus locking down the MIF relationship.

Anyway, if this team makes the tournament and they land Adam Miller, I'll be pretty sold.

McAdoo on June 11 @ 07:09 PM CDT

Barring a 3-9 or worse dumpster fire season (Which, to be honest, could happen), I think Lovie is safe. Why? Whitman has to be thinking about job security right now. What happens if Whitman fires Lovie, and then basketball is bad? It isn't just Underwood who is then sent packing, it's Whitman too. If Whitman can latch on to any excuse to keep Lovie, I think he will since he knows in the back of his mind that he may have to fire Underwood to keep the wolves at bay for one more year. Of course, that extra year is another year of salary for one Mr. Whitman. Even if Illinois just goes 4-8, I think Lovie stays. I can see the comments from Whitman now... "We had a young team, we were just a position or two away from winning 6 or 7 games this year. Give our coaching staff another year and I feel like they'll have either better or improved players in those spots. I'm confident in Lovie Smith and this coaching staff, that's why I'm keeping him on board as head coach for 2020."

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