Illinois Fans Are Morose, But At Least They're Right

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↵Ron Zook is mostly known as a recruiter-albeit one ↵who can't recruit right now-and a frat-attacking, water-skiing, ↵terrible football coach. Last year his charges came off a disappointing ↵5-7 season with renewed purpose, a senior Juice Williams, and this ↵year's #2 draft prospect at wide receiver. They went 3-9 in year five. ↵

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↵Zook thinks a major problem with Illinois are the people who think ↵this is not so good: ↵

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↵⇥"Sometimes I think as a university and as a group of fans, we shoot ↵⇥ourselves in the foot. The negative recruiting, it all stems from us, ↵⇥from our own people. Rather than getting behind the program, they want ↵⇥to start lambasting it. ↵⇥

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↵⇥''The negative recruiting was the worst I've ever seen it this year. ↵⇥But a lot of that is our own people. There's not enough people that ↵⇥believe this program can be where it can be. You're changing attitudes. ↵⇥You're changing beliefs. 'There they go again. They can't sustain it.' ↵⇥When you go back and look at what's happened the last 25 years, it's ↵⇥going to take a tough son of a [gun] to get through that." ↵⇥

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↵I don't think he said "gun." It's the little bracket ↵thingies. Dead giveaway. Probably said "hat," because I ↵imagine Ron Zook thinks hats can reproduce. This is a digression. ↵ ↵

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↵Here Zook asks Illinois fans to defy their own senses. The criticism ↵levied at the Illini program is a devastatingly true one. Two years ↵after Illinois makes a miraculous Rose Bowl, they go 3-9. The BCS bid ↵before that, when Kurt Kittner led Illinois to the Sugar Bowl, saw Ron ↵Turner fired three years later after going 5-7, 1-11, and 3-8. The last ↵time Illinois was even kind of good before that was John Mackovic's tenure in ↵the late 80s and early 90s, and after a couple good seasons he went off ↵to Texas. This ushered in the five year tenure of Lou Tepper, who never ↵went better than 7-5. The time before that, Mike White led the Illini to ↵a Rose Bowl in 1983, then never managed more than seven wins in the ↵remainder of a mediocre career that ended in NCAA scandal. ↵

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↵In fact, if you look over the long and generally undistinguished ↵history of Illinois football, the last burst of sustained success came ↵from 1950 to 1953, when the Illini went 7-2, 9-0-1, 4-5, and 7-1-1. If ↵you're younger than about sixty you've never seen Illinois be good for ↵two consecutive years. ↵

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↵So, yeah, it's hard to blame Illini fans. They'd have to be crazy to think ↵anything else. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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