Bret Bielema will not be solely undefeated on his Illini soccer honeymoon, he has struck the fitting chord usually.
His upbeat method has attracted a brand new “FAM-ILL-Y” of youthful, energetic staffers, whereas additionally influencing a dozen or extra UI seniors to make the most of a particular pandemic rule and play an extra season.
He’s pushing the fitting buttons with Illinois highschool coaches, media, donors and followers.
However each coach can use somewhat recommendation, and what follows is a baker’s dozen of well-intended strategies and observations as we inch towards the autumn season of 2021.
(1) Lovie Smith believed in “one voice,” and restricted the appearances of his aides, aside from offensive coordinator Rod Smith.
Bret, you need to flip these new coaches unfastened. Flood the neighborhood with sharp spokesmen like Bart Miller, Aaron Henry and Terrance Jamison. They might fireplace up my lifeless fire. And so may Cory Patterson, who already is aware of his manner round.
(2) You’ll discover it exhausting to reconcile cable TV opinions that “China is our greatest enemy” with the truth that this campus has practically 9,400 worldwide college students, together with about 5,200 from China. Too dangerous they don’t play soccer as a result of they’d be simple to recruit.
(3) Don’t electrocute your self. Keep away from, by all means, all public discussions of a mascot or the departed Chief Illiniwek, now 14 years gone however nonetheless the Illini’s cultural third rail. Too many of us on campus have squandered an excessive amount of time wrestling with this.
(4) Talking of wrestling, phrase has circulated that you just’ve already visited Jim Heffernan’s grapplers. Subsequent time, test the volleyballers at Huff. Chris Tamas directs the No. 1 ladies’s sport on campus, they usually’re a part of a Massive Ten Convention that exhibits 9 NCAA champions since 2006. Illinois got here in second in 2011, and the final two champs at Stanford have been led by former UI coach Kevin Hambly.
(5) Verify when Shahid Khan is on the town and provides him a go to at Urbana Nation Membership. Khan has the NFL buzzing after bringing City Meyer out of retirement, and his Jacksonville Jaguars have the No. 1 NFL choose (Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence?) plus $100 million in salary-cap area.
(6) Gary Andersen, who adopted you as head coach at Wisconsin, was annoyed by UW’s excessive admissions requirements and left in a huff after dropping to Ohio State within the 2014 Massive Ten playoff. You’ll discover tutorial guidelines equally troublesome right here, notably with junior faculty transfers. Perhaps Josh Whitman could make a few of the institutional inroads that Barry Alvarez did after Andersen departed.
(7) Years ending in “1” typically have beautiful outcomes for Illini soccer. The 1951 group had just one unfavourable (a 0-0 tie at Ohio State) towards an ideal season, and defenders like Chuck Boerio (“Ship Ameche at me!”) and Al Brosky (29 profession interceptions) have been larger names than backfield stars Tom O’Connell and John Karras. Ron Turner’s 2001 group gave Illinois its final Massive Ten championship.
(8) Open group practices when doable. Followers and media reps will unfold the phrase, and don’t know sufficient to offer significant data to the opposition. As for decamping to Rantoul in August — they might bend over backwards — test it out and determine what’s finest.
(9) Put Krannert on the household agenda. There will probably be occasions that your two women will take pleasure in. You’ll be able to’t spend each minute on soccer. And there’s additionally Urbana’s Candy Corn Pageant and a number of musical occasions in downtown Champaign in July-August, if the pandemic relents.
(10) Be grateful that the brand new $80 million Smith Heart put Illinois close to the highest within the amenities conflict — large locker space, bowling alley, barber store — however don’t get too snug along with your two-sided fire. A heat fire typically makes me drowsy.
(11) Work to see that soccer opener in Dublin moved to Champaign. Even when COVID-19 guidelines gained’t enable a packed Memorial Stadium, it will be preferable to play Nebraska at residence … whatever the date.
(12) In making your rounds, don’t overlook the campus. Not that you would be able to attain 1,800 registered scholar organizations, however the north finish zone cries out for scholar spirit like basketball’s Orange Krush. There are many packed campus stop-offs — Ikenberry Commons, Illini Union, Actions and Rec Heart (ARC) — within the 3 miles from College Avenue on south to the Analysis Park.
(13) A soccer portal with 2,000-plus names is effervescent with doable fill-ins. Sure, transfers are good for the brief time period. However any effort towards a “FAM-ILL-Y environment” is finest served by athletes who really feel a honest connection right here and wish to construct a lifelong hyperlink with the college. Or is that thought simply an octogenarian babbling about a greater century?