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Why Bret Bielema is the only hope for Illinois Football



Illinois football

Illinois needs to stick with Bret Bielema for the foreseeable future.

Illinois football lost today, and fans are unhappy about how this season ended:

The season did not meet expectations.  No one knows this more than head coach Bret Bielema. There was a window for the Illini to succeed, and they didn’t. Wisconsin, Purdue, and Nebraska hired new coaches. Iowa was, well, Iowa. Yet, there were miscues, inconsistencies, and injuries this season. However, there is plenty of reason for optimism in Champaign. No, it’s not because it’s basketball season, either. There are several reasons why Illinois must stick with Bret Bielema.

Illinois football traditionally gives its football coaches time.

Bielema signed an extension last December, and given the history of his predecessors, they aren’t likely to fire him and pay a massive buyout. Illinois has had seven coaches in the last 30 years, so he should get at least five years. Lou Tepper got five years, Ron Turner got eight, Ron Zook got seven, Tim Beckman got three (there were allegations of player abuse, however), Bill Cubit got one (the AD at the time wanted Lovie Smith), and Lovie as mentioned above Smith got five years.

Barring a complete and total disaster, Bielema should get at least five seasons to coach. Despite how the season went, it is not the worst we’ve seen in Champaign:

If you want to say that he won with Lovie Smith’s recruits, then you have to say that he also developed Lovie Smith’s recruits. He got more out of Chase Brown, Jer’Zhan Newton, Devon Witherspoon, and Keith Randolph than Smith ever did.

Now for the word, no one wants to hear…patience.

Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater here. Illinois football had some bad beats this season. Some players did not perform up to standard this year. JUCO transfers Zy Crisler and Isaiah Adams were inconsistent, and Florida International transfer Demetrius Hill came to Illinois with much fanfare; he did not have much impact. Louisville transfer Nicario Harper was inconsistent as well. Altmyer took his lumps this year. The running back room turned into a MASH unit by season’s end.

At a program like Illinois, missing that much will hurt what you see on the field. Could you blame Bielema and the staff? You could, but let’s see what happens when many players return for a second year in the program.

Be patient. Put up the pitchforks and torches for at least one more season.



Armchair Illini is a comprehensive site dedicated to covering University of Illinois Athletics owned and operated by Alex Kyi. Dante Pryor has been writing about College Football for years on Saturday Blitz and is now the Lead Football Author for Armchair Illini.