It's time for another edition of the Wednesday mailbag. We'll start off today with some responses to Tuesday's post about what Illinois coach Tim Beckman needs to do in 2014 for Illini fans to want him back in '15.
Gary T. from Huntsville, Alabama, writes: This is most certainly the last year for Beckman if he doesn't get to at least a six-win season. This would be very surprising given the talent he has and the schedule the Illini play. As an alum, though, I would rather have a clean program with good kids than a 10-win season with players being arrested. ... Given my long history as a Cubs fan and an Illini fan, please just make them entertaining.
Mark M. from Palatine, Illinois, writes: Nothing he can do would make me want to bring him back. It hurts me to say I almost hope he only wins three or four games so we can finally get rid of him. I am tired of reading about the potential Illini recruits and seeing that the only other schools pursuing them are schools like Toledo, Ball State, Western Michigan, South Dakota State, etc. What a joke!
Tony from Wauconda, Illinois, writes: What would it take for Tim Beckman to excite the Illini nation? I think six wins and a mediocre bowl game would be enough if Illinois played and beat another Power 5 team. At the end of Ron Zook's run, bowl wins over Baylor and UCLA at least let Illini fans feel like our team was helping the B1G from being embarrassed in bowl season. Six wins means Illinois either wins three games in conference or else gets two conference wins with a nice road win in Pac-12 country. That would be enough to secure Beckman's job and probably get a few more people to buy tickets. ... If they can consistently score around 30 points a game I think more fans might show up to watch an exciting offense. I have high hopes for Wes Lunt working in that offense and hope that six or seven wins can happen this year.
Virgel from Valdosta, Georgia, writes: I hope that the Illini do better. I mean, you know things are bad when Cubs fans have more hope for a World Series over Illinois making an upper-level bowl game. I must say, though, there are several little things to give a glimmer of hope, but it all needs to come together. I have been stationed in Valdosta, Georgia, for seven years now and all I have ever wanted is for Illinois to make a bowl game in Florida. Besides, I need Illinois to do better; it is hard to wear an Illini shirt in the crossroads of Auburn, Florida, Florida State and Georgia.
Brian Bennett: As you can see, a lot of Illini fans need to see a bowl game this year from their team in order to get behind a Year 4 for Beckman. Of course, they won't be making that decision; athletic director Mike Thomas will. Three years used to be way too short of a time period to fire a coach, but everything is accelerated these days. As Tony points out, a six-win season would include either a solid nonconference win or a respectable 3-5 Big Ten record. That should absolutely secure Beckman a fourth season. A five-win campaign in Champaign will make things very interesting, and anything less could spell the end of Beckman's tenure.
Ron from Michigan writes: Hey, Brian, I read your article on the possibility of an early signing period for students. In general, I think it's a good idea for someone to commit sooner than February, but there is a major drawback that I'm concerned about. Many ADs make their final decision to fire a head coach depending on the outcome of the bowl game that is played in December. For instance, Dave Brandon fired Rich Rodriguez after the humiliating loss to Mississippi State, and if someone committed already to that coaching staff, it may not go over well for the kid when the new staff comes aboard.
Brian Bennett: That's a good point, Ron, and one that colleague Rod Gilmore expounds upon in this piece. I definitely see the potential problems for players who sign early, only to see the head coach leave or get fired. Whatever line people might feed you about players committing to a school and not the coach is simply a bunch of bull. So I would want to see one important clause instituted in any early signing period: If there is a significant coaching change (head coach or coordinator) after the player signs, he would have the right to renounce his letter of intent and be eligible to sign again in the February period. Some players might still stick to their original school in that scenario, but at least they'd have the freedom to make the decision.
Jesse from Minneapolis writes: What chance do you see Minneapolis securing the NCAA Final Four in the near future? We only need one domino to fall, and that already happened with Super Bowl LII being awarded to Minnesota. If Minneapolis gets to host the Final Four, are we virtually a lock to host other big-time sporting events like the college football championship game? Do you think that would be enough to persuade B1G officials to start rotating the conference championships for both football and basketball?
Brian Bennett: I have written that the Midwest should host a College Football Playoff championship game and that Minneapolis is an excellent option. Indianapolis would be just as good. I'd say the odds are pretty good that Minneapolis will get a Final Four, and along with the Super Bowl, that gives the city a great opportunity to show it can host huge events. I just don't know if the Big Ten title game will be coming to the Twin Cities any time soon. The league really likes the central location of Indianapolis and how well that city has put on the game so far. It might just stay there for a while.