I have a weakness in life, and I can’t shake it.
I’m a diehard University of Illinois sports fan. I can tell you every big win the football and men’s basketball teams have enjoyed during the last 30 years.
Granted, it’s not many, but you get the idea.
But, this is my formal announcement. I am renouncing my fandom for the Illinois football team, effective Sept. 18.
The announcement comes on the heels of a brutal loss to Eastern Michigan on Sept. 14. Illinois lost 34-31. They fell behind by two touchdowns, teased the remaining 15,000 people in the stands by tying it with two late touchdowns, then surrendered a field goal on the last play of the game.
It was no shock. It was both unbelievable and perfectly believable, as most Illinois losses are.
Lovie Smith has coached the football team since 2016. He took over a mess of a program, but based on his name recognition, hiring him showed hope that Illinois was aiming high.
But the name recognition—Lovie coached the Bears from 2004-2012 and took them to a Super Bowl—is about all that Lovie has going for him. Late in the first half against Eastern Michigan, the Illinois offense took an odd approach. One minute, it appeared they were just letting the clock run out. The next, they were trying to pick up big chunks of yards and score.
As you can guess, they ended up not scoring. Lovie admitted after the game that the clock management was his fault. It’s pretty hard to comprehend how anyone who has over 20 years of experience coaching in college and the NFL could not know how to manage the clock, but, well, this is Illinois football.
Illinois hosted Nebraska on Sept. 21, and even writing this three days prior, I already know the Illini lost 38-17. Maybe they played a little better early on, but they faded late. The defense—Lovie’s supposed specialty—couldn’t keep Nebraska down.
The Illini only lost 42-38, but they blew a 14-point lead because they gave up 28 second-half points.
Illinois has been to one bowl game since 2011. It’s not hard to go to a bowl game. You just need to win six of your 12 games. But nothing is ever easy with Illinois football.
I don’t know if they’ll win another game this year. The opening line for the Nebraska game had Nebraska favored by only 7.5, and I’ve never seen an easier get-rich-quick offer. The line spread to 13.5 a few days later, and an oddsmaker in Vegas was probably fired for that initial number. Illinois covered, but Nebraska just missed scoring a touchdown in the final 2 minutes, which would have covered that 7.5 points.
So that’s it for me. I’ll watch other games on Saturdays. Life’s too short. I’ve spent three decades wasting weekends, and I refuse to do it any more. Illinois football doesn’t deserve it.
The Illini had the week off on Sept. 28, but I’m taking the rest of my life off.
They return to action on Saturday, Oct. 5, at Minnesota.
Who wants to watch with me?