By Bennet Hayes
Tim Beckman and the Illinois football program are often overlooked in a Chicago market dominated by professional sports. At least for a day, Beckman changed that.
The Illinois coach overshadowed the unveiling of his 25-man recruiting class on National Signing Day last week, with a bizarre attempt to enlist the state’s sports media in his quest to return the Illini to national prominence.
“I’m gonna leave this up to you guys, [OK]?” Beckman said in a press conference. “We’re all in this state. We all want to build the best football team that we can. So I’m gonna put it on you. What are [recruits] reading?”
One reporter sought confirmation in asking Beckman if he was actually imploring the media to be more positive about Illini football.
“Everybody,” Beckman responded. “Everybody. Let’s build this thing into a championship, and the more positive stuff you can talk about, the better off we all are.”
The backlash from the Chicago sports media was quick and consistent. Beckman’s use of his podium on a day he had the full attention of the Illinois media contingent, was curious at best, self-destructive at worst.
Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Rosenbloom ended his Beckman reaction piece with a commendation – of sorts.
“Intended or not, Beckman made a play Wednesday,” Rosenbloom wrote. “Congratulations, Tim, this is the most publicity you’ll bring to the program until you get fired.”