Forgive me, cause theres a lot to unpack in this comment. The SEC is a different animal. Football in the south is a religion. Now, you can compare UI to UM or OSU or NU. Well those schools have something we will (probably) never have and that tradition that spans more than the early 1900s. We've never strung together even 3 years of top flight football since maybe the late 80s if you even want to call John Mackovic's run that. You're expecting fans to blinding follow a team (and therefore the leadership) most probably don't believe in. It's human nature to oppose things that are wrong, or else have apathy towards them. Either case, you aren't coming out to the games.
I live in the burbs and I would expect >75% of this board (and the rest of the fan base) lives rough as close or farther than I do from Champaign. Why would I travel 2.5+ hrs, sit in crappy weather, and watch bad football, in hopes that some 18 year old kid picks this team? You can call me fair weather, but its beyond ridiculous to think lack of fan support is the main reason we don't get 4 and 5 star kids committing left and right. And I don't think the win first rhetoric is that crazy. Lovie drew plenty of fan support when he started, 3 years is enough time for most sports fans to quit on a guy, logic be darned.
It's the job of the staff to sell what they have and what could be to recruits. Sure, it would help them if the stadium is packed, but very, very few sports teams have the luxury of unwavering fan support, and without putting too much thought into there, the Cubs and Red Sox are the only traditionally crap teams that got support through the leanest of years, and even still suffered plenty of attrition from their stadiums.
I'll continue to watch the Illini on TV because I am a fan. If I lived in Champaign, I would probably go to the game, but I'd rather only waste 3 hrs instead of 8+ on Saturdays for Illini football. If that makes me fair weather, then I'm fine with that label.
Agree with everything you unpacked. For years we had football season tickets which grew to a group of 10. We had a pretty good time in spite of the steady decline in Illini football. I still remember when we had an extra ticket and I was going to sell it for 50% of its face value and a prospective buyer offered me $1 for the ticket. I now think giving Coach Smith another year only sets the program back even further than it is now. He needs to go too and If the top recruits decommit that's the way it goes. It's going to take a heck of a lot more than a couple blue chippers to turn the mess which is Illini football around.