The Illinois AD Search

Status
Not open for further replies.
I don't know if it's Cation's rebuttal of Shannon Ryan's report concerning Tiley, or Tupper's bizzare Rick George column yesterday, or Sean Frazier's signing-day dismissal of his candidacy, or the conflicting buzz about certain names having been rejected, or the pop-up ads for Ms. Dash littered across the News-Gazette sports page, but it's starting to feel like we're now into that last ominous stage of purgatory right before the bad news is confirmed. If there were an AD hiring crystal ball, this would be the moment we're hitting refresh just ahead of Jerry Meyer flipping his prediction over to Kansas. With us, on the rare occasion something good happens, we never see it coming, like finding $20 in the pocket of a jacket you rarely wear or getting wacked by the mob.
I'm with you... this has been a painful past couple of days.
 
.4 percent is still in it kids
Virginia
I don't know if it's Cation's rebuttal of Shannon Ryan's report concerning Tiley, or Tupper's bizzare Rick George column yesterday, or Sean Frazier's signing-day dismissal of his candidacy, or the conflicting buzz about certain names having been rejected, or the pop-up ads for Ms. Dash littered across the News-Gazette sports page, but it's starting to feel like we're now into that last ominous stage of purgatory right before the bad news is confirmed. If there were an AD hiring crystal ball, this would be the moment we're hitting refresh just ahead of Jerry Meyer flipping his prediction over to Kansas. With us, on the rare occasion something good happens, we never see it coming, like finding $20 in the pocket of a jacket you rarely wear or getting wacked by the mob.
Not so good news is usually delivered late on Fridays....:(
 
Alright, let me put it together as clearly as possible and then I'll shut up:

1. Ron Guenther had a tight-knit, very loyal group of donors who adored him. Shad Khan, notably, was part of this group.

2. Guenther was essentially fired by Mike Hogan, and then Hogan hired Mike Thomas with virtually no consultation from this group, whose money was the lifeblood of the program.

3. These donors were furious, and hated Thomas for it, from day 1. They have been very publicly airing their grievances about him, fair and unfair, to anyone who will listen for years.

4. Sometime before Wise resigned and Beckman was fired, these donors started spreading the idea that Rick George, who they all respect and believe would advance their interests, was interested in the Illinois job. Whether this was true or not, I don't know, but the idea got out there.

5. The donors pushed Wise to fire Thomas and let them court George. She steadfastly refused and stood by Thomas.

6. Tim Killeen becomes President, new to both Illinois and athletics, and Wise is fired as Chancellor, opening up a leadership vacuum.

7. These donors sense their opportunity and make a big push, swearing they have George in the bag (who the administration, rightly, sees as the strongest candidate) and threatening to end their financial support of the program if Thomas isn't ousted.

8. After some tug-of-war, they get their way, after covering the big buyout needed to get Thomas out.

9. A big offer is made to George, he considers it, but says no thanks.

10. The donors, without a white knight to reestablish their dominance, resolve to muddy and sabotage the process, so the next AD is someone weak who they can control. They hold their money over the head of the administration, cook up a story that George is still interested, and gum up the process, leaving the totally inexperienced Barb Wilson on an island with no one to support her but a search firm.

I'm not sure, honestly, how Craig Tiley plays into all this. Maybe he's the Guentherite backup plan, maybe he was never interested and the story about him interviewing is just meant to make the new AD look bad by comparison. But the whole George thing is a ruse meant to empower the ECI bluehair Guenther brigade over the interests of the administration and the fan and alumni community at large.
That seems like so many dominoes had to fall just right for this scenario to happen, yet believable. Still holding out hope for George or Tiley.
 
A lot of that (Second's timeline) is consistent with other information that has been posted here and elsewhere all along.

From the start the Score reported a group of boosters was out trying to hire their own guy (probably George). Ryan reported improper contacts with potential candidates. We were publically rebuffed by George early on.

So the neophytes in the interim administration were surprised and realized their error, and they tried to regain control of the process by hiring a search firm two weeks into it after much public waffling.

Now we have a parade of token candidates getting 90 minute interviews (ridiculous for this job). But the timing is at least consistent with the end of the Australian Open. So we must have our guy (Tiley or George) and they are just checking the boxes before an imminent announcement.

But then it is leaked that Guenther acolyte Tom Michael has emerged as the leader following the exhaustive interview and vetting process. A proxy for Tiley then tweets that Tiley actually did not interview, despite Ryan's report.

So maybe Tiley is in the same boat as George, in a good spot that will be diffiuclt to leave, and we are left scrambling for Plan B. Maybe he justs wants no part of the clown show. Maybe the boosters think neither guy can be controlled.

What seems clear is that too many of the people in the mix put their own interests ahead of those of the University, and that the leadership vacuum is allowing it to happen.

We'll get the least common denominator candidate, Michael, who will be beloved by the Guentherites and despised by the rank and file fans who wanted to see a forward thinking move that would give us some hope. He'll never get a fair chance, and Illinois athletics will continue its slide into oblivion.
 
Last edited:
I'll call it now that news of Tom Michael's hiring breaks at about 4:30 today with a presser for sometime early next week. No inside info at all, just a guess in the vein of bad/underwhelming news breaking on a Friday.
 
St. Louis, MO
A lot of that (Second's timeline) is consistent with other information that has been posted here and elsewhere all along.

From the start the Score reported a group of boosters was out trying to hire their own guy. Ryan reported improper contacts with potential candidates. We were publically rebuffed by George early on.

So the neophytes in the interim administration were surprised and realized their error, and they tried to regain control of the process by hiring a search firm two weeks into it after much public waffling.

Now we have a parade of token candidates getting 90 minute interviews (ridiculous for this job). But the timing is at least consistent with the end of the Australian Open. So we must have our guy (Tiley or George) and they are just checking the boxes before an imminent announcement.

But then it is leaked that Guenther acolyte Tom Michael has emerged as the leader following the exhaustive interview and vetting process. Then a proxy for Tiley then tweets that Tiley actually did not interview, despite Ryan's report.

So maybe he is in the same boat as George, in a good spot that will be diffiuclt to leave. Maybe he justs wants no part of the clown show. Maybe the boosters think neither guy can be controlled.

What seems clear is that too many of the people in the mix put their own interests ahead of those of the University, and that the leadership vacuum is allowing it to happen.

We'll get the least common denominator candidate, Michael, who will be beloved by the Guentherites and despised by the rank and file fans who wanted to see a forward thinking move that would give us some hope. He'll never get a fair chance, and Illinois athletics will continue it's slide into oblivion.
I'm a young guy and quite ignorant to the Guenther problems. I know the facilities didn't improve under RG, but there was a basketball program which was consistently in the tournament and, at the very least, a football team which was a roller coaster (which included highs). He also seemed to hang on to coaches for too long (Turner, BW, Zooker).

Those who are against Michael, it is clear its because of the RG connection. My question is, is a guy like RG that bad? I'm honestly asking, because I don't know. I mean, if Tom Michael is RG (big with the booster community) with a quicker trigger finger and better hiring capacity, would that be failure at Illinois?
 
Last edited:
Alright, let me put it together as clearly as possible and then I'll shut up:

1. Ron Guenther had a tight-knit, very loyal group of donors who adored him. Shad Khan, notably, was part of this group.

2. Guenther was essentially fired by Mike Hogan, and then Hogan hired Mike Thomas with virtually no consultation from this group, whose money was the lifeblood of the program.

3. These donors were furious, and hated Thomas for it, from day 1. They have been very publicly airing their grievances about him, fair and unfair, to anyone who will listen for years.

4. Sometime before Wise resigned and Beckman was fired, these donors started spreading the idea that Rick George, who they all respect and believe would advance their interests, was interested in the Illinois job. Whether this was true or not, I don't know, but the idea got out there.

5. The donors pushed Wise to fire Thomas and let them court George. She steadfastly refused and stood by Thomas.

6. Tim Killeen becomes President, new to both Illinois and athletics, and Wise is fired as Chancellor, opening up a leadership vacuum.

7. These donors sense their opportunity and make a big push, swearing they have George in the bag (who the administration, rightly, sees as the strongest candidate) and threatening to end their financial support of the program if Thomas isn't ousted.

8. After some tug-of-war, they get their way, after covering the big buyout needed to get Thomas out.

9. A big offer is made to George, he considers it, but says no thanks.

10. The donors, without a white knight to reestablish their dominance, resolve to muddy and sabotage the process, so the next AD is someone weak who they can control. They hold their money over the head of the administration, cook up a story that George is still interested, and gum up the process, leaving the totally inexperienced Barb Wilson on an island with no one to support her but a search firm.

I'm not sure, honestly, how Craig Tiley plays into all this. Maybe he's the Guentherite backup plan, maybe he was never interested and the story about him interviewing is just meant to make the new AD look bad by comparison. But the whole George thing is a ruse meant to empower the ECI bluehair Guenther brigade over the interests of the administration and the fan and alumni community at large.
Aside from Khan, what's the profile of this donor group? The local ECI elite?

It sounds like a small, vocal minority (money counts as voice here) is lobbying for interests that aren't necessarily in the best interest of the DIA. My question is, being relatively uninformed on the subject but pragmatic, is how would we go about counteracting this movement going forward? I realize the ship is almost out to sea on the AD hire at this point but what can realistically be done moving forward by those interested?
 
I'm a young guy and quite ignorant to the Guenther problems. I know the facilities didn't improve under RG, but there was a basketball problem which was consistently in the tournament and, at the very least, a football team which was a roller coaster (which included highs). He also seemed to hang on to coaches for too long (Turner, BW, Zooker).

Those who are against Michael, it is clear its because of the RG connection. My question is, is a guy like RG that bad? I'm honestly asking, because I don't know. I mean, if Tom Michael is RG (big with the booster community) with a quicker trigger finger and better hiring capacity, would that be failure at Illinois?
Guenther did some good things in his long tenure, but for many represents complacent mediocrity. He supposedly kept moneyed donors happy by granting them access, running the AD like an ECI country club, while our teams deteriorated. Michael, fairly or not, represents more of the same.
 
We'll get the least common denominator candidate, Michael, who will be beloved by the Guentherites and despised by the rank and file fans who wanted to see a forward thinking move that would give us some hope. He'll never get a fair chance, and Illinois athletics will continue its slide into oblivion.
Using some logic here, but in essence are you not also saying Mike Thomas never really got a fair chance as we slid into oblivion. Don't know why my whole quote didn't show up. I mean Thomas was on the other side of the Guentherites, I understand but rank and file got the new start they wanted.
 
Bucktown, Chicago
I'm a young guy and quite ignorant to the Guenther problems. I know the facilities didn't improve under RG, but there was a basketball problem which was consistently in the tournament and, at the very least, a football team which was a roller coaster (which included highs). He also seemed to hang on to coaches for too long (Turner, BW, Zooker).

Those who are against Michael, it is clear its because of the RG connection. My question is, is a guy like RG that bad? I'm honestly asking, because I don't know. I mean, if Tom Michael is RG (big with the booster community) with a quicker trigger finger and better hiring capacity, would that be failure at Illinois?
There's a much more nuanced version of this but basically, Guenther and the Guentherites think being the biggest thing in East Central Illinois ("ECI") is the best thing ever and there's no need to be the biggest thing anywhere else. Unfortunately that group (and other big donors (Khan) loyal to Guenther who just want power) is where a small but very powerful and vocal amount of money is positioned.

Additionally, people were angered by Guenther's loyalty towards 1) Lou Tepper and later Ron Turner both being fired a year or two too late; this was further exasperated by 2) The hiring of Bruce Weber after both Lon Kruger and particularly Bill Self bolted. Generally he went for coaches who he thought would never leave for fear of hurting his ECI ego (this is how it appeared at least). All it did was set in motion a race to the bottom. A bottom which feels like it is being reached as I type this.

Again, much more nuanced versions are available and I'm much more privy to the basketball dealings than the football side of things. The Tepper and Turner stuff is what I've gathered from hearsay.
 
Last edited:
Using some logic here, but in essence are you not also saying Mike Thomas never really got a fair chance as we slid into oblivion.
I don't know anything more than you do - I have no firsthand knowledge. I was just pointing out that some of Second's timeline does make sense. As for all of it, including where Second said that Thomas was hated from the start, I really don't know.

I think Thomas should have been gone five minutes after he fired Beckman.
 
I'm a young guy and quite ignorant to the Guenther problems. I know the facilities didn't improve under RG, but there was a basketball program which was consistently in the tournament and, at the very least, a football team which was a roller coaster (which included highs). He also seemed to hang on to coaches for too long (Turner, BW, Zooker).

Those who are against Michael, it is clear its because of the RG connection. My question is, is a guy like RG that bad? I'm honestly asking, because I don't know. I mean, if Tom Michael is RG (big with the booster community) with a quicker trigger finger and better hiring capacity, would that be failure at Illinois?
IMO, Guenther had three big drawbacks as an AD: (1) he held onto his hires too long; (2) his marketing/promotion of Illini Athletics was pretty small-time; and (3) he did cater to a very small group of big donors, and pretty much ignored everyone else. I actually had no problems with his coaching hires - he just kept them too long once they started going downhill.

And of these 3 drawbacks - the catering to big donors is by far the least important. If a new AD comes in (Michael, Whitman, whoever) and is much quicker to get rid of failing coaches, and markets our sports programs like the world-class university we strive to be - I will care very little about whether or not he has a small "cadre" of donors advising him. But if you don't do #1 and #2 right - then yes, allowing donors to run the show is bad news. Just my take.
 
There's a much more nuanced version of this but basically, Guenther and the Guentherites think being the biggest thing in East Central Illinois ("ECI") is the best thing ever and there's no need to be the biggest thing anywhere else. Unfortunately that group (and other big donors (Khan) loyal to Guenther who just want power) is where a small but very powerful and vocal amount of money is positioned.
There's something I'm curious about. The knock against these ECI boosters seems to be that their interests are too insular; they're more concerned with their stature in ECI than anywhere else. That doesn't seem to be Khan, though. At least, I can't imagine that a guy who owns an NFL team in Florida and a soccer team in London is so parochial when it comes to Illinois. What's the deal there?
 
Bucktown, Chicago
There's something I'm curious about. The knock against these ECI boosters seems to be that their interests are too insular; they're more concerned with their stature in ECI than anywhere else. That doesn't seem to be Khan, though. At least, I can't imagine that a guy who owns an NFL team in Florida and a soccer team in London is so parochial when it comes to Illinois. What's the deal there?
He's a Guenther loyalist who felt slighted over not having input over the Thomas hire, so best I can gather.
 
2) The hiring of Bruce Weber after both Lon Kruger and particularly Bill Self bolted. Generally he went for coaches who he thought would never leave for fear of hurting his ECI ego (this is how it appeared at least). All it did was set in motion a race to the bottom. A bottom which feels like it is being reached as I type this..
This is very true. He did not particularly like how popular Bill Self got so quickly and the bargaining power that Self amassed. Kruger was open from the beginning saying he was only leaving if the NBA came calling.

Losing Self after having to cave in on a higher $ extension rattled Guenther's ego, so he went for the safe hire, completely ignoring other candidates. Thad Matta openly stated he wanted to interview for the job (I have this on good authority from a former DI assistant I know well), as well as others who made overtures to Guenther's network that they were interested.

Guenther's problem was that he thought he knew it all, or at least better than anyone else in the room at that time. And to the points made earlier, he thought being the kind of ECI was just fine.
 
The fault is on the University. If they have a candidate they like, hire him/her and tell the boosters to get lost. I mean isn't that basically what they did with Thomas. If they hire the right AD he/she should be able to attract new boosters. There is plenty of Alumni with money that don't live in ECI. If he/she makes some shrewd hires the fan base will come back rapidly and eventually those boosters probably will too.
Totally, totally agree. And shoot, maybe Patrick Chun is up at a podium on Monday morning and we'll see how it plays out.

Thomas was treated unfairly, but he's far from blameless in his own demise. If he hires Jim McElwain instead of Tim Beckman we're not having this conversation.

I'm a young guy and quite ignorant to the Guenther problems. My question is, is a guy like RG that bad? I'm honestly asking, because I don't know. I mean, if Tom Michael is RG (big with the booster community) with a quicker trigger finger and better hiring capacity, would that be failure at Illinois?
To sum it up in a sentence, for Guenther and his people Illinois athletics was their own private little club and not a consumer-facing brand representing the flagship university of a large, dynamic state. Guenther is a good guy who had great relationships with people, but he didn't understand the job.

how is that model viable then? I thought this was a volume business?
It is. It's going to be a rocky transition.

Aside from Khan, what's the profile of this donor group? The local ECI elite?
For the most part, yeah.

My question is, being relatively uninformed on the subject but pragmatic, is how would we go about counteracting this movement going forward?
Personally? I don't think an Illini fan can in good conscience attend a football game next year. If you've been a season ticket holder for decades, great, show up and tailgate and watch the game at Legend's or something. Let the foot of gray bench speak for you. Does it directly address the problems I've been outlining? Not exactly. Though this Cubit farce was a direct result of the donor-induced chaos. Regardless, a brand new AD and a brand new Chancellor are going to be there, and a sea of empty seats will show them where the public stands.
 
He's a Guenther loyalist who felt slighted over not having input over the Thomas hire, so best I can gather.
I get that. I guess I'm just curious how that fits into this notion that the Guenther loyalists are small-bore in their vision. Maybe it doesn't and I'm conflating the two.
 
A Legend in My Own Mind
Montgomery, IL
Mark Tupper
‏@MarkTupper
Hearing today that it's George & Tiley. Or Tiley & George. Sounds like a 2-horse race. #dechr
I give up?! Misinformation abounds... :confused:

Hopefully there's some truth here, though.
 
I get that. I guess I'm just curious how that fits into this notion that the Guenther loyalists are small-bore in their vision. Maybe it doesn't and I'm conflating the two.
The idea that because Khan is a billionaire and a sports magnate that he has any desire to spend tens of millions of his own money to be our Phil Knight is not borne out by the available evidence.

The NFL and EPL stuff is recent, back in the RG days, Khan was just another face in the CU country club set, and his support for the program reflected that.
 
Bucktown, Chicago
I get that. I guess I'm just curious how that fits into this notion that the Guenther loyalists are small-bore in their vision. Maybe it doesn't and I'm conflating the two.
Couple of things.. the biggest faction of Guenther loyalists are the ECI country club crew. There is another smaller vacuum that is simply loyal to Guenther and not only wants a seat at the table, they want to be in charge of the table. Khan is part of this second group. Both are loyal to Guenther and both are doing a fine job of confusing the hell out of this situation.

Tupper said it best yesterday when he described Illinois athletics as "massive knot of wet yarn"
 
Status
Not open for further replies.