I must not have been doing something right. I hadn't been criticized by Illini Nation in so long, I had to check to make sure they hadn't been tossed off the reservation like Chief Illiniwek.Then I wrote a positive blog on football coach Ron Zook and--wouldn't you know it?--Illini Nation perceived it as a back-handed compliment.
Oh, they're still there, all right, cheering Ron Guenther, Ron Zook and Bruce Weber one day and treating them like dirt the next. Like Mike White, Neale Stoner, Harv Schmidt, John Mackovic, Lou Tepper and Bill Self. The hits keep on coming. You're either for us or against us.
I've read a lot of university Websites and I must admit Illini Nation is the most hypocritical, least objective and most uninformed group of all. They are shameless cheerleaders when the team is winning and uncompromising critics when it isn't.
Sometimes I think they criticize for the sake of being negative because they certainly don't stand still for anyone criticizing them. They think Ed Hightower is a hacker when every college coach in the country thinks he is one of the best basketball officials of all. They only thing they seem to agree on is Erin Andrews--and that's just the sexist in them.
I don't know Ron Guenther but I do know that he isn't Neale Stoner. He has taken a minor-league athletic plant and turned it into one of the best in the country. The renovated Memorial Stadium remains a classic piece of old-time architecture. He also must be credited with hiring Ron Zook instead of Gary Moeller and Bruce Weber instead of Harv Schmidt.
Sure, he isn't perfect. Ball State for homecoming? But I'm sure it isn't only his idea to fill the football schedule with some soft teams instead of USC or UCLA or Florida. And, hopefully, he will renovate the architectural masterpiece known as Assembly Hall rather than replace it.
Some football and basketball programs are eager to schedule top 25 opponents. Others prefer to inflate their won-lost record by playing second-tier opponents.
I remember when Harry Combes and Illinois' basketball team scheduled UCLA, North Carolina, Marquette, Notre Dame, Kentucky, Arizona, West Virginia, Arkansas and Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State).
I remember when Red Blaik brought his Army team and the Lonesome End to Champaign. Illinois' football team also scheduled UCLA, USC, Florida, Washington, California and Pittsburgh, not Western Illinois, Middle Tennessee, Eastern Illinois, San Jose State and Illinois State. In those days, they scheduled Arkansas, not Arkansas State.
A reader e-mailed me that Illini Nation isn't any different than other college fan bases, just louder. Maybe he's right. I just wish the whole anonymous bunch would demonstrate more civility and how they are smarter than they act. What would their mothers say if they knew their sons were hiding behind those synonyms?