Illinois added its fourth commitment since the dismissal of Tim Beckman, with three-star Delray Beach (Fla.) American Heritage running back Devin Singletary giving his pledge to Bill Cubit's staff on Tuesday morning. Of the four commitments since Beckman's August dismissal, three are from Florida. Singletary, a 5-foot-8, 190-pound all-purpose back who had offers at some point from Miami, North Carolina and Florida State, plays for the same program that produced Illini freshman wide receiver Desmond Cain and former commit Trenard Davis, who was unable to enroll at Illinois due to academic issues but was expected to rejoin the program this spring. A source said Singletary reminds him of a "RB version" of Cain. It's difficult to recruit as an interim. Cubit's staff has not only held the class together to this point, it has added four. Impressive.
Many Cubit detractors assume a future Cubit staff at Illinois cannot recruit. Yes, Illinois' class of 2016 currently ranks 12th in the Big Ten. But Cubit has a different recruiting philosophy than Beckman. He likes to "go for it" more and doesn't like to settle. He believes Illinois shouldn't be scared of Cincinnati or other AAC programs. He has deep roots at top programs in Florida, including powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas, and assistant Ryan Cubit has developed into the main contact there. Illinois may not land the top prospects from the Sunshine State, but Illinois can fatten up its program by gobbling up some of Florida, Florida State and Miami's leftovers. And with Beckman, this staff landed a top-half Big Ten recruiting class last season. No, Singletary's commitment is not a reason to keep Cubit. The Illini -- and whoever leads them -- must keep more of the state's top prospects and establish more entrenched pipelines elsewhere (Texas, Ohio, etc.). We just don't have the sample size to assume a Cubit program can or cannot do it. But you have to admire how the staff has recruited without a promised future. At worst, the Cubits have set a great base for wherever they are coaching next season.
Illinois donors don't think their Rick George dreams are dead. There continues to be a movement to convince the Colorado athletic director to renege on his public word that he would decline Illinois interest. George has stated that at some point in his career Illinois was his "dream job." He talked with Illinois about the opening in 2011, but then-president Michael Hogan went in another direction and hired Mike Thomas, whose chaotic four-year tenure ended earlier this month with his dismissal coinciding with the release of the full independent investigation of abuse inside the football program, which resulted in the termination of his biggest mistake: hiring football coach Tim Beckman. Sources say Illinois will try to make George an offer he can't refuse. He currently makes $700,000 at Colorado with potential ofr huge bonus incentives. The Buffaloes don't want to lose George, who has spiked fund-raising at an athletic department that sorely needs it.
George is worth a lot of money to Colorado but even more to Illinois. Illinois needs direction. It needs someone who can inspire confidence in fans, donors and even those within the DIA and university. George's experience in private sector, his early fund-raising success at Colorado and his institutional knowledge of Illinois -- he played for and worked for Illinois football -- makes him the ideal candidate for a wayward program. So pay up for him. Maybe it's not about money for George. But might as well find out. A little more than a handful of ADs make a seven-figure annual salary. Only two make close or more than $1.5 million: Louisville's Tom Jurich and Vanderbilt's David Williams. Illinois should offer George to be the third. Heck, $2 million isn't craziness. The athletic director hire is more important than the football coaching hire right now. And given George's connections to those with deep wallets, Illinois will make that money back quickly. Give your best Godfather offer, Illinois.
If not George, Illinois will open a national search. That could go quickly or last multiple weeks. They will look -- and are looking -- at candidates with Illinois ties and candidates with no Illinois ties. A candidate with no Illinois ties would have many of the same challenges Thomas had: winning over skeptical alumni and donors. And if that AD is in place in time to make a football hire, he/she may find it more difficult to land their top targets more than Thomas.
"Mid-major" is a changing term. While most of the non-power five porgrams simply do not have the financial resources of the power-five, the landscape has changed in the past few decades. More "mid-major" programs are able or willing to pony up the resources to keep their coaches. We live in a world where Wichita State can pay its basketball coach close to $2 million per year, where Houston can pay its football coach $3 million annually and Memphis can give its football coach similar money. The top "mid-major" coaches don't have to leap at the first power-five job offer for financial reasons, allowing them to be much more picky about taking that step up. That hurts programs like Illinois. Still, a Big Ten job always will draw lower-level candidates, plenty of them quality candidates. Illinois -- whoever is making the decision -- just has to find the right one.
Who does LSU think it is? During his 11 years, Les Miles has averaged 10 wins per season -- and that apparently could get him fired. See, Miles is not Nick Saban -- even though Miles led the Tigers to two SEC titles and two BCS Championship games, winning one. Miles has lost five straight to Saban. And apparently, losing to one of the most dominant modern programs could get you fired at LSU. Sure, Miles has lost 10 SEC games the past three seasons. But every program seems to think it should win the national championship or lose just one game a season. But careful what you wish for. Ask Nebraska.
There are currently 13 FBS openings. Expect that number to double due to more firings after the season and the domino effect of FBS programs poaching other FBS programs. It's a heck of a time for Illinois to need a head football coach ... especially without having an athletic director.