2-Year Deal a Recruiting Time Bomb?

On Saturday morning, Illinois announced a two-year extension for interim head football coach Bill Cubit, prior to even playing the Northwestern game at Soldier Field. The near-future returns are positive so far in regards to recruiting, but has Illinois laid the groundwork for diminishing recruiting?

So far, a majority of the 2016 commits have reacted very positively and supportively of no-longer-interim Illinois head coach Bill Cubit.

Here are a few reactions from some of those commits:

DT Antonio Shelton: "I'm happy coach got the extension. We all believe in him.  It's really cool to see how the fans and school really supported the team and coach Cubit this season.  I'm glad to know that a man that believes in me, the rest of my class, and the rest of my future teammates is still in charge."

OT Kurt Gavin: "It's awesome news.  It's nice to have a secure coach now and no more rumors about new coaches."

DT Kenyon Jackson: "I'm very excited about it! I really like Coach Cubit as a person and as a coach.  I can't wait to play under him."

2017 RB Mike Epstein: "I'm really happy about it.  We're all comfortable with him.  He's a really good person and coach."

OT Tre'Vour Simms: "I feel like that's the best news a player could hear."

TE Griffin Palmer: "It's the best news I've gotten all year.  My family and I couldn't be happier with the hiring of Coach Cubit.  he's a great guy and I can't wait to play for him.  Love it! I-L-L!"

RB Devin Singletary: "That's great to see."

RB Kentrail Moran: "To be honest, I kind of already figured it was going to happen.  I'm still looking around though."

DE Joshua Black: "I think it's a great idea. Cubit is a great guy.  His heart and his mind are both in the right place.  Sure there have been some unfortunate losses in the season this year, but he bounces right back, and that's what I love about him.  He doesn't let a loss dictate who he is, and that truly says a lot.  The fact that he can still keep the team focused after all the Illini have been through is unreal.  He's definitely had a positive influence on the whole team.  I can't wait to suit up and play for Cubit."

So, for the most part, the reaction is positive from the group of guys currently committed.  But did we really expect anything else? Of course these guys are going to want to know that the coaches that recruited them will be there when they arrive.  That's fine.

But what do you tell guys like 2018 Illinois legacy Houston Griffith, who is currently one of the top sophomores in the Midwest?  "Hey, Houston, how's your dad doing? Hey, we'd love to have you at Illinois, but my contract runs out at the end of the 2017 season, and I'm already 63/64 years old, so I'd be shocked if I'm there for more than a year of your college career."

I get it.  Illinois wants to right the ship with the AD hire before making a long-term football coaching hire.  Good in theory, but given the circumstances of the landscape of college coaching right now, and the prevalence of negative recruiting nowadays, should Illinois have really settled on a 2-year deal for Cubit?  And what will the fallout be from a recruiting standpoint.

Bill Cubit is 62 years old.  In theory, he's near the end of his coaching career (Kansas State's Bill Snyder being an exception to this rule, of course).  So the likelihood of an extension after this two-year deal is pretty slim.  And that, my friends, makes the structure of this decision just as puzzling as the decision itself.

Giving a coach a two-year deal not only doesn't empower that coach to recruit with any sort of secure future, but also, in the case of Cubit, it basically gives other schools some serious fodder to recruit negatively against that coach and his staff.  

Cubit stated after Saturday's loss to Northwestern that now he has time to implement his system at Illinois, but if he really does end up being there for two years, recruits to his system for two years, what does that do for the next coach? It sticks him with a bunch of players who fit the previous system and then have to (yet again) learn a new system that they may not be tailored to.

National Recruiting Analyst Allen Trieu said he thought that Cubit's hiring would "certainly help keep this current class together.  WIth the number of freshmen who played this year, playing time should be something they can sell.  Assuming Cubit will keep all or most of the staff, the relationships they built should resume as well."

Again, the concern isn't the here and now.  Sure, there would be some defections if Cubit wasn't hired on this offseason, but could Illinois be setting themselves up for a recruiting implosion when Cubit's time at Illinois comes to a close in a couple years?  

Illinois has seen negative recruiting in the past.  It was especially prevalent during the tail end of Ron Zook's tenure at Illinois.  It was all but certain that Zook was on his way out of Champaign, and other schools knew it.  Illinois may finish with a respectable 2016 class, but the delayed effect of the contract term is yet to be seen. 

Who knows.. maybe it won't even happen?  But if it does happen, by the time it does, it will be too late, and Illinois will be in yet another complete roster rebuild situation.


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