Being a college coach at a major institution can be very fun at times, but also very difficult for all those involved. Every school has different standards – for some it's to win at all cost, for some it's the graduation rate, others it's generating money, and often times it's pressure from the "big boys" at the top. Regardless of the reason, having spent time with both Ron Turner and Bruce Weber I can say they would like nothing better than to win games.
When you bleed orange and blue sometimes it's too easy to forget when you see Turner and Weber on TV coaching the team you love so dearly that they have feelings or care about what others think. Sure they do - it's their program. You can say that when you make $1,000,000 or $700,000 a year that it comes with the job. Every fan has the right to his/her opinion, but just make sure you don't forget what a college coach goes through everyday to bring us those great games we all look so forward to - like studying game films from the opposing teams all night long.
Both of these guys are husbands and fathers, but if you look at the big picture their families are the ones really suffering through all this, not the fans. There have to be times when Wendy Turner is upset because her husband is gone for days at a time recruiting, or after a game when the Illini lost and her husband is being blasted on the radio all over the state. I'm sure she would like for him to do well here at Illinois, but also see one of his four children compete in a school function once in a while. What about Megan Weber, who is new to all of this big-time life? It can't be easy with three daughters and her husband staying up late nights watching the 1:00 a.m. Sports Center or the West Coast basketball games trying to get ahead of the competition, and then leaving the next day to go see some high school kid that barely has an interest in Illinois. This all goes on when we go to work or school everyday and then come home to our families, but we expect great things every time out.
What's a little confusing at Illini Nation is that some can be like this winter weather we are having. Case in point - last week Weber had some of the best news in recent Illini history with his verbal commitment of David Palmer and all was good. Then came the Purdue game and the temperature got to be –10° again. I know that it's all part of being a fan, right?
Coaching at the big level is a seven-day-a-week job. If you don't think it bothers Turner or Weber to have some guy call in to their coach's show to try and prove they know more than they do, you are wrong. It has to bother them because fans are important. They love sports - they read the papers, watch the news and yes, even read the Internet from time to time. Heck, even the media guys judge and get jabs in from time to time, and get mad when the coaches don't want to share certain things with us. Can you blame them? That's why I love going to a Bobby Knight interview; he tells it like it is.
Sure there are things the average fan would like to see them do differently, but we are not there everyday in practice so we don't know what goes on. We are not the ones having to deal with the moods of these kids day-to-day. A lot of them are far away from home, they may have girl problems or even parental issues, but all "we" care about is how many wins they can give us. If you really put this into perspective, there are no two people in the U of I family that want to win games more than those two. It's their passion, love and their job. Everyone has the best answer for the Luther Head case, but how many of you really know Luther or care about what happens to him after he leaves the Illini nest?
The next time you decide to be a coach at a big time program think about all the baggage that comes with it and how it may affect your family. A brief note from my small level of coaching - just last month I was coaching a basketball game and this lady that neither my wife nor I knew was laying into me like no other. She had no idea that she was sitting right next to my wife. I can't print what was said, but it just killed my wife to hear such things about the game of basketball. I can only imagine what Wendy and Megan hear when they go to the grocery store.
Nothing would make me happier than to see the Illini play football every January 1st or make the Final Four once every seven years. That may not happen, but it won't keep me from scheduling my life around Illini athletics every year.
Coach Weber and Jack Ingram coach to player AP