Through the Trifocals

Some college coaches and their supporters are using the Internet in a variety of ways to help them recruit. Negative comments about other schools, and incorrect information about recruits are causing confusion are aiding their cause. For Illini fans, forewarned is forearmed.

Ever since the Internet became popular, college coaches have taken advantage of all the communication possibilities to aid their cause in recruiting. They have planted stories favorable to their purposes; sent copies of negative posts from fans of competing schools to recruiting targets; and used allies to call recruits claiming to be website recruiting gurus to find out their plans or plant negative information about competitors.

In addition, they have enjoyed the support, some free and some paid, of individuals who check out opponents' websites to find juicy information or counteract criticisms of their schools. With many athletes and/or their families and friends checking out the websites of schools offering them scholarships, the idea is to provide information on the Internet that will help targeted athletes prefer one school over all others.

The Illini basketball program has endured significant intrusions from competitors' fans on free forums such as those on Illiniboard (http://www.illiniboard.com) because Illinois has been highly successful and a legitimate competitor for top basketball talent. One can recall the days Oklahoma star Shelden Williams was deciding between Illinois and Duke (and others). Several Duke fans posted on the Illiniboard on a daily basis, glorifying Duke and counteracting every argument Illini fans could muster that might favor Illinois. They left and were heard from no more once Williams selected Duke.

We are not talking about those children of all ages who like to rile up competitors with obnoxious criticisms. The Duke posters were highly organized and emphasized Duke's positives without destroying their credibility by acting like fools. They may not have been paid for their services, but they worked together well. If Shelden Williams or his supporters checked out the Illiniboard during this time, they read as much positive about Duke as they ever did about Illinois. This was the plan.

Illini football fans have recently begun to experience the same phenomenon on the free Illiniboard football forum. One would think Illinois' recent losing seasons wouldn't be a threat to our competitors, but they behave as if threatened nonetheless. From this eye, it appears the recruiting prowess of new coach Ron Zook has caught the attention of a number of schools both inside and outside the Big Ten.

Fans and allies of those opposing coaching staffs are now working to help themselves and prevent Illinois from rising back up among the nation's top programs. And they are using all sorts of tactics to stop Zook from recruiting quality athletes to Illinois. We have long heard about "negative recruiting" by coaches with players, but that tactic has been extended to include fan forums.

As politicians and governments have long known, if you keep saying the same things over and over and pretend you are absolutely correct, the gullible will likely believe every bit of crap you feed them. Repetitive propaganda eats away at the confidence of those who are not firm in their convictions and eventually creates a populous that will both believe and defend any lies they are told.

Unfortunately, some Illinois fans are not secure in their confidence about their school and program and become susceptible to these negative tactics. Once they believe the lies and exaggerations, commenting about it further aides the cause of Illinois' opponents. This article is designed to ingrain the following phrase into the minds of all Illini fans, whether they prefer football or basketball: "Don't believe all the BS!"

At least once a week, some Illiniboard posters fall victim to the continuing "whisper campaign" organized by Indiana loyalists (and probably coaching staff) trying to convince star basketball player Eric Gordon to switch his allegiance from Illinois to Indiana. Gordon has stated repeatedly he will be signing with Illinois this November, but each week the fears of the few must be soothed.

Every time Illini fans report on the latest rumors emanating from Indiana about Gordon, more fuel is added to the fire of the Indiana loyalists who hope Gordon himself will begin to doubt his decision to attend Illinois. Such a tactic is reprehensible at best, but it can be surprisingly effective if allowed to fester and grow unabated.

Illinois' enemies love to jump on the band wagon to enhance their own agendas. Those around Chicago who don't want Illinois to remain an elite power in basketball, as well as Big Ten and other regional opponents who wish to weaken Illinois to enhance their own recruiting are happily spreading their own rumors on top of the ones coming from Indiana.

When a top recruit is at stake, it appears some coaches and their supporters will go to any extreme to accomplish their mission. But Eric Gordon appears to be a highly intelligent and thoughtful person who can be trusted to keep his commitments. So if he resists the "whisper campaign", so should we. Don't believe all the BS!

Ron Zook has been the victim of an organized effort by wealthy Florida alumni to cast aspersions on his coaching ability and good name for several years now. These Steve Spurrier loyalists could never accept blue collar Ron Zook as his replacement at Florida and worked continuously to get him fired. After three winning seasons, they finally got their wish. But their criticisms, often exaggerated or totally fabricated, have now been quoted by Midwest schools hoping to prevent Zook from making major inroads against their success ratios.

For example, it is a common deceit that claims Zook "can recruit but can't coach." This is total hogwash, as his 28 years of college and professional coaching prove. It is true Illinois suffered through a 2-9 season last year, but it is doubtful any coach could have done better with the talent on hand. And Coach Zook has surrounded himself with quality assistants who are as adept at teaching as recruiting. Better talent is being recruited, and the combination of recruiting and teaching will lead to happy times in Illinois' future. At least, it is wise to give Zook a couple more years before passing any judgement since the cupboard was so bare when he arrived. Again, don't believe all the BS!

A recent criticism is the notion Coach Zook recruits "thugs" who will not represent the University of Illinois well. There is no evidence that his recruits at Florida got into any more trouble than athletes at other schools. And the youngsters recruited by him to Illinois appear on first glance to be quality individuals who will be outstanding representatives of the school. Don't believe all the BS!

Ron Zook has a special ability to treat people from all walks of life equally and with respect. He is especially beloved by minorities who can recognize disengenuous phoneys a mile away. Since a large number of the best football players are minorities, Coach Zook has an advantage in recruiting. Don't think for one moment that other coaches and schools aren't deeply concerned he will be able to recruit superstars to Illinois. They will use any excuse, any lie, to paint Zook and Illinois in a negative light. Don't believe all the BS!

Some of the lurkers on the Illiniboard football forum lately have been Notre Dame loyalists. One of these has the decency to give himself the correct identification name, but most hide behind vague monikers. Just think! Mighty Notre Dame has fans so insecure they think Illinois is a legitimate challenger for some of their top recruits. Who are we to argue with them? They wouldn't waste their time unless they saw us as a legitimate competitor. We should use their rants as a source of great strength and confidence-building. This never happened when Ron Turner or his predecessor were Illinois' head coaches.

These ND apologists keep trying to convince Illini fans (i.e. convince recruits who read the site) that top recruits will naturally choose their arrogant approach over Coach Zook's sincerity and enthusiasm. Perhaps some will, but Illini fans shouldn't let a few biased ND fans make them doubt the potentialities. Anything is possible! So don't believe all the BS!

Whenever we read a post on a website, we must ask ourselves the agenda of the poster. Everyone has an agenda. This writer wishes to share knowledge and lessons learned over the years. Some just wish to let off steam or get attention. But some have ulterior motives that are hidden within the message.

One poster, supposedly an assistant football coach at a Chicago Catholic League school, served up an emotional diatribe about how top Chicago innercity athletes naturally prefer Notre Dame because of its prestige. He acted as if Notre Dame was ideal for helping the downtrodden rise from their ghetto upbringing. The agenda in this case is easy to spot because the coach works at a Catholic high school and Notre Dame is Catholic. The obvious bias discredits such an appeal, no matter how emotionally charged or logical it might sound. Don't believe all the BS!

By the same token, Illini fans (including this writer) have a bias that must also be weighed when determining the strength of arguments. To believe anything out of hand is a mistake. To listen with an open mind while recognizing the likely agenda of the writer is the proper approach. Of course, our own emotions and agenda can interfere with the analysis of another's messages on a fan forum. If we keep our own bias out of the way, we can spot the biases of others and learn to minimize their negative impact on our beliefs and confidence levels. Don't believe all the BS!

Just like those accused above, this writer is "catapulting the propaganda" by stating repeatedly we shouldn't believe all the BS. But the desire is to help neutralize the BS by countering with a reminder to keep it all in a proper perspective. If we keep our balance and peace of mind, we will do nothing to help our competitors gain ground with recruits who might be reading our posts.

And then those recruits can make up their own minds about where they wish to attend college. If we do that, Illinois will be successful because we have outstanding basketball and football staffs who will get the job done. Let's not help our opponents by falling for all their spindoctoring! Don't believe all the BS!

Go Illini!!!

Illinisports, illinisports@illiniboard.com


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