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GREENBERG: Illinois’ Tim Beckman not alone among coaches looking for greater success in Year 2

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Updated: September 19, 2013 9:58AM



One of the most staunchly held and ridiculous axioms in college football is that Year 2 for any coach is when all the hard work comes to bear in the won-lost column. It’s a belief that stems from the utter
impatience of fan bases, not to mention of athletic directors and university presidents.

It’s true that four coaches since 2000 — in order, Bob Stoops at Oklahoma, Jim Tressel at Ohio State, Urban Meyer at Florida and Gene Chizik at Auburn — have won Bowl Championship Series titles in Year 2. That was the trend that put Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly and Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher on championship watch in 2011. Their teams went a combined 17-9.

The fact for most coaches is that Year 2 is just another year. For many of them, Year 2 is when they must fight for their jobs.

Which brings us to Tim Beckman. Perhaps you’ve heard of him.

Illinois’ successor to Ron Zook reached sub-Zookian levels in 2012, going 2-10 with zero Big Ten victories. To say Beckman is in the cross hairs in 2013 might be an understatement. But to suggest Beckman, who seems to have the tepid support of athletic director Mike Thomas, is the second-year coach most out on a ledge would be just plain wrong.

Three coaches with much higher profiles bombed in 2012 debuts, and all three are facing more national scrutiny than Beckman. It just so happens that each of them is a certified
offensive genius.

Remember Charlie Weis? Of course, you do. The man who led Notre Dame to consecutive BCS bowls was 1-11 overall and 0-9 in the Big 12 last season at Kansas. Like Beckman’s Illini, Weis’ Jayhawks had the worst offense in their conference. Unlike Beckman, Weis is on the verge of becoming a national punch line.

Remember Mike Leach? You do, indeed. He coached Texas Tech for 10 underdog seasons and finished above .500 and in a bowl game each of those years. What got him fired was a scandal involving alleged mistreatment of wide receiver Adam James. At Washington State last season, Leach was 3-9 and had a highly publicized fight with his best player, wide receiver Marquess Wilson, who’s trying to make a go of it with the Bears. Was Leach a disastrous hire? Well, maybe.

Remember Norm Chow? If you’re at all on the college football pulse, you do. He was the offensive coordinator who helped Pete Carroll become an icon at USC. In his peak years, Chow interviewed for more major-college — and NFL — head-coaching jobs than we care to count. But in Year 1 at Hawaii, he was 3-9. And his offense ranked third-worst among 120 Division I teams in the country — one spot better than Illinois’.

But this isn’t about Beckman. Or it is and it isn’t. Because two seasons ago, Houston and Southern Mississippi squared off in the Conference USA championship game. And a year later, 13-victory Houston and 12-victory Southern Miss went 5-7 under new coach Tony Levine and 0-12 under new coach Ellis Johnson, respectively.

Levine still has his job. Johnson doesn’t.

At least Beckman has a chance to prove all the hard work comes to bear in Year 2. So does Terry Bowden — remember him? — who was 20-1-1 at Auburn in 1993-94 and, after a few rough turns in his career, took over a 1-11 Akron program before the 2012 season. Expertly, he led the Zips to another 1-11 record.

Bowden’s career: It ain’t what it used to be.

Beckman’s? This isn’t about him. He’s just one of a bunch of Year 2 guys who have to prove it or, perhaps, lose it.

Email: sgreenberg@suntimes.com

Twitter: @SLGreenberg



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