The Case for Tim Brewster

As the coaching search officially began today for the 22nd University of Illinois Head Football Coach, uofi1998/Illini in Arizona (Unofficial Tim Brewster Campaign Manager) breaks down the pros and cons of one top candidate, <b>Tim Brewster</b>.

Tim Brewster's Coaching Experience:
2004 - Assistant Head Coach - Tight Ends, Chargers
2002-2003 - Tight Ends, Chargers
1999-2001 - Tight Ends, University of Texas
1989-97 - Tight Ends, University of North Carolina
1988 - Volunteer Assistant, University of North Carolina
1987-88 - Head Coach, Central Catholic High School, Lafayette, Indiana
1986 - Tight Ends, Purdue University

Tim Brewster's Playing Experience (or at least the part that's important):
University of Illinois starting Tight End 1982-83, 2-time All Big Ten selection

Tim Brewster's University of Illinois candidacy, the cons:
I'm going to get this part out of the way quickly and succinctly. There really is only one negative to the consideration of Tim Brewster as the 22nd Head Coach at Illinois: His lack of Head Coaching experience. Many will argue the merit of such a lack of experience, and I will say that it certainly has some validity. In the Big Ten, inexperienced and under prepared coaches are simply overmatched against programs where the coaching staff has been in place for a long period of time, and their operations run like a well-oiled machines (see: Purdue, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio St., Wisconsin, etc.). Naturally, competing against seasoned recruiting and coaching staffs is a major obstacle standing in the way of success for an inexperienced coach in the competitive Big Ten Conference. However, it has been proven many times over in the past that a great head coach can come from any level of experience. Bob Stoops had never been a head coach before taking over a down Oklahoma program (down by their standards, anyway). Chuck Amato wasn't even the defensive coordinator in his years at Florida St., and yet went back to his alma mater and has experienced a high level of success. Jeff Tedford, whose previous experience was as the offensive coordinator at Oregon, has turned Cal from a laughingstock into a powerhouse in just a few short years. How about Kirk Ferentz at Iowa? We all despise Iowa, but I bet we're all just a little bit envious of them at this point as well.

Tim Brewster's University of Illinois candidacy, the pros:
Where do I begin? Without breaking any copyright laws, I will say that the best way to learn about Coach Brewster's strengths would be to read his interview done with Jared Gelfond of the Orange & Blue News last fall (Link to pay site - requires subscription to Orange & Blue News: Part 1, Part 2). Those who read this interview, and began to learn more about Coach Brewster from the piece were immediately excited about the possibility of him coming home to Champaign. His attitude is infectious…

Tim Brewster has learned under a long list of winners, including Bill Parcells and Mack Brown (say what you want about Brown, but the guy built UNC into a 10-1 team - and UNC is no powerhouse). Through Tim's experience in the college game, he garnered the reputation nationally of being one of the games top recruiters. In fact, recruiting analyst Tom Lemming said this morning in an interview that "He's the best recruiter I've ever seen… he has a drive. It's almost like he has a chip on his shoulder. When he loses a kid, he gets upset." (From the News Gazette) People might argue that Texas recruits itself, and to some extent it does. Programs like USC and Oklahoma were down in the mid-90s, only to be reborn under great leadership and solid recruiting when Pete Carroll and Bob Stoops took over those programs. Name alone doesn't get it done - you have to have strong people to convince these kids that your school is the place to be. Tim Brewster has been that guy at each stop in his coaching career.

Tim Brewster coaches today in the NFL with the surprising 7-3 San Diego Chargers. He is highly respected by his peers, so much so that he was promoted in this past offseason to the position of Assistant Head Coach, along with his normal duties as Tight Ends coach. In that role, he has taken a college basketball player, Antonio Gates, and developed him into (arguably) the best Tight End in football in just 2 short seasons. When asked about his reasons for choosing the San Diego Chargers out of the list of suitors for his services, Gates said, "I had dealt with guys coming out of high school who weren't honest with me, and I was looking for a genuine guy. Tim (Chargers tight ends coach Tim Brewster) worked me out, but I wasn't promised this or that. In fact, he told me I might be on the practice team or I might get cut. He was realistic with me." (From Chargers.com). Something tells me it was that same level of integrity that led Tim to gain the reputation as an ace recruiter in his college career.

Tim Brewster is a Fighting Illini. He co-captained the 1983 Fighting Illini to a perfect 9-0 record in Big Ten play, and the 1984 Rose Bowl. He was a 2-time all Big Ten selection, and was considered one of the best Tight Ends in the nation when he was at Illinois - he led all Tight Ends nationally in receiving during the 1983 season. Most importantly, he bleeds orange and blue. Anyone fortunate enough to have read Tim's interview with the Orange & Blue News from last fall (linked earlier)knows how much the University of Illinois means to him. In that interview, he stated his high level of respect for Ron Turner and his program, but when asked directly if he would ever be interested in coaching in Champaign, he stated it would be his dream to be the head coach of the Fighting Illini. He is a personable, yet fiery coach who has the charisma that all universities should be so lucky to have in their head coaches. In a sense, his level of excitement would be similar to the charisma that Bill Self brought to the Illinois basketball program (and we all remember that part of it fondly, if not for the way he left… but I digress) and that Mike White previously brought to the football program in the 1980s (although I didn't live it, I can only imagine what that was like for those who did). With all due respect to the departed Ron Turner, the UI needs a head coach with charisma - somebody whose personality can compete for the tightly stretched sporting dollar in the state and excite an alumni base that seems largely apathetic about Illinois football.

The Final Argument
The University of Illinois football program finds itself in an difficult situation. Although there was a coaching change, and a poor record over the last 2 seasons, the cupboard isn't completely bare - there is talent to work with for a new coach to lead to future Big Ten success. However, the poor records of 2003 and 2004 have put our program in a recruiting tailspin, and the top area players aren't even considering Illinois at this point. This ship is going to require a huge amount of effort to be turned in the right direction. We have basically 2 options at this point:

1) Hope that a mid-major coach and staff can come into the state of Illinois ready to roll up their sleeves and recruit against the big boys… without the benefit of a big time resume, and being the same coach/coaching staff that top recruits wouldn't even consider in their previous positions…

2) Bring in an ace recruiter with an NFL resume and big time college experience… a guy who knows what winning at the highest level is all about.

Looking at those 2 options, I don't think the decision is too difficult.

Believe it or not, we as fans/students/alums/boosters of the Fighting Illini are in a prime situation to see our fortunes change. Rare is the case that a mediocre football program has an ace-in-the-hole who can come in and rectify the situation. Rare is the care that a mediocre football program has a guy who is considered one of the nation's elite recruiters who badly wants the opportunity to lead his alma mater to the promised land.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have that guy. His name is Tim Brewster.

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