Northwestern lost to Illinois and Tim Beckman yesterday, due to 1) not being all that good themselves and 2) having a ton of players injured. The loss kept the Wildcats out of a bowl game, which is bad, but it wasn't all bad. The loss sends Illinois to a bowl game (thanks to the Illini having played Texas State, Youngstown State and Western Kentucky in non-conference season) which means that Beckman gets to keep his job.
Illinois coach Tim Beckman will return in 2015, a source told @ESPN— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) November 30, 2014
This is where an Illinois fan will say, "look, he beat Northwestern this year!" But that's an entirely too simplistic way to look at this situation, and anyone capable of critical thinking knows this is a very good thing for Northwestern.
Namely, that will happen in recruiting. While some people deny the credibility of recruiting rankings, all statistical analysis says that teams who have higher recruiting rankings win more games. Northwestern tends to go head-to-head against Illinois a lot in recruiting, meaning they want to go against a bad recruiter. Beckman is the definition of a bad recruiter.
Here are some examples, just from the past year:
Northwestern kicked Illinois' ass in recruiting. The Wildcats offered scholarships to eight players from Illinois, including the top-rated QB, Clayton Thorson, and the top-rated RB, Justin Jackson. Illinois offered scholarships to 30 players from Illinois, also including Thorson and Jackson. Northwestern got four commitments out of eight offers, including Thorson and Jackson, as well as Illinois target Blake Hance. Illinois got five commitments out of 30 offers. None of those five had been offered by Northwestern.
- Northwestern hit .500 on players from Illinois
- Illinois hit .167 on players from Illinois
- Among players with offers from both schools that picked either Northwestern or Illinois, all three picked Northwestern
- Northwestern took three of the top 10 players from Illinois.
- Illinois only got one of the top 25 players from Illinois, per 247's composite, and that was No. 25.
This is a beating.
Back before Beckman had beaten Penn State and Northwestern, there was some talk that Illinois might try to hire Lane Kiffin. Some NU fans rejoiced, because "lolz Lane Kiffin sucks and got fired at an airport." But even though Kiffin might underachieve at times — and therefore might lose to Northwestern in some games when he shouldn't — he would undoubtedly recruit the state better than Beckman does. That means fewer good players for the Wildcats and fewer wins overall.
I highly doubt Kiffin would have gone to Illinois, but that sentiment holds true for other coaches, including many potential Illinois candidates that could have recruited the state well. You don't want your rival — particularly your recruiting rival — to have a good recruiter. Beckman is not a good recruiter.
There are a lot of things Northwestern football needs to change, and it certainly needs to do a better job developing players. But over the past few years, NU has consistently had a better football team than Illinois, and thanks to Beckman's inability to recruit well, players like Justin Jackson and Clayton Thorson will continue to pick NU over the Illini.
So yeah, Illinois won yesterday against a bad and injury-depleted Northwestern team. But in the long run, keeping Beckman around might be worth it.