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Illinois AD's letter to fans regarding the search

Well written letter from AD Mike Thomas about the search and the qualities and traits that the next head coach needs to have.

Dear Alumni, Students and Friends,

I thank you for your support of Fighting Illini football during the 2011 regular season. Our team has become bowl-eligible for the second-straight season, making it the first Illinois squad to do so since 1992. I look forward to joining them and our fans at our third bowl game in the last five years. An announcement concerning the exact bowl, date and time that our team will compete will be made in the very near future. As with all the latest news, please check

As our search for a new head football coach moves forward, I have a strong sense of the type of coach we need to realize the potential of Illini football. I intend to contact a trusted group of friends who are well respected in collegiate and professional football circles. A successful football coach at Illinois or any top-tier college program must have talents beyond the knowledge of the game, particularly for a program intent on establishing itself consistently among the Top 25 BCS programs in the country and at the top of the Big Ten. We will find this person for Illinois!

Unlike the recruitment of a top-tier member of our faculty or the majority of prospective student-athletes, coaching candidates who reach finalist level for BCS coaching jobs are often known to the mainstream media, talk shows and message boards, which are such a big part of today's media landscape. During coaching searches - including the early stages of this process - we have heard the popularity of certain candidates in the eyes of the public. Many seem to understand what we should be looking for in our next head coach. We appreciate the letters and emails, and the passion that fuels them.

As the Director of Athletics at the University of Illinois, my charge is to be clear about the attributes of a new head coach and how each candidate fits in the best interests of Illini athletics. We have a trusted process that toes the line between short-term expectations and long-term success of the coach and the university.

Our successful candidate will have a desire to be at the University of Illinois and will have a plan to build on our foundation. You can rest assured that the subject of a long-term commitment to our student-athletes, alumni and friends will be discussed with all candidates. Our goal is a long-term partnership that will keep Illinois moving forward. We don't intend to back off our stated objective of competing for Big Ten and national championships.

Since college coaches are educators, top-flight recruiting and teaching skills are a must for the potential pool of coaches. Our successful candidate must be able to recruit in Illinois and the Midwest, and also have the network to reach out to other national recruiting hotbeds to bring in high-caliber prospective student-athletes.

It is very important that our new head coach be a man with whom you would trust your son's continued development into a successful person long after his playing days are over. My wife and I have three sons (along with a wonderful daughter) and this is a very important factor for me, as I would want the same care to be associated with individuals entrusted to develop the potential of my own kids. 

In order to find an individual with these qualities, we will offer competitive compensation for the new coach and assistants, the opportunity to compete in the premier conference in the country, state-of-the-art facilities, a top-flight strength and conditioning program, the continued development of one of the best academic support programs in the nation and one of the country's top alumni and fan bases. Perhaps the biggest draw is the solid foundation of talent that has made Illinois bowl-eligible in consecutive seasons. I think our head coaching job is one of the best in the country.

We are now actively evaluating individuals and are fully aware of timelines and mandates associated with recruiting, building a coaching staff and for dealing with current head coaches. I have no doubt that our process will yield an outstanding leader for Illinois football.

In the end, our University of Illinois community will work to be a place where a great football coach wants to stay because he can find success and know that we are committed to being the best in the Big Ten and the nation.

Thanks for your passion for the program. We will have a new coach very soon and will be in touch as quickly as possible once this process is complete.


Mike Thomas

Director of Athletics