Random thoughts out of the blur of an inauguration sandwiched between two national title football games — nirvana if your two favorite spectator sports are Illinois politics and college football:
• The psychology of motivation is fascinating. Any chance Illinois State’s superb quarterback, Tre Roberson, and head football coach, Brock Spack, are driven in part by a desire to prove themselves to those who rejected them in the past? Roberson transferred here from Indiana after he lost the Hoosiers’ quarterback job. Spack at one point thought he was at the front of the line for the head coaching job at Purdue, his alma mater, where he’d been an assistant for more than a decade.
• And what motivated Gov. Pat Quinn to be a no-show for Monday’s inauguration of Bruce Rauner? Quinn’s election night refusal to concede or make a congratulatory call to Rauner gives us a clue. But two months later Quinn should have swallowed hard and been at the peaceful transition of power. Rauner had the grace to thank the absent Quinn “for his years of service to the state and the people of Illinois.”
• ISU’s narrow loss in the FCS title game was as exciting as they come, topping Monday night’s first-ever College Football Playoff. But it was disappointing to see ESPN spend so much (virtually all of halftime) of the ISU-North Dakota State game promoting the Ohio State-Oregon matchup.
• ISU’s playoff participation produces no financial windfall for the university. Expenses were covered, but there’s no big-time revenue share like in the college bowl series.
• Maybe the Redbirds’ success will pay off with larger home crowds next season. ISU ranked in the lower half of the 10 Missouri Valley football schools in average attendance this season. And frankly, when Hancock Stadium was only about 40 percent full for the first-round playoff game, it was a bit embarrassing.
• Anybody worried Gov. Rauner’s order to restrain state spending will crimp ISU’s plan to sweeten Spack’s contract, now set to expire at the end of 2019? Spack made $268,000 last year, plus a $10,000 bonus for each playoff game. Just don’t expect Spack’s comp to be brought up to the $400,000-plus level enjoyed by ISU head basketball coach Dan Muller. There’s a pay plateau gap between FCS-level football and Division 1 basketball.
• It’s both comforting and refreshing to hear Spack repeatedly profess how he and his family enjoy being part of Bloomington-Normal. His ISU success has surely made him a “must consider” whenever a Bowl Division coaching job opens. A Rockford native, Spack seems sincere about deepening roots here. Still, if the folks in Champaign-Urbana came calling…
• Now that Ohio State Coach Urban Meyer is king of college football, it’s fun to remember his first college football coaching job was as an assistant at ISU, under Jim Heacock for two years. Heacock was OSU’s defensive coordinator 25 years later when Meyer was hired as the Buckeyes’ head coach. Meyer didn’t keep Heacock on his staff.
• Most melting moment at Monday’s inaugural? Six-year-old Ella Frerichs using both arms to lift a heavy, oversized family Bible high over her head so her 6-foot-8 inch father, Michael, could stand tall as he put his hand on the book and took the oath of office for state treasurer.