There is a pattern developing.
In the early 2000s the SIU football program was on the verge of extinction.
The team wasn’t winning. There was little hope of winning on the horizon. There was talk of eliminating the program.
To say the situation was bleak would be something of an understatement.
What did the Salukis do?
They placed the program in the hands of a short guy with a self-deprecating sense of humor.
It turns out Jerry Kill was just the man for the job.
Although Jerry Kill was/is an outstanding coach, his best work, at least in those first critical years, was off the field.
Kill was a Southern Illinois’ kind of guy. He projected a folksy, laid back image that played well in this, well, folksy laid back region. People were comfortable with Kill. They liked him. They wanted to give him a chance.
But, a competitive fire burned beneath that “Aw shucks” exterior.
Kill took the chance to build something at SIU and flourished. He revitalized the program from the ground up, filling the team with outstanding athletes and good citizens.
Within a few years Kill, who was probably one of the few guys in the nation that would have accepted the SIU job, was in demand. He’s been upwardly mobile ever since.
Fast forward to today.
Chris Lowery was relieved of his duties after the Salukis bowed out of the Missouri Valley Conference tournament last year.
The basketball team had hit the skids, on and off the court, although the academic issues wouldn’t come to light until later. Throw in a few defections and a few arrests, and the program was plummeting to its lowest level in decades.
Again, SIU turned to a short guy with a good sense of humor.
Former Missouri State coach Barry Hinson knew he was coming into a tough situation. And, he spent the first six weeks watching that situation deteriorate.
But, I think Hinson is up to the task.
He’s a Southern Illinois type of guy. People like him. And, underneath that folksy exterior burns the heart of a warrior.
No, Hinson hasn’t turned the program around yet. That will take a year or two.
But, judging by his first six months on the job, I think he’ll do it.
This year won’t be fun to watch at times, but it appears as if Hinson is laying the groundwork for the future.
It’s been done before. Here’s hoping it works again.
LES WINKELER is the sports editor for The Southern Illinoisan. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 618-351-5088.