Illini basketball

YouTube lied

[NOTE: This column was written mostly in September 2018. Today’s news of Google’s secret surveillance encouraged me to finish it.]

Thanks, IlliniReport readers, for your patience.

Unfortunately, it has not been rewarded. The Don’t Be Evil Empire reneged on its promise to return YouTube’s qualifying channels to partnership status. YouTube revenue is an important pillar in keeping IlliniReport the only non-subscription medium for pre-game interviews, post-game press conferences, etc.

You’ll recall the announcement in January 2018. Channels with fewer than 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 watch hours per year would be eliminated from YouTube partnership. That seemed surmountable.

IlliniReport had about 25,000 watch hours in the previous year. Doubling the number of subscribers was the task. But it didn’t seem daunting. A typical upload yields 1,500 views. Many get 3,000. A few get 15,000.

While most of those views came from social media, message boards, and content aggregators; motivating 500 people to click a “subscribe” button, at no cost, posed no concern.

So I did.

After a brief campaign, you put IlliniReport over that threshold.

YouTube sent me a cheery GIF to celebrate the achievement.

Why does YouTube care where its hits originate? They still get the clicks don’t they?

It’s because in order to subscribe, you have to be a member. To be a member, you have to share your personal data with YouTube. And then they can track you, sell your information to Cambridge Analytica, and target you with ads based on your viewing history & search terms. (I’m getting PragerU ads while watching MSNBC’s channel, so clearly their algorithm stinks.)

But it’s their rules. They offered, and I accepted. (Or, you might suggest, they unilaterally offered, and we performed.) Under their terms, IlliniReport should have been returned to partnership status automatically.

But YouTube lied.

On the deadline day, YouTube announced that it would need more time to “review” partner channels.  They wanted to make sure we weren’t Alex Jones, Logan Paul or al Qaeda.

Keep working for us, but for free.

News outlets reported that Google would hire TEN THOUSAND people to review YouTube channels.

At first, YouTube said they’d review channels by the end of January, then April, then June, and then they stopped offering a timeline.

The Creator Community Googled every promise. For example: “we are currently moving through pending youtube partner program applications” yields a bevy of hits.  Let me Google that for you.

All of this is disheartening. Here’s where it becomes disturbing.

In the spring of 2018, YouTube encouraged spurned partners to re-apply for partnership (after making changes, if necessary, to their channels). I re-applied.

Nothing happened.

On July 3, YouTube emailed IlliniReport to say the channel was still under review.

Nothing continued to happen.

On August 30th, I Tweeted to @YouTube. On August 31, YouTube rejected my application.

Clearly, this response is not relevant to IlliniReport.

They may not appeal to everyone, but there’s nothing derivative or duplicative about An Analysis of Illini Newcomer Leron Black, your introduction to Kipper Nichols, or meeting the wacky, singing & dancing Georgian phenom.

Perhaps the minimum wage high-schooler who rejected IlliniReport was bored to tears by watching repetitive interviews and press conferences that have nothing to do with Fortnite. But because the rejection came within 24 hours of the Tweet, it’s hard to imagine the decision was based on merits at all, but was instead inspired by the simple enjoyment of wielding consequential power.

It’s unsettling to think that the person who made the decision enjoyed it.

In our divisive epoch, half the country will think it was petulant to Tweet the plea. The other half will see petulance in the response.  

The sad consequence of Google’s action is that YouTube will inevitably become television, appealing to the lowest common denominator, with predictable programming on a topic that might gather a thousand regular clickers.

Gone will be the amazing one-off  DIY videos that taught me how to repair my garage door opener, replace the 77¢ sprocket that saved my washer and $5 belt that revitalized my dryer, the flame sensor that revived my furnace and the thermopile that activates my gas fireplace.

It turns out that none of you were Russian bots. Congratulations.

All those guys made money for their contributions. We won’t see their like again. The individuals who uploaded those videos are unlikely to garner 1,000 subscribers. A Flame Sensor Replacement Channel would find Episode 2 hard to script.

When YouTube began de-monetizing videos (which actually began in October 2017), I stopped editing the video for my NPR story about the Champaign-Urbana music scene (Morning Edition, Tuesday May 9, 1995). I’ll probably get around to it, but losing the financial incentive = losing the incentive.

The first de-monetized IlliniReport video was Brad Underwood’s postgame at Eastern.

Oddly, in Winter 2019 the vast majority of daily uploads that are
monetized seem to be copyright violating duplicates.

Meanwhile, Google continues to reap billions in profits earned by processing your personal information, which you provided willingly in response to my subscription campaign.

It’s on YouTube (ironically?) that Jon Ronson explains the huge sums Google collects as a consequence of a personal annihilation.

In contemplating an analogy for terrible ideas in marketing, the New Coke comes to mind. But that parallel would apply only if obsessive YouTube fans scoured store shelves to stock up on remaining cases of YouTube, then celebrated its return a few months later by obsessively buying even more YouTube.

A better analog might be Proctor & Gamble rebranding Tide® as Stinky Laundry Detergent, and reformulating its smell. M&M/Mars might remove the peanuts from Snickers®.

Those decisions would eliminate customer loyalty for brands which lead their fields by leaps and bounds, as YouTube did in 2017. But it wouldn’t deprive the customers of income. YouTube’s action is more like the New York Times deciding to stop paying its writers.

I hope you 1208 Illini fans continue to subscribe, for the best of reasons: You enjoy knowing what Brad Underwood said in near-real time. IlliniReport remains the best place to get that rapid response, free of charge.

I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon. But the fact is that it costs money to get to State College, PA . Without the income from YouTube, it’s harder to pay the cost of producing that coverage

  • $31.31 for the Spirit flight to LaGuardia
  • $2.75 for the Q70 to Jackson Heights/7 train to Hudson Yards
  • $1 Megabus to State College

Meanwhile, the folks at YouTube continue to send me cheery emails, encouraging me to work on their behalf.

Illini football

Lovie signs a contract

You thought Lovie Smith was hired on March 7, 2016.

Those of us who filed FOIAs that day, seeking the terms of his contract, were told we’d be mailed a copy when it was signed, and that we needn’t ask again.

So for a few months, some of us have been wondering when this day would arrive. And why the delay?

Image by Vashoune Russell

Lovie signed a “Term Sheet” on the weekend Josh Whitman delivered him to a stunned Illini nation.

Billy Gillispie operated under a similar device, labeled a “memorandum of understanding” during his brief tenure at Kentucky.  (Gillispie’s eventual settlement with the Wildcats paid a fraction of what he’d have earned had he signed the seven-year offer left on the table.)

The Lovie contract runs 41 pages. There’s a strongly-worded clause about health and well-being of students (surprise, surprise) followed by a quizzical paragraph admonishing the coach to recruit good student-athletes.

It gets weirder and more interesting in 3.2.f , which states that the head football coach makes decisions about his staff’s continued employment and compensation subject to the approval of the athletic director, and then

Josh Whitman may be a Ron Guenther protégé, but he absorbed more about the power of contracts than Guenther.

Lovie will get a lot of perks. “Up to two late model vehicles” with paid liability and comprehensive insurance (cf. John Groce’s contract, which specifies a second car for his wife), a family membership to a local country club (why not just come out and say it? … the Champaign CC) and a maximum $25,000 reimbursement for moving his household.

He also gets 20 tickets to all football games, home and away, for his personal and family use. He gets the use of one west side Memorial Stadium suite, and two “VIP parking passes” for every home football game. He gets four tickets to every men’s basketball, women’s basketball and volleyball game. And a VIP parking pass for basketball games at State Farm Center.

The buyout terms are similarly friendly.

The penalty clauses seem obsessive. They probably aren’t the reason Matt Smith (Lovie’s son and agent) delayed signing for half a year.  Ostensibly, Lovie doesn’t care about these clauses. He signed the contract.

But there are a number of activities which would void Lovie’s contract, costing him $19,000,000, yet are perfectly legal. The clause about drinking alcohol  doesn’t mean Lovie can’t get drunk. It means he can’t be drunk on the job. Or under the influence of narcotics, steroids or other “chemicals” not prescribed by his physician.

Who’s to say whether and when he is “materially impair”ed by a chemical?  I took a DayQuil geltab once. It made me feel odd.

The clause about betting on pro sports is a restraint on trade, albeit a trade that’s legal in few jurisdictions.

“The University,” as it’s identified in this agreement, covers its ass in ways unimagined by previous contracts with previous coaches. At the same time, it offers enormous remuneration and embarrassingly paltry yet delineated incentives to assistant football staff, arguably it’s downfall. Illinois still hasn’t figured out, evidently, that it  can pay Hardy Nickerson and Garrick McGee amounts which might compel them to stay here for a while. That’s a huge problem, and one that most university departments had figured out by the Jimmy Carter Administration.

The Lovie contract refers to a pool of money for assistants. Competitive schools pay “pool” money to individuals.

The U does recognize the cost associated with an untimely departure of its head coach, in myriad clauses. The U seeks to defray those costs, in those clauses.

Does this seem too clausy? Why am I barraging you with incessant paragraphs when I could simply embed the entire contract?


Here it is, in full. Read it.

[gview file=”” height=”800px” width=”800px” save=”0″]


Illini Basketball

Illini Football is credible again

I probably wouldn’t have written anything about Tim Beckman’s dismissal, and certainly not something insulting, if Tim Beckman had gone quietly. Instead, he issued a statement  threatening “I will vigorously defend both my reputation and my legal rights.”

Thus, I feel obliged to examine Beckman’s reputation and legal rights.

Beckman’s reputation among football coaches, at the high school and college level, is not known to me, with one exception.  I got this in an email from a friend who worked in the MAC during Beckman’s tenure at Toledo:

When he was hired (by Illinois) and I was still at (a MAC competitor), the football crew there was telling me what an unsavory lad he was. They knew his staff well, and talked about how none of them wanted to go to the big bad B1G to work with him.

My friend now works in a different conference out east, but preferred that I use this quote without attribution.

In the larger community, observable in online fora and reputable media outlets, Beckman’s reputation is bad. It’s not a reputation he should seek to burnish. At best he’s viewed as mediocre.  From there it’s downhill.

Bumbling, incompetent, buffoonish.

One fan expressed his frustration in a classic work of graphic design:

When Beckman’s mentioned, it’s usually a gaffe that gets attention. A Boolean search for [“Tim Beckman” + embarrassing] renders immediate fodder. [“Tim Beckman” + respected] produces inconclusive results.

Did, or indeed could Beckman’s firing further tarnish his reputation? Beckman was fired for cause, which arguably bolsters his reputation. It makes him seem sinister, rather than incompetent.

What about his “legal rights?”

It’s clear that the University’s position, beginning with the initial announcement of Beckman’s dismissal, is that Beckman was in material breach of his employment contract. That document is 23 pages long, but the relevant passages are sections 2.3.b and 4.2

To recover monetary damages, Tim Beckman would have to prove that he never acted in a manner threatening to the health and well-being of student-athletes.  That seems unlikely, given the testimony already on record against him.

It’s hard to overstate the negatives. Listening to Beckman was discomforting, even painful. The only thing I ever wrote about the man was that he’s not as stupid as he seems.

After that, I just stopped writing about football. It was too depressing.

And now, that’s all changed. Bill Cubit: A Love Story is an ongoing narrative that began the day Cubit arrived in Champaign. He’s regarded as an offensive guru, and labels himself a football junkie. The media adore him because he’s honest, candid, forthcoming.

A couple of years ago I fell into the habit of recording everything Bill Cubit had to say, even though that meant ignoring the other coaches and players.  I called it “The Complete Cubit.” There are a few of them.

I’d like to add that I feel good about Tim Banks for the same reasons. He’s candid, too. But I couldn’t pull the camera away from Cubit. He’s just that good.

Last Friday Cubit told assembled media “believe it or not, I love you guys!” and “I love being around you guys.”

I do believe it, because he’s always treated us that way.

It’s such a relief to write a positive thing about Illini Football and its coach. Whether you like it, hate it, or ignore it; football is important to the local economy. Maybe Cubit won’t be named permanent successor, but for now, Illini Football is in competent hands.

I hope Tim Beckman will go quietly. Surely he can find a job in football, at some level. He’ll never attain a head coaching job as good as Illinois, and he shouldn’t.  There’s more than just X’s & O’s to being the state’s highest paid employee.