Thursday, August 25, 2005

Spain, Airplanes and Yet Another Ruling From the PC Police


Bruce Weber met with the press yesterday to discuss the Big Ten travelling team's trip to Spain. I know it's a shocker but he was his usually brutally honest self. Let's just say Bruce Weber will never be a candidate for a job where diplomacy is required. Mark Tupper and John Supinie have some great stories and other interesting tidbits.


I was gone last week so I missed this story by Tupper but it's a must-read...great info about Weber's contract (Tupper thinks Weber's not getting paid enough...I agree!) and some VERY interesting info on Weber's request for an airplane...


A few stories from the past few days looking toward Illinois' opener next Saturday...Sun-Times...Tupper...Tribune...


Congrats to Florida State for playing hardball with the NCAA...the Seminole name and tradition will now be allowed back in the postseason after FSU threatened to sue...we can only hope that the same thing happens with Illinois but somehow we doubt the PC Police Force at NCAA HQ will feel the same way about us.

We'll just keep waiting for the day when the NCAA starts complaining about our blog and Illiniwonk since they have "Illini" in their titles...


Monday, August 22, 2005

Fighting Illini and the Chief

It has been a while since I have posted--combination of being on vacation, swamped at work, great posts by Chief, etc--but I have had a lot of time to think about the recent ruling that came down from the NCAA regarding what they consider to be "hostile" and/or "abusive" nicknames, mascots, etc. at member universities.

If you missed the details on this ruling, click here for the press release. Yesterday, there was a Tribune article that I found to be of great interest. The article is regarding a letter to the editor that the Chairman of the University of Illinois Board of Trustees wrote in response to Myles Brand's (the current NCAA President) commentary on the decision in the USA Today newspaper. You can find the Tribune article here. I feel the Board Chairman does an excellent job in his response and appreciate that he took the time to respond to Myles Brand.

BEGIN SIDE NOTE--Myles Brand couldn't even run Indiana University and is most famous for his encounters and dealings with a certain basketball coach that is now at Texas Tech. Perhaps someone needs to investigate how he became president of the NCAA and recently had his contract extended. It's ridiculous.--END SIDE NOTE.

Apparently, the NCAA is taking a lot of heat over this decision, as you can read in this Fox News web article. I would dare say that Myles Brand is even trying to take the heat off himself and direct it elsewhere as he conveniently seems to back away from taking any responsibility for the decision (this was his editorial that Illinois' Board Chairman responded to).

As I mentioned, I've had some time to reflect on the ruling and I have some thoughts I would like to share. First, as I am sure all of our readers know, Chief (as evidenced by his screen name) and I are both firm supporters of the name Fighting Illini and the Chief. My focus in the following is primarily the Chief. I think the suggestion that Fighting Illini is "hostile" and "abusive" is just so completely over the top political correctness run amok that it is not even worth discussing. However, I think the Chief is where most people have the biggest disagreeemnt on when it comes to the University of Illinois. There are thousands of very smart and reasonable people on both sides of the Chief issue (and some not so smart and unreasonable ones as well) so I am not going to rehash all the pro-Chief/anti-Chief arguments that are out there. What follows are the observations and experiences I have from having been a student at Illinois in the relatively recent past.

First, let me state that I am not Native American. While I believe one of my great grandmother's did have some Indian heritage, I am clearly not Native American and have not been in their shoes. However, I have great respect for Native American culture and have always found their history to be of great interest. That being said, I obviously cannot provide a Native American perspective on this issue. From what I have read, however, there is a lot of debate within the Native American tribes on this same issue that we are currently discussing.

The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary definites a mascot as being "a person, animal, or object adopted by a group as a symbolic figure especially to bring them good luck." By that definition, then I think you could safely say that every school has a mascot and the Chief would be included in this definition. However, the Chief is not your typical so-called "mascot." I would imagine that if you asked the average person, what a mascot is, they would give you the school's team name and mention that it is typically someone dressed up in some type of costume who goes around and acts silly, fights (mockingly) with the other school's mascot, jokes with the cheerleaders or band, takes pictures with fans, etc., etc.

The Chief does none of these things. I would argue that the Chief serves much more as a symbol than as a mascot. He only appears at halftime of home football and basketball games, does a dance, and stands there as the fans sing the "Alma Mater (Hail to the Orange)." He is greeted with respect and departs reverantly. He does not attend other functions such as student parties, alumni events, etc. He is not a caricature, such as Chief Wahoo (sp?) of the Cleveland Indian's was. He does not do the Tomahawk Chop that is so popular at Atlanta's Turner Field. As for the outfit he wears and the dance he performs, you can find some excellent information on these two things as well as the Chief's history, background, and tradition on the links provided on our blog under Chief Illiniwek. I simply don't have the time or the space to cover it here. In addition, the student who is selected to serve as the Chief, goes through a formal selection process and then has set protocols that must be followed when serving in that capacity.

As a student at Illinois, I never saw the Chief treated with anything but respect and honor by students, fans, and alumni. In fact, if the Chief was ever treated disrespectfully, it was by the few protestors who occasionally would show up at games and stand outside the stadium with various signs, pictures, etc. Let me note as well, that from my recollection, the protestors that did show up were not groups of Native Americans. Don't get me wrong, the people that chose to protest certainly had the right to do so in the manner of their choosing as long as they follow the law. But let's be clear, these protestors were vocal but not substantial in number. In repeated votes, the student body stronglyly supported the Chief.

WWhile I cannot speak for other schools, Illinois has studied this issue in great detail and how to handle it is Illinois' decision to make. NCAA representatives may not agree with the decision personally, but it is the University's choice and trying to force them to change through this action serves only to make it more difficult to have a constructive dialogue on this issue. I think the best comparison of their action would be to a states rights issue. In this case the NCAA (federal government) is stepping on the rights of the University (state government).

Perhaps there are changes that could and/or should be made at Illinois or other universities named by the NCAA in their ruling. However, I think it would be very sad and disappointing if Illinois were to eliminate the name Fighting Illini and the Chief. To me, both speak to the history and heritage of our proud state and a proud univeristy. We should not eliminate all references to Indian heritage and culture but instead work to inform and educate people about it. We should seek to learn more about Native American history and culture, not less. Illinitalk would fully support anything that would make the Chief more authentic, including changes to his dress, dance, etc. In additon we would support the creation of an education program at the University in which all students would learn about the Indian Tribes that lived in Illinois. We truly believe there is a solution that can be found that addresses the concerns that have been raised without eliminating the Chief and the Fighting Illini name.

Mike Downey wrote a column for the Tribune last week supporting the NCAA decision. Unfortunately, he adopts many of the anti-Chief and anti-Fighting Illini arguments and chooses to make comparisons that I do not believe are reflective of the situation at Illinois. I am having a hard time understanding his perspective because prior to this, he wrote a column in which he seeming made fun of the NCAA's decision while also supporting it. Strange.

I give him credit for tackling this sensitive issue but wonder how much time he invested in researching the situation before penning his opinion. He challenges our state leaders to join the Illini debate but he clearly wants to hear them say that they agree with him. Should any of our state's leaders respond to his challenge, I truly hope they will have considered this issue with an open mind and will have studied the history associated with it. They may agree with Mr. Downey. They may agree with me. But I hope that however they choose to respond, they will do it in a manner that is fair and does not take the easy way out. They must exhibit leadership in finding a solution to this challenging issue that will honor and respect Native Americans but does not eliminate them from our history and culture.

Until later, I proudly say Go Illini!


Monday, August 15, 2005

Dee is All Smiles

Tupper has a column coming tomorrow that explains why but he gives a teaser in his blog today...

Interesting article by Mike Bianchi of The Orlando Sentinel on Ron Zook...


Friday, August 12, 2005

Brandon Rush, New Helmets, Illini Football Scrimmage...

The Brandon Rush saga continues...KC Star reports he made a visit to Indiana yesterday...I'll be shocked if he chooses IU...I think Illinois is sitting very good...but where is KU? Remember, Brandon: BUCKNELL. Stay tuned...

Yoni Cohen says the Big Ten will be down in men's basketball this year...we disagree...

Illiniboard has some great Illini football preview material... has an update on Ron Zook's overhaul of the football team's look....

And...we're still waiting for the NCAA to respond to this...


Wednesday, August 10, 2005

"You can see his rib cage now"

Mark Tupper has a great story today on Rich McBride.

The Rush saga continues...he did NOT visit KU today...when it comes to Rush, this is where I feel like I'm living...

Finally, Lawrence Journal-World or the CIA? Apparently, their reporters not only know Weber is out the country (coaching in Spain), but that he has a phone capable of making international calls (see bottom of this page on this link). Hmmm...if they are that interested in Weber and his phones, I wonder if they have a wiretap...


Monday, August 08, 2005

The Two BR's and Other Stuff

Brandon Rush: He visited Illinois this weekend. He's visiting KU next. Brandon, I got one word for you to keep in mind when smooth talkin' Bill Self tries to sell you on Kansas: BUCKNELL.

Brian Randle: Check out this story about Randle. Good reason to be excited about Randle!

Also, Tupper has cool dish about Calvin Brock and new blog updates (which includes some football tidbits).


Where is the NCAA When You Need It?

There are a number of schools with questionable practices (to say the least) in their athletic departments. In our opinion, these schools are ripe for an investigation, violations and sanctions by the NCAA. (We addressed the Kansas situation in posts on July 18 below.)

So what did the NCAA announce Friday?

In a bow toward political correctness, the NCAA announced it's banning the use of Native American mascots in NCAA-sanctioned postseason tournaments. Read the press release here.

This action disgusts us and not just because it affects Illinois directly.

All this does is send society one more step down the slippery slope toward being so cautious as to not offend anyone that nothing is acceptable. Florida State's president actually blasts the NCAA here and here.

If you don't read anything else about this subject, definately read Wendell Barnhouse's column in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram here. Other good columns here, here and here.

Why doesn't the NCAA spend its time cracking down on programs that deserve it rather than just doing what may be popular or politically correct at the time?

Unless the NCAA decides to get some teeth, it ain't gonna ever be respected.

Speaking of the NCAA and respect, check out this story about Bobby Knight and his spar with an NCAA lawyer. I'm not a big Knight fan but I love the reference to "War and Peace!"

Also, here's a link to the roster for the NCAA Executive Committee.


Thursday, August 04, 2005

Football and Basketball Updates

Football time

We've gotten a little behind recently so it's time for some catch-up. First, football news since it starts soon.

Ron Zook is an image theory says that's partly why he's so good at recruiting. He knows how to build a positive image. Need proof? Check out this link.

Mike Downey has a nice article on Coach Zook in the Tribune today on the future of Illini football.

Mark Tupper has some great football-related posts on his blog here. And speaking of Tupper, you can now catch his appearance on WSOY via podcast at this link!


Gregg Doyel has a little piece in his "Dribbles" column about Illinois going against Duke for recruits and the Illini getting burned every time.


Allow us a simple response: How many times must we hear that Illinois lost out on Scheyer to a "late-charging Duke?" That's false.

Two years ago if you would have told us that we'd be coming off a season where we were two games short of undefeated and played in the national championship game and therefore were going head to head with Duke for recruits and giving K a run for his money, we'd have been delighted.

But many of the sports media elites and recruiting analysts don't think of it that way.

Not really sure what they are thinking.

Or if they are thinking period.



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