Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Pigskin in the spring
For those of you wanting to check out Mendenhall, Benn, Juice Williams, and the rest of the team, you have a couple of chances to do so in April. There will be a spring game in Chicago on April 14th followed by a spring game in Champaign on April 21st. For more details, please read the official information below that was sent out by the university:
FIGHTING ILLINI FOOTBALL INVITES FANS TO APRIL 14 CHICAGO SPRING GAME
The Fighting Illini football team will bring a Spring Game to Chicago for what is believed to be the first time since the 1970s. The event will be held at 1 PM on Saturday, April 14 at St. Rita of Cascia High School , a college prep school located in Chicago 's south side. Admission is free.
Combined with Coach Ron Zook's recruiting successes, the Illinois Renaissance project, "construction pricing" including $60 horseshoe season tickets, and an amazing 2007 home schedule (including Michigan , Wisconsin and Penn State ), the Chicago Spring Game serves as yet another example of the energy and excitement that is building around the Fighting Illini football program. The special event further extends the meaning of the 2007 Fighting Illini football theme "It's a Brand New Ballgame" as well as the Illinois Athletics tagline, "Illinois: It's Where We Live. It's Who We Cheer."
"We are fortunate to have a progressive and driven coach like Ron Zook," said Assistant Director of Athletics for Sales and Marketing Chris Hanna. "Coach Zook is passionate about all aspects of Illinois football - from winning games to recruiting to making contact with our fan base and filling Memorial Stadium. We are very excited about both the Chicago Spring Game and the annual Spring Game in Champaign ."
The Fighting Illini will host the Champaign Spring Game at 1 PM on Saturday, April 21 at Memorial Stadium. Admission to the Champaign Spring Game, which also serves as the final spring practice, is $5. The $5 Champaign Spring Game ticket will also allow fans to enter two events that take place just prior to football as part of the Spring Sports Festival. Fans can show their football ticket at Saturday's Noon men's tennis match with Minnesota as well as the Noon softball game against Ohio State for free admission.
The Champaign Spring Game ticket is also good for Friday's (April 20) 6 p.m. softball game against Ohio State , Sunday's (April 22) Noon men's tennis match against Iowa , and Sunday's 11 a.m. softball doubleheader against Penn State . The Champaign Spring Game is sponsored by The News-Gazette, WDWS and WHMS.
Illinois: It's Where We Live. It's Who We Cheer.
GET YOUR TICKETS. NOW!
Call 866-ILLINI1 or buy online at fightingillini.com
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
But that is changing. Program expectations are off the charts. Apparently consistent 20-win seasons are no longer enough to secure a job. And losing just one key game can draw comparisons like this one to former San Diego Chargers Coach Marty Schottenheimer. [Side note: I still remember what it feels like to lose an Elite Eight game, but apparently Bill didn't...]
College fans in power conferences, from Kentucky to California to Arkansas to Kansas, expect their team to win a national championship every year. And if that doesn't happen, the program is apparently in shambles (see message board chatter).
The 2007 NCAA tournament has highlighted the parity in college basketball. Many games have been decided by just a few points and last-second plays. And this fact makes fan expectations of perennial dominance unreasonable. After all, even this guy didn't make it out of the first round this year. And this hall-of-fame coach cut down the nets just a few years ago, but missed the NCAA tournament this year, and bowed out of the 2007 NIT without visiting Madison Square Gardens. However, I'm confident that both programs will be stronger in the near future -- and their schools won't give up on the coaches.
Sunday, March 25, 2007
The baseball team went 5-1 on their spring trip, with catcher Lars Davis hitting 2 homers in the last game. Who knew Canadian catchers could hit so well? For those in the Champaign area, you can catch the home opener Tuesday night. And, track is in full swing, and the men's and women's teams both claimed four first-place finishes in the invitationals they attended over spring break.
And of course, spring football starts this week. Despite the dismissal of a couple players, things should be looking up on the football field.
Friday, March 23, 2007
That's the case now that Tubby Smith has left Kentucky to coach at Minnesota (By the way, Minny is paying Tubby $2.5M per year. Combine that with the fact that I think they had to buy out Monson's contract and I wonder where they got their loan from?)
I always find watching the coaching turnover fascinating but this year I will be a little bit more nervous than usual since so many of the Big Ten openings will directly impact Illinois.
To that end, Andy Katz was on Mike & Mike this morning and gave his take on the vacancies and who might fill them:
Kentucky: Says they will go after Billy Donovan (Florida) and Rick Barnes (Texas) but both will probably stay put. Thinks Tom Crean (Marquette), Jay Wright (Villanova) and Mark Few (Gonazaga) are the top candidates.
Michigan: Thinks they'll go after Kevin Stallings (Vanderbilt) or Lon Kruger (most recently of UNLV but also a former Illinois, Florida and Hawks coach). (A Kruger hire to Michigan scares me the most because we know he can recruit pretty well, which would put even more pressure on Weber.) Katz says Michigan will want someone with a very clean background. Gee, I wonder why?
Iowa: Had the least amount of info for this one but did mention Dana Altman of Creighton.
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Labels: O.J. Mayo
More on Ron Guenther
1. The university is excusing Guenther's behavior:
Richard Herman, chancellor of the Urbana-Champaign campus, called Guenther "the ultimate fan."
"I think this was an unfortunate lapse and he is very embarrassed by it and certainly regrets it," Herman said. "You don't get to lapse into being just a fan when you are an [athletic director]."
Herman said Guenther had apologized to Weber and noted his plans to call Carter.
"My own view was it was less directed at any individual but toward the poor play on the court," Herman said.
2. Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany didn't come down harder on Guenther:
"When you're on press row, you're better off to act like an objective media person," said Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany, who was at press row for first- and second-round games at the United Center. "I'm sure Ron recognizes that. He's an adult and adults make mistakes."
3. Guenther still hasn't said publically that he's sorry. It's all been reported third person. That in my mind is the biggest problem. Just own up to your mistake and move on. Please.
Labels: Ron Guenther
Monday, March 19, 2007
As the Carousel Turns
I was sorry, if not surprised, to hear that you are leaving Ann Arbor. You deserve credit for bringing solid teams out of a program under the dark cloud of NCAA sanctions. I understand that consistent appearances in the NIT just didn't live up to expectations, but you handled a tough situation with class. All the best as you begin your job search.
Note to Illinitalk readers: At least one group of dedicated college basketball entertained a (very brief) moment of silence Saturday afternoon in honor of Amaker and other high-profile head coaches from this coaching tree who didn't live up to expectations.
Dear Big Ten ADs Bill Martin (Michigan) and Joel Maturi (Minnesota),
You've got your work cut out as you seek to fill the vacancies at the top of your men's basketball programs. On behalf of Big Ten basketball fans, let me encourage you to consider all angles as you make your offers.
We are passionate fans who love to support our schools and fan the flames of conference rivalries. We want to see the Big Ten established as a great basketball conference with respect for the game (and we'd like to win the ACC/Big Ten Challenge). But we prefer to cheer for/against classy coaches who build the conference reputation, like this Big Ten veteran, rather than those who join our conference with a questionable background.
You have the opportunity to build not only your programs, but the conference as a whole. Please choose wisely.
I certainly didn't intend for my words to be picked up.
This makes no sense as Guenther was in one of the most public of public places (on press row) and should have known better.
I feel badly that (Doyel) felt he had to print it.
Doyel may be a hack but he's also a journalist (I use that term loosely in this case) who was doing his job. It's not only his right to write down what he sees at a game but it's his responsibility as well.
This is perhaps what upsets me the most. Guenther saying he feels bad Doyel printed that is a cop-out. Instead he should feel bad for how he acted and apologize. If what Doyel wrote was true (and Guenther didn't deny it), he was screaming at Weber and called Warren Carter an idiot. That's bad enough. Not apologizing makes it even worse. How does he still have a job?
Finally, where is the outrage in the media? If a public official did something like this it would be front page news that he didn't apologize.
Labels: Ron Guenther
Sunday, March 18, 2007
It's marked-up but here it is: my SHEET OF INTEGRITY.
My Sweet Sixteen: AZ, MD, OR, UNLV/KU, SIU, Pitt, UCLA/UNC, TX, Vandy, G'Town/OSU, TN, A&M, NV
Elite 8: MD-OR/KU-UCLA/TX-G'Town/OSU-A&M
Final Four: OR-UCLA and G'Town-OSU
Championship: OSU over UCLA
Labels: Sheet of Integrity
Saturday, March 17, 2007
If This is True...
About that athletics director ...
His name is Ron Guenther. He sat two chairs from me on press row. If there's etiquette about what behavior is on or off the record on press row, I don't know about it. Here's what I do know: The Illinois AD is smart enough to ascend to the job he holds, but dumb enough to behave so ridiculously courtside, surrounded by media in general and sitting 30 inches from me in particular.
Guenther is a table-pounder, in good times and bad. Since there were very few good times Friday -- even when the Illini had a 10-point lead with less than 4 1/2 minutes to play, they looked awful -- Guenther did most of his pounding in anguish.
If only he left it at pounding. Alas, he did not. Guenther would on occasion rise and stare down an official, or rise and give coach Bruce Weber advice, generally something along the lines of, "Get Randle out of there!" And after one miserable play by Warren Carter -- which isn't nearly specific enough considering his vast array of miserable plays -- Guenther pounded the table, rose from his chair and screamed, "Warren -- you idiot!"
Screamed it, people.
That Sums It Up
The Illini started strong and showed flashes of brilliance. Strong rebounding on both ends of the floor. Stifling defense. An inside game that demanded respect, though it could have been a bit more commanding. Pretty jump shots. Long threes that were either right on or way off. Cheap fouls. Erractic free throw shooting. A respectable lead. And a painfully excrutiating end where you could feel the game slipping away, yet the defense was strong enough that you thought they might hold on...
We've seen it all season, over and over and over. It seems that few could inspire in the Illini the strength to hold on. This guy seemed to do it, but Seth Greenberg (aka Daddy Warbucks) apparently didn't ignite the same fire under the Illini late in the game. And, Greenberg benefited unintentionally from Illinois' greatest weakness. VT got our boys on the free throw line late -- a great way to protect their lead.
Mark Tupper describes the end of the season well.
Labels: Illini basketball
Friday, March 16, 2007
My Picks plus a Preview
Greg Paulus Deserves an Oscar
Labels: Greg Paulus
Thursday, March 15, 2007
I'm up for a friendly comparison. Of course, I subscribed to two different methods when filling out my brackets. The first is 1 part heart, 2 parts reality; the other reflects my conference pride and wish for Big Ten domination and respect. Even so, my Final Four are very similar.
I look forward to seeing your "sheets of integrity" and comparing our picks...
Thus far the tournament has had a few satisfying moments. Bobby only played one game, as did Coach K (for the first time since 1996). There have been some close games and tense moments, but few surprises.
I hope for more interesting upsets on day two, but even if the first two rounds follow the seeding, there is the potential for some exciting games next weekend.
Enjoy the games!
You have each posted on where you stand on the whole "sheet(s) of integrity" issue. My position on this has evolved over the years. In the past, I subscribed to the Golic method of filling out multiple sheets, whether it be for one pool or for multiple pools. In those cases, most of my picks were similar but I varied my upsets a little bit and my champion varied as well. The idea was to try to maximize my chances of winning the pool. This worked well when each entry into a pool was a very, um, shall we say low investment.
As the investment costs have gone up, I have come around to the Greenie method of having one "sheet of integrity." This year, I have filled out my brackets (just one sheet) but have not actually entered any pools. The normal ones I used to enter have disbanded for various reasons and the only pool opportunity that arose this year was one in which you were assigned two teams based on a random drawing and you had the opportunity to have a return on your investment if your team made the Sweet 16 and for each round after that. I simply don't like this type of pool because there is no skill or reasoning involved so I chose not to enter it.
I think Golic and Greenie can each make good cases for why they believe what they do. From my experience, though, if you have multiple sheets you can often be happy about the results of the game regardless of who wins. But the cost of that is you don't necessarily have a rooting interest in each game. I like to be able to root for one team or the other without rooting against one of my picks so the one sheet works well for me these days. Plus, like the U.S. Olympic Committee told Chicago, you have got to have some "skin in the game!"
Now I have a question for the two of you. Are you up for a little friendly competition between friends? I will put my sheet up against each of yours but Alma Mater, you have to pick just one of the sheets you filled out. Let me know.
Good Hope Orange
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
The main advantage in my mind -- more to cheer for! I love watching March Madness, and I now for the games I am less invested in, like Kentucky-Villanova or Nevada-Creighton, I can be happy if either team wins. Besides, I couldn't remember all my picks when I filled in the second bracket.
Of course, there is the method my mother and AM Jr. subscribe to -- make your picks, and then when your brackets are completely busted after the first weekend, start over with the official Sweet Sixteen. I'm not a fan of that approach, but it does keep them entertained.
Any other ways to savor the Madness?
Sheet of Integrity
Are you saying that you fill out more than one sheet?
Anyone who listens to Mike & Mike in the Morning knows that Golic and Greenie constantly argue about whether it's right to fill out multiple sheets. Greenie is a one sheet guy, otherwise known as the "sheet of integrity."
Golic, on the other hand, fills out multiple sheets. In fact, I heard him say this morning he's filling out 25 sheets!!!!
As for me, I'm a one sheet guy. Sounds like Alma Mater subscribes to the Golic method.
Good Hope Orange? Readers? Where are you at on this, the most important issue during this time of year?
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Illini Comeback Kid
Labels: Warren Carter
Big Ten Notes
Ohio State could go all the way. Talent, both inside and outside, solid defense, the ability to score, and a great coach. But they are young...still they will probably be the champion in at least one of my brackets.
Wisconsin has the experience and defense to make a deep run, as well. Plus, they have the Big Ten Player of the Year in Alando Tucker. But somehow, I find it hard to cheer for Bo Ryan. Maybe it's the mafia hair my cousin pointed out this weekend, or his striking resemblance to this.
Indiana could make things interesting, but I can't bring myself to pick them over perennial Cinderella Gonzaga. Thank you, Coach Sampson, for bringing the intensity back to the Illini-Hoosier rivalry. Let me take a moment to savor our 2-1 record against you this season...
Michigan State-Marquette should be fun to watch. State has not had a typical season this year, but they have experience and Coach Izzo on their side...I'd love to see them upset UNC in the second round, though that's a long shot.
Purdue will be intriguing, as they have over-achieved much of the season with a young head coach, while first round opponent Arizona has consistently under-achieved this year. This should be an interesting game, as well.
Oh, and enough about how Illinios doesn't belong in the field. The Committee has spoken, and as I mentioned before, the numbers are part of the story.
Congratulations to Bill Cole and Demetri McCamey!!!
It is finished--U of I Board voted on the Chief
I would be remiss if I did not take a moment to recognize the work of Trustee David Dorris. Thank you for taking a stand for what you believe in and for your efforts to get a formal vote on this issue--it is appreciated.
Monday, March 12, 2007
However, I heard the all-knowing radio voices explain why the Illini (23 wins, RPI of 29 and Strength of Schedule at 24) make more mathematical sense in the field than Syracuse (22 wins, an RPI of 50 and Strength of Schedule at 46). So while Coach Boeheim openly shares his disappointment, we Illini fans can be thankful that hotel room in Indy was filled with laptops, not just TV screens. (Let's face it -- the Big Ten tournament showcased great defense, but the low-scoring games weren't exactly the riveting style that boosts TV ratings.)
Illinois over Virginia Tech may not be the most popular 12-5 upset pick, but it will be on my bracket. Enjoy filling out your brackets!
News Out of Champaign
Also, interesting news out of Champaign today: The U of I Board of Trustees is going to take a number of "Chief votes" tomorrow. Here is the story that's posted on WCIA's website:
The U of I Board of Trustees will take a vote tomorrow on two resolutions concerning Chief Illiniwek. The first one deals with the decision made on February 16, 2007, to end performances of the Chief. The board will also take a vote on getting rid of Native American imagery as the symbol of the U of I and its intercollegiate athletics. This also includes regalia, logo, and the names "Chief Illiniwek" and "Chief." The board will vote on continuing the names "Illini" and "Fighting Illini." The second resolution asks the board to direct its legal counsel to join with Dan Maloney and Logan Prince in their lawsuit against the NCAA. We will bring you more on this story coming up tonight on WCIA-3 News at 5 and 6.
So here is my question: Is the vote on using "Illini" and "Fighting Illini" lumped in with the vote on getting rid of the imagery? Inquiring minds would like to know.
Saturday, March 10, 2007
Signs that spring is coming:
- The Big Ten tourney has produced nailbiters and plenty of solid tackling (gotta love Big Ten defense)
- "Bubble" has become the most overused word on SportsCenter (with "potential Cinderellas" a close second)
- College basketball is part of the aprés ski scene in the Rockies
- Selection Sunday is about to kick off March Madness
The Illini may have played their way into the brackets this weekend with the overtime win. Or, mid-majors like Butler and SIU, schools ranked in the top 25 that failed to win their conference tournament, may keep us out.
Some Headline Writer Says We're In
Because I don't think the NCAA like Illinois for some odd reason. No idea why.
Labels: NCAA Tournament
Thursday, March 08, 2007
I'm Sure This Was Not Intentional
* Of our region’s teams, Illinois has the most to gain this week. The Illini don’t have to win the Big Ten Tournament to get an NCAA berth; winning two games could get it done.
They will be heavily favored to beat Penn State, but then Indiana would be next on the bracket. The Hoosiers have beaten the Illini 51-43 and 65-61. Those losses, plus Indiana’s HUGE victory over Illinois on the recruiting trail, would create tremendous motivation for coach Bruce Weber and his team.
* Illinois WAS more competitive against the Hoosiers during their second game, due to the simultaneously solid play of Warren Carter, Rich McBride and Chester Frazier. All three players have been all over the map this season.
The only thing wrong with this is that Illinois and Indiana split their regular season games. Just a minor oversight, I suppose. I'm sure it wasn't intentional.
Labels: Big Ten Tournament
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
Bruce Weber Needs Media Relations Training
The reason I believe this? Perception=reality and in this day of 24-hour news cycles, blogs, YouTube, e-mail, message boards, etc., news travels fast. Especially bad news. Therefore, it is very easy to get a negative perception very quickly that is very hard to turn around. If the media doesn't like a coach, they are less likely to write about his/her successes and more likely to write about his/her failures.
In fact, there is nothing the media likes to cover more than a rising or falling star.
To that end, Bruce Weber fed into the falling star perception at his press availability yesterday. Take a look:
This is not at all helpful to an Illinois basketball program that is already struggling both on the court and in the court of public perception. I understand Weber is stressed but he's paid not to lose his cool, especially with the press. It doesn't help the confidence of the fans, alumni or recruits.
Speaking of recruits, it sounds like some Pac-10 school like Arizona may be after Quinton Watkins. That is a good sign. It must mean he's good. But it also means Weber needs to hold on to him. If he doesn't, he might as well quite recruiting. Eric Gordon was stolen and if Eric Gordon's replacement gets stolen then every coach is in the country is gonna know they can take whatever recruits they want from Weber.
Can you see the handwriting on the wall yet? He'll get even more upset. Have another meltdown...vicious cycle. He needs to break it. Now.
Monday, March 05, 2007
Just When I Thought it Couldn't Get Any Worse
Please figure out a way to get our student-athletes to behave.
Sunday, March 04, 2007
Inside the NCAA
My conclusion after reading this: Further proof that the NCAA has some serious problems.
It used to be that the N.C.A.A. caught wind of a problem at a university, investigated and meted out punishment. Now, with a stretched staff and member institutions often feeling wary of the enforcement process, outside firms have become the nexus for law and order in college sports.
David Price, the N.C.A.A.’s vice president for enforcement services, acknowledged that many athletic programs continued to bend, if not outright break, the rules. And his staff, which has nearly doubled in the past few years, cannot hope to catch them all. The N.C.A.A. does not have subpoena power, and it must get all information on the record to build a case.
“We’re certainly very busy, but I also think the N.C.A.A. membership doesn’t want a police state,” he said.
Mr. Ridpath said the N.C.A.A. enforcement staff has used heavy-handed tactics to force cooperation. “I’ve seen them threaten people’s careers, badger them to get the answers they want, belittle them and make people cry,” he said.
He also said he saw how lawyers specializing in N.C.A.A. matters operated. Marshall hired an Ice Miller partner at the time, Richard R. Hilliard, who was once the N.C.A.A.’s director of enforcement.
“They are very adept at how to satisfy the committee to minimize the damage to their high-paying client,” Mr. Ridpath said. “They have no problem advising their clients to sacrifice someone lower on the totem pole. You never see a high-profile coach or administrator losing their job.”